Next month sees the tenth anniversary reissue of Queens Of The Stone Age’s breakthrough album ‘Rated R’. In this week’s issue of NME, frontman Josh Homme tells his own version of the story of that record.
But as a super-fanboy myself, I thought I’d take a trip down my own memory lane to try to examine why that record still has such a special place in so many people’s hearts.
I was a child of grunge, which was great except I was too young to see those bands live. Then I was a child of Britpop, which was great too, except as good as the songs were, a clique of smacky, preppy art-students in tennis shoes running around Camden and singing about their kitchens was quite plainly not, even then, the fantastical nexus of the rock’n’roll dream.
Queens Of The Stone Age had already released one album in 1998, but it was major-label debut ‘Rated R’ that first brought them to the attention of most British music fans. That, and At The Drive-In’s ‘Relationship Of Command’, reminded us about the rockness that Kurt’s suicide had purged us of.
For me, it wasn’t an instant worship thing, but there was a definite sense that something bigger was happening here than just an awesome record. The pictures of these desert freaks; their tattoos and their schtick of ‘never apologise for anything’ smelt of an outlaw way of life beyond the CD plastic.
Plus, of course, the hedonistic rallying cry of “nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol,” was seductive to a 20-year-old first experiencing better living through chemistry. ‘Rated R’ was the album of the year for sure, but I fell for Queens and what they stood for slow and hard. The more you licked it, the more you liked it.
To a boy brought up in the northern suburbs, the mystification of that world by The Smiths meant nothing to me. But a music informed by the mysticism and cacti and the boulders and the romance of the desert’s great plains felt like the most exciting thing in the world. And these songs dripped with pharmaceutical mystery, hard-rocking snakedances from a place of impossible mystery.
And at the front of it all, a fantastically rude, impossibly charismatic, Blackadder-funny charismatic leader. It was part role-model (there aren’t many ginger ones around), part band-crush, part-simple-fandom, but here was a dude whose club I wanted to join. It was what rock music should be, which is a fantasy.
There was more. The machismo of classic rock had always felt a little uncomfortable to the spindly indie boys of Britain. It sounds trite, but the fact that this was the Queens rather than the Kings Of The Stone Age is so much more than just a clever pun.
They inverted rock’s traditional maleness; the twisted disco grooves that have always sat deep within their cavernous basslines; the moral within their every move to be yourself and be proud of the things that make you weird; the knowing camp of their sense of humour… Queens Of The Stone Age are the gayest rock band in the world.
In this job you get to meet your heroes and it can be dangerous. But over the times I’ve interviewed Josh for this magazine he’s revealed himself to be a clever parody of a jock, using the language of macho to conjure up a worldview, and a party, and a tribe, that thinks rock can be used to forge a greater good. He’s also one sick, funny bastard.
To me, these hippy desert freak rockers always seemed like the coolest gang in the world. It’s telling that our most potent UK bands, Arctic Monkeys and Biffy Clyro, have been influenced enormously by Queens Of The Stone Age. And after a period in the wilderness, Queens will be back next year with a record they promise to be “a big firework display where it’s all grand finale.”
So to the floor; what are your memories of ‘Rated R’?
Read more about ‘Rated R’ in the current issue of NME, on sale for the special price of £1.50