Queens of the Stone Age fans don’t take criticism well. For them, the band does no wrong, and singer/songwriter/guitarist Josh Homme is a musical mastermind on par with Roger Waters and Thom Yorke. This cult exists because Homme comes off as just another dude hanging on your tattered couch, packing the bong and quoting Fletch. Yet he’s a witty intellectual when most stoner-metal dropouts are one or two IQ points shy of bar-rock Neanderthal. Just listen to his jams—Homme sprinkles them with sharp, post-modern references to new wave, vintage Cream, even Krautrock.
And that’s QOTSA’s problem. Homme has been riding this shtick since the band’s breakout, 2000’s Rated R (which by the way is so overrated and not nearly as good as the band’s 1998 self-titled debut, the last time Homme actually challenged himself). Era Vulgaris doesn’t alter this trend. Stuttering robo-fits like “I’m a Designer” and “Misfit Love” are basically energy-drink commercials still ripping off The Matrix. Things perk up in the second half, but in a train-wreck kind of way. With the band sounding listless and drained of ideas, it starts trying anything, even blue-eyed soul on a track titled—get this—”Make It Wit Chu.” Of course, that could just be Homme playing nod/wink games, but fuck the stoner jokes after nine years. Somebody give this dude a Boris CD.