“Queens of the Stone Age” always sounded like the best glam-band name ever, and while Josh Homme’s free-ranging heavy rock hypnotists were never quite that, they come as close as ever on Villains. “I was born in the desert May 17, in ’73” Homme declares on the opener, “Feet Don’t Fail Me” – which is true, in fact. It also happens to be a date near glam’s peak, and the echo of Rick Derringer’s spangled ’73 top-40 anthem “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo” is probably no accident, either. By the tail end, he’s sounding more like David Bowie than even Era Vulgaris’ campy “I Wanna Make It Wit Chu” back in 2007.
No Queens record has prioritized groove like this, and
it reboots their brand nicely. Credit unlikely producer Mark “Uptown Funk”
Ronson, whose retro instincts remain impressive, even in this arena. Homme’s
fine Iggy Pop collaboration from last year (Post Pop Depression) also
figures, evidently leaving Homme with a heightened taste for the sinewy
krautrock grooves Ig and Bowie built during their golden Berlin days. Yet there’s
no lack of crushing guitars. The single “The Evil Has Landed” squalls
over brutally clipped beats, suggesting latter-day Led Zep if they’d wrapped
their head around New Wave. “Head Like a Haunted House” goes further,
a galloping assault pitched between Devo and the Buzzcocks, with theremin
sounds wailing like a supercomputer meltdown in a trashy ’50s sci-fi film.
Headbangers may be put off that QOTSA is now targeting feet and asses; too bad