Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: August 25th, 2017, via Matador
Unsurprisingly, Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme has struck gold once again. Earlier this summer, it was announced that Queens Of The Stone Age would return with Villains, their first album since 2013’s …Like Clockwork. With the announcement of the album, fans were originally left divided on the band’s choice to team up with superstar pop producer, Mark Ronson, who is most known for his work with Bruno Mars on “Uptown Funk” and more recently, Lady Gaga’s 2016 release, Joanne. Ronson has previously stated that the only rock band he would want to work with was QOTSA, and as luck would have it, he got to. Fortunately, not only is Villains among the best that Queens has put out, but, it also remains true to the band’s alternative rock sensibilities.
The album kicks off with the eerie soundscapes of “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”, a hard hitting banger with a funky step to it. Homme is as smooth as ever and the band proves to be in top form. The lead single for the album, “The Way You Used To Do” while very much driven by a dancing shuffle is funky and very fun; however, there is very little else about Villains that is poppy in such a traditional fashion. “The Way You Used To Do” features the most obvious stamp from Ronson, and while the song is excellent, his influence on the rest of the record is much more subtle. “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” is an immediate reminder to that as the track feels like the quick stepping cousin to “Smooth Sailing”. In fact, much of Villains feels like the perfect continuation to the direction that QOTSA carved on …Like Clockwork as a majority of the songs like to dwell in a unique territory that is funky, crunchy, bouncy, at times abstract, and by any conventional standards, always a touch left of the expected. This is also quite noticeable in the closing ballad, “Villains Of Circumstance”, which is very much in tone with “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “I Appear Missing” in that they both share a beautifully melancholic tone, captured in a ballad that can still grow into a bouncing rocker.
Perhaps, while it is difficult to narrow down one top track out of the nine that Villains offers, it is “The Evil Has Landed” that stands out as the records strongest. The song itself is a near seven minute epic that takes the listener through riff after riff and is very much inspired by Homme’s side project, Them Crooked Vultures, which saw Homme collaborate with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones. The track is slick, hard hitting, and funky while managing to seamlessly shift the tone, style, and rhythmic pulse of the song on a number of occasions, making it one of the more adventurous songs on the record.
Without a doubt, Villains is a near perfect record from Queens Of The Stone Age. What makes Villains stand out from their discography is how innovative it is while still remaining quite familiar in the sense that each song on the album is unmistakably that of Josh Homme. His sound and song writing make him among one of the most distinctive modern musicians, giving him and Queens Of The Stone Age a timeless feel. While Villains may lean a little towards pop rock, it is done so in with a sophisticated and tasteful nudge. This gives the album a very modern feel; however, it fits in with QOTSA’s career quite seamlessly; it’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s creative, and it is brilliant as hell. Villains is a record that is not only one which is guaranteed to top the lists for the best of 2017, but it has enough ingenuity and innovative quality to be among the best rock records of the decade.
1: Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
2: The Way You Used To Do
3: Domesticated Animals
5: Head Like A Haunted House
6: Un-Reborn Again
8: The Evil Has Landed
9: Villains Of Circumstance