I refuse to believe that it’s been fifteen years since I was a kid, rocking out to No One Knows the very year “Songs For the Deaf” was released. Queens of the Stone Age have been nothing but a huge staple to many around the world, and possibly, the last and most advanced and innovative rock band of recent times. Moving on from 2013’s “… Like Clockwork” record, we get a more diverse and energising side of the desert rock specialists with a funkier, groovier and danceable side of Queens, with their seventh studio LP “Villains”.
As many are no doubt, aware, Queens of the Stone Age have been renowned for their stoner alternative vibes from their debut self-titled, onwards. However, “Villains” takes the quintet to a whole different territory that Josh Homme and co. have wanted to step inside for quite some time. And that territory is concept of producing danceable tunes whilst in the form of the sonic fingerprint of alternative rock music. That being said, “Villains” is seen as a massive risk-taker for the band.
Opener Feet Don’t Fail Me starts mysteriously, but then progresses with a bit of a disco/polka crossover with some quirky mixing and effects on the guitars, along with a memorable synth line throughout the track. The public’s first taste of “Villains” was derived from The Way You Used to Do, which is inoculated by a great form of doo-wop, swing and rockabilly, immediately gets infectious to the mind and body, making you wanna start up a mean lindy hop with the devil on the dancefloor.
Domesticated Animals and Fortress are slow and steadier pieces that take place on “Villains”, where we can transparently hear that Nick Cave has slapped a bit of his influence into Josh Homme, most particularly on Domesticated Animals. Head like a Haunted House picks up from where The Way You Used to Do went, with a contagious sense of 1950’s rock n roll that will have your feet tapping ‘til the floor breaks. Hideaway returns to the state that tracks three and four were at, with some very unsettling synth components and slow, drone-inspired rings to the guitars.
With the last two songs of “Villains”, The Evil Has Landed is translated as a bit of a 60s surf rockers summer party sensation, with some great distortion that comes from the roots of the “Rated R” and “Era Vulgaris” days. Then, Villains of Circumstance closes off the album with an eerie impression that crosses out the leather, denim, jig and bop spirit that the majority of “Villains” carries.
I can understand the concern with Mark Ronson taking the role as the album’s producer. Hell, to this day, I can’t stand hearing that Uptown Funk track. But, in a serious matter, I was actually surprised by what Queens of the Stone Age got out of working with Ronson. Matter of fact, I don’t know if any other producer would ever be able to help incarnate “Villains”. Considering that Josh Homme got his wish to bring his love for dancing to life into the form of a nine-track record, he and the boys definitely made the right choice to bring the boogie to the table, along with Queens’ trademark desert rock approach and sound.
What makes “Villains” stand out so well as a 2017 album, is that it’s full of risks, multiplicity, distinctiveness and great value in songwriting and production. Queens of the Stone Age have made this record the least accessible out of their discography for good reasons. To help expand peoples’ minds and tastes, and understand that there always needs to be a change in a group’s work in order to stay fresh and exuberant. Even though we have plenty of killer bands that are still kicking it in today’s scene of music, rock music has only a very small handful of groups that have remained innovative and incomparable since their own beginning. Queens of the Stone Age are one of the last remaining bands to keep that flow going strong and nourishing after all of these years, and “Villains” is another staple to their career that proves that notion.