They’re still sombre, but the Manchester pop duo flirt with optimism on a fist-pumping third album
Desert rock grown up
After Kyuss split in '95, mid-20s Homme quickly formed QOTSA with his friend Nick Oliveri. A certified lunatic, Nick was in Seattle's evil porno punks the Dwarves until he got thrown out for bad behaviour and was arrested at last year's Big Day Out for attacking Terrorvision. It was to be a fruitful partnership. United with Homme's long-time producer/collaborator, Masters Of Reality frontman Chris Goss, the Queens recorded their debut album in less time than it takes Korn to soundcheck, and quickly became America's coolest underground rock band. During this time, Homme toured with Screaming Trees, making friends with frontman Mark Lanegan who guests on this record. He also produced and wrote six albums of experimental, psychedelic hard rock as The Desert Sessions in his spare time.
Homme's reputation as a mad, virtuoso genius quickly grew, gaining QOTSA celebrity fans in Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Dave Grohl, who've all cited the Queens as the best American band living today. As a result, this album is perhaps the most anticipated underground rock album since 'Nevermind'. No really. In a world of woeful rap-metal, cyber-goth pap and sanitised skate punk, QOTSA are the band you've been waiting for.
'Rated R' is, as Homme has promised, "a dark, cocaine, pop record"; a heady mix of speed-addled punk rock, huge, sky-filling psychedelic majesty and sex-crazed black humour. For fans of Kyuss, this is his best album since 'Welcome To Sky Valley', for everyone else, it's just the best, most important rock album for years.
Like a lot of the songs on 'Rated R', album opener 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' is an anthem to getting loaded on drugs. It has two notes and one lyric - "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol/ C-c-c-c-cocaine". Among modern American rock moments, it stands alongside 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' or RATM's 'Killing In The Name', such is its irresistible, instant impact.
From straight-ahead punk rock to twisted and sinister pop tunes like 'The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret' and 'Monsters In The Parasol', 'Rated R' is nothing but eclectic. There's the blissed-out sex-and-drugs ballad 'Auto Pilot', sung by Goatsnake's Pete Stahl, sitting next to the weird, sprawling rush of 'Better Living Through Chemistry' (no relation) - the closest the Queens come to the old Kyuss sound.
Mark Lanegan takes the mic to superb effect on the LSD R&B metal of 'In The Fade' while the two Oliveri-howled tunes 'Quick And To The Pointless' and 'Tension Head' are arguably the album's finest moments - the latter being one of the most perfectly realised rock songs ever written. A sick and twisted paean to class-A drug abuse, it sounds like AC/DC and Black Flag partying at Lemmy's pad, smoking crack. What more do you want?
No gimmicks, no postmodern guilt-trip bullshit, just punk rock space-cadet genius, Queens Of The Stone Age's major label debut compromises nothing but still has mass appeal. The new rock royalty have come to claim their throne. Do not miss out on this.
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