2 September 2017
Queens of the Stone Age - Villains
Sometimes you cannot do right for doing wrong, no matter who you are. For years, or at least the last couple of albums, this is the circumstances that have followed Queens of the Stone Age and this is a tidal wave which Villains has been released under. Overall, the mainstream press has been loving this record, claiming that the production by Mark Ronson is second to none. However, there has been dark rumblings from the underground press and from their fans that it is a sub-par turkey, a dud best avoided. A lot has been made about the sound of the band, especially the drums and bass, that it is undercooked. For a rock band if these are messed with, it can mean danger for any band. If I am to take anything form the noise created by all of the above, this sort of reaction makes me wonder what all the fuss is about? I mean, QOTSA have been on top of their game for an awful long time. Their last album ....Like Clockwork (our review cleverly linked here) was a great come back from the awful Era Vulgaris (our review linked cleverly linked here). But what of Villains? The cover is a piece of art that I would have on my wall, but what about the music underneath it? Is that any good?
01 - Feet Don't Fail Me
After a slow building introduction, "Feet Don't Fail Me" is a glam-rock laden number that has a funky feeling about it. It is a part Talking Book era Stevie Wonder, part The Sweet, part pop act and part synth act. It has an addictive personality, the funky bass is enticing, it is a great opening for this album to be honest. But it has moved away from their previous sound, something that will have the fanboys/girls up in arms. Personally, on this track it makes sense as they are living out their 70's fantasy, but they are starting with a truly strong track that might overshadow the rest of the album.
02 - The Way You Used to Do
The first song to be released from the album as a single, released to many bitter tears and the grinding of teeth. I do not see why they were so upset, if anything it is the song on this album that sounds nearest to the band's original sound in this modern production. What you have here is a heavy rock song that has been given slight pop productions, it has a loud noise behind it and it sounds decent. But to be honest, it also sounds slightly empty as if there is something missing from it and that does hurt this song (and by extend, the album) that it is a hollow husk of a song. It does not deserve the critic's wrath, but it is not as good as they think it is either. So, a decent sounding number that does nothing completely right for anyone, sounds familiar?
03 - Domesticated Animals
"Domesticated Animals" starts off with a loud bang, it feels like it is building to something explosive and then...... then it takes far too long to get to its point. The bass has finally returned to the album, the noise and crunch that gave this band its exciting glow and it feels like it could be the making of the band. But when it comes to the build, to the path that made their songs a delight, it is not there. It builds to nothing, which is a shame as it is a song that could have been a world beater.
04 - Fortress
"Fortress" sounds like band vanilla funk/rock disco, so you can probably tell off the mark that I am not a fan of this song. It is a slowed down number which is not working for me, but again it is not down to the production of Mark Ronson. There is only so much you can do to polish a turd, he cannot help with the quality of the song writing and can only produce what is in front of him. It is a number that feels as if it needed more work behind the scenes, so let’s just leave it at that......
05 - Head Like a Haunted House
As we reach the halfway point of this album, the band have finally found the acceleration peddle and they feel as if they give a shit about "Head Like a Haunted House". It has an energy that has been sadly lacking for a lot of this record. It also has that rock 'n' roll attitude that has always been their calling card, again something that has been missing. It is not an amazing song, but it is one that is at least pointing in the right direction.
06 - Un-Reborn Again
For the first time since "Feet Don't Fail Me", QOTSA feel as if they are truly committed to the number. It is a slow bruiser of a number, one that is in no hurry to get to the end and it is also one that has a hook which I can finally let sink in. It is a harsh number, one that has that missing swagger and it is long overdue on this record. I like everything about this one, even the strange violin interlude towards the end of the song, it is a highlight on this record.
07 - Hideaway
Once again, we have a poorly constructed number from QOTSA on "Hideaway", one which does not do justice to their name. It is aiming to be a grand, illustrious number that captures the heart of the listener. But it is a dull song if the true be told, created without conviction and that harms it. It just fails to excite the soul, it is lacking those hooks which were once aplenty from the hand of Homme's. That is such a shame, they are better than this.
08 - The Evil Has Landed
There it is! There is the swagger that I this band has always possessed! There is something about this song (or at least part of it) that makes it compelling. It has a massive hook which I have been missing on this record, one that almost takes this song over the top and towards greatness. It is hampered a bit by the production here, which is a first for this album to be honest as it has been the other way around throughout this album. But it is still a lot better than most of this record, just for having some swagger.
09 - Villains of Circumstance
Ending the album is "Villains of Circumstance", a song that sort of fits this album perfectly. It talks about things have not quite worked out the way that they thought it would, how circumstance has conspired against them. It is a song with a grand vision and I wish there was more of this on the record. If there were more songs with this quality behind the song writing, like "Feet Don't Fail Me" and "The Evil Has Landed" and this could have been a game changer of an album. Instead, it is a rare gem on this record. I love this one, but it just shows what this album could have been, making it an equally joyous and frustrating experience.
OK, cards on the table - this is not a great Queens of the Stone Age album, it is an album that has found them following the sound of the day and not the correct fit for them, they have changed their ideals to meet the current vogue. Now, trying something new is always something that I applaud in bands, but then you have albums where it does not quite work. It is not as bad as some fan boys/girls have stated, I have heard much worse drum sound and for me, QOTSA sullied their souls a long time ago in my books. You must give them props for trying something new and to be fair to them, at least they haven't created another by the numbers album like Era Vulgaris. If there is another album from them, I wonder if they will follow this direction again? That is something for the future, probably way in the distance as well. The main issue that I have with Villains however is not the production, but the quality of the songs themselves as they are a little weak by the standards of QOTSA. I am not one for only like a bands older material, but I am one for pointing out that the quality behind the song writing when it is under par. They seem to have forgotten how to write a tune worthy of their name, which is a worrying sign. It is not the pace of the numbers, they have always done light numbers and sometimes they are their best songs. But there has always been a hook to their songs, so where are the hooks on this record? Sure, there is a few decent songs on Villains, but there is so much vanilla thunder as well. Now, whilst I have given this album a lower mark than Era Vulgaris, but it is a better record of the two. However, that is like comparing Llama turds to Lion turds and deciding which would be better to eat, they are both still turds. So, whilst Villains is not the worst album that these guys have produced, it is not a good album either, let alone a great one. But much like the recent Arcade Fire album, it is not the evil that people are making it out to be, just file this under disappointing (missing rock 'n' roll swagger).
4 out of Ten - Well, it is alright, but still......
Top track - Feet Don't Fail Me
You can purchase Villains on Amazon here.
You can visit the Queens of the Stone Age website here.
You can follow the activities of Queens of the Stone Age on Facebook here.
You can stream Villains on Spotify here.
You can stream Villains on Deezer here.
You can stream Villains on Tidal here.
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