Queens of the Stone Age's Villains: What You Need To Know
Four years on from the release of their triumphant sixth album ...Like Clockwork, Josh Homme & co. are back this week with their seventh. It's called Villains, it's out on Friday (August 25th), and here's everything you need to know about it...
A little background...
As far as Queens of the Stone Age's history goes, four years in between albums is a relatively long gap, so you may wonder what the band have been up to all this time. After touring heavily for their previous album, Homme indicated in an interview with Rolling Stone that they would be back in the studio sooner rather than later, but by early 2016 there was still no new album and bassist Michael Shuman confirmed to NME that the band were on a break. In the meantime, Homme and keyboardist / guitarist Dean Fertita contributed to Iggy Pop's 2016 album Post Pop Depression, while Troy van Leeuwen has also put out an album with L.A.-based 'supergroup' Gone is Gone, who include amongst their rank At The Drive-In's Tony Hajjar and Mastodon frontman Troy Sanders.
By the end of 2016 though, Queens of the Stone Age were indeed recording for their seventh LP, with lead-off single 'The Way You Used To Do' released in June this year. Villains will also be the first Queens of the Stone Age album to feature the band's new drummer, ex-Mars Volta sticksman Jon Theodore, who joined the band for their live shows following the departure of Joey Castillo in 2013.
Who's producing it?
Although Josh Homme usually co-produces Queens of the Stone Age's records alongside another producer – Chris Goss, Joe Baresi and James Lavelle have filled this role in the past – this time around they've recruited Mark Ronson and handed him the reins, marking a bit of a left turn for the band.
Any special guests?
Nope. The last album was a bit of an anomaly on that front, featuring guest appearances from Elton John, Trent Reznor, Alex Turner and Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, amongst others, but this time around it's just the core line-up.
What does it sound like?
In an interview with Rolling Stone back in June, Homme explained that the band's choice of producer was inspired by their desire to create something more 'danceable' than their previous records, citing Ronson's ubiquitous mega-hit 'Uptown Funk' as an inspiration. Depending on how you feel about that song, Homme's statement might be either exciting or alarming, but Villains still sounds very much like a Queens of the Stone Age album, albeit one viewed through the prism of Ronson's more electronic sensibilities.
Opener 'Feet Don't Fail Me Now' offers an early indication of how that works in practice, with a typically fast-and-furious Homme guitar riff sounding filtered and processed, but no less impressive. Lead-off single 'The Way You used To Do' continues in a similar vein, but there's plenty of scope throughout the rest of the album, like on the moody closing track 'Villains of Circumstance'. Elsewhere there are synths fizzing alongside guitars, charged-up rockabilly riffs and disco-influenced rhythms, but this isn't quite the electro-funk record you might expect from a Mark Ronson collaboration; he's a huge fan of the band anyway and probably wouldn't want to infect or dilute their sound beyond recognition - and besides, many QotSA songs in the past have had a fairly danceable vibe – but this does mark a sort of evolution of that sound.
Lyrically speaking, there's a running theme of immediacy and living 'in the now', as well as a few lyrics that seem to allude to his experience of the terrorist attack at the Bataclan theatre in Paris during an Eagles of Death Metal concert; on 'Fortress', Homme sings: "I don't want to fail you, so I tell you the awful truth / Everyone faces darkness on their own”, before adding in the song's chorus: “If ever your fortress caves, you're always safe in mine.”
Does it deliver?
Ronson's production adds a new twist on the established Queens of the Stone Age sound and it's a partnership that works better than you might imagine. Jon Theodore makes a great addition, although his playing here is more restrained than you might expect if you're familiar with exploits in The Mars Volta, but that works in perfect harmony with a record that is broadly more uptempo and energetic than ...Like Clockwork. Some of the tracks are growers, for sure, but Homme and his band sound as mighty as ever.