Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age


They’re out there skulking, even in the cheeriest, sunniest seasons, the most despised of the breeds: the artsy, grunge/metal/hard-rock mongrels. Queens of the Stone Age is the latest runt to slouch into my collection uninvited. Without ever looking for hard mongrels, I stumble across about one of them annually. Last year’s winner (like you give a shit) was Karma To Burn, ’80s titleholders include Prong and Carcass, “Hellbound Train” by Savoy Brown is in the hall of fame, and the ultimate sourcepoints are the original superstars of no respect, Blue Cheer.

In all hard mongrels, lyric writing is trivial or worse—the ’70s antique crotch shot on the Queens of the Stone Age cover is typical of their idea of clever provocation. Sound sells these bozos: the timbre of feedback, the tone and placement of distorted guitars with some voices, unexpected turns and flashes of manic refinement in arrangements. From ’91 to ’95, Queens of the Stone Age guitarist and ringleader Josh Homme gathered his head-thrashing following with Kyuss, who started with songs dry and languid as the arid California country they came from. Longtime fans sniffed at the group’s finale, …And the Circus Leaves Town, though it was the first time Homme’s songs built up inevitability through no-waste structure, momentum, and articulate strings of licks.

Now, instead of rambling and collapsing into chaos, Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri, and drummer Alfredo Hernandez (both Kyuss alumni) con fine the craziness to discreet surprises. Consider the cello phrase that lifts the end of “Regular John,” the monomaniac ensemble riff that twists at the end for “Walkin on the Sidewalk,” the spaced-but-unstoppable momentum of “I Was a Teenage Hand Model” that refuses to waver even as howling feedback blurts overwhelm every thing. Queens of the Stone Age offer neither the impersonal theater of power of megalith metal or the body-fluid diaries of grunge. But those who can pet something with one brown eye and one blue will hear mongrel lust for respect and crud-art aspirations, saved by a self-made sound.