Category Archives: Stoner Rock

Right On Time

It’s 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up at 7:00 but I really wanted to get this out. As always, it’ll be edited once someone texts me my latest mistakes.

Teaser: something big is coming soon.

Album: …Like Clockwork             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Like Clockwork

So I’m sitting here reading Josh Homme interviews in preparation to write this, and I can’t lie about it. I knew there was a reason he’s one of my favorite musicians. He’s f***ing hilarious (sorry, being around recording industry majors has done a number on my language skills). The truth is, I’ve been out for awhile because sometimes school and life get in the way, but I’ve also been listening to this album nonstop for like two years months. I mean, two years later and it’s just as good as it was the first time. Better, even — because I wasn’t sure that I liked it the first time I listened.

…Like Clockwork was released in the good ol’ U.S. of A back in June of 2013. It was the band’s sixth studio album, and their first on indie label Matador Records after their time with Interscope. Actually, it was their first album since 2007’s Era Vulgaris. I guess 6 years seems like a helluva time between records, but Homme has been involved in several projects since (including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures) so it’s not like I’ve missed him or anything.

But I did miss Queens. There’s something about their desert rock that welcomes me in every time — but that’s my dark and twisty side talking. QOTSA is a band that combines the sweet with the dirty and the raunchy with the emotional in a way not many bands manage, and …Like Clockwork embodies that better than any of their albums ever have.

This album is their return to the music scene, and boy do they come in with a bang. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart at number one after it’s release (the only QOTSA album to make it to the number one slot), and all of it’s singles placed on the Billboard Singles chart. …Like Clockwork had critics raving, and it got the band three Grammy nominations. It also landed itself on NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, coming in at #335.

And, if I do say so myself, there’s a reason. This is a band whose lineup has fluctuated over the years to the point of really only having one constant member (Homme), but they seem to have finally locked it in despite losing their drummer half way through recording. The album contains guest spots from everyone to former collaborator Dave Grohl (who rocks my socks, as I’ve said a thousand times before), to the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, to Elton freaking John — who volunteered as an “actual queen,” according to Homme. Former bassist Nick Oliveri even makes an appearance, though not on bass. Together with engineer Mark Rankin, the band has created their best album yet.

…Like Clockwork opens with the sludgy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” a track that’s got a slow groove. Right off the bat, you can tell that this album is gonna be good. The song is just a preview of the vocal and instrumental experimentation that’s to come, though. The album really doesn’t kick off until “I Sat By the Ocean.” It’s a groovy song with a slide guitar that sticks with you for days, but not in a bad way. Homme croons “Time wounds all heals as we fade out of view,” while comparing a dead relationship to “passing ships in the night,” on the track, proving from the start that he knows his way around writing lyrics.

Really, the album shows a type of restraint that’s not typical of Queens of the Stone Age. Tracks like “They Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “…Like Clockwork” balance the slow and tame with the hard rock we’re used to and elicit emotions about rock n’ roll  you didn’t even know you had. There’s a personality in the playing that hasn’t been there before.

But what would a Queens album be if there wasn’t a hard rocker? The uninhibited “My God Is The Sun” brings the desert rock right to the table and flies by — more like what we’d expect from QOTSA — and reminds us just what they’re capable of. Really, there’s no wonder it was nominated for “Best Rock Performance” at the Grammys.

And then there’s my favorite track on the album: “Smooth Sailing.” It’s a cocky strut of a song, but the arrogance is earned as Homme sings, “It’s all in motion/ain’t not stopping now/I got nothing to lose and only one way: up.” It’s a clever song that locks in and rolls, and the way Josh Homme plays with his falsetto just adds to the effect.

Really, everything about this album impresses me. The lyrical content is just fantastic — some of the best the band has put out, I would say. It’s very dark and contains Homme’s ever so infamous cynical sarcasm, but that’s what makes it so great. Lines like “To be vulnerable is needed most of all/If you intend to truly fall apart,” found in “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” are easy to miss on the first few listens, but once caught force you to think about their meaning.

While the album does lull a little in the middle during “Kalopsia,” it manages to hold your attention from start to finish. Even the six-minute “I Appear Missing” doesn’t feel so long. It’s an album that’s got talent and showcases it in the best way. In the words of Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman, …Like Clockwork is an album that “kicks like a mule even when it dresses like a queen.”

Like this album? Hate this album? Please, let me know in the comments below!

And as always, never stop listening.

Honorable Song Mentions: If I Had A Tail, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, …Like Clockwork

Make Yourself (update your blog)

Well last week was a disaster. I think that’s the first week I can officially say I didn’t post anything. I kinda feel like I failed. I didn’t post a playlist. I didn’t post anything else. I just didn’t post. I even started to post and then didn’t. I wasn’t even LATE, I just didn’t post. I officially suck at life, but hey, there’s a first time for everything, right? I still don’t have any Jimmy Eat World for you, so I kinda feel like it’s not going to happen and it’s honestly out of pure laziness. And not to mention, I’m a day late on this week. But whatever. I have something good for you. You’re welcome.

Album: Make Yourself                                                             Artist: Incubus

Wow, I just noticed that that's like a robot thing up in the corner.... SWEET.
Wow, I just noticed that that’s like a robot thing up in the corner…. SWEET.

There are a lot of good albums I could have pulled from Incubus, but I chose this one for a reason. You see, it might be arrogant of me, but I like to be able to say a band’s name and have someone I know with questionable taste in music be like “Who?” because then I can say, “Trust me you’ve heard them.” And I’m usually right because believe it or not, the music I like was what all the cool kids listened to at some point. Anyway, here we have Make Yourself, with quite possibly the biggest song of the late 90s/early 2000s with “Drive.” Look it up. Told you you’ve heard them. You may have been four or five, but you know you did.

But on to the album, right? I think what I like most about Incubus is that they do kind of encompass the spirit of the late 90s/early 2000s to me. And they managed to do all that stuff that mainstream rock was doing all at once and they made it work, and they didn’t sell out. Plus they have a DJ who does that scratching thing that people of my generation have only seen in movies. It’s like the best of mainstream 2000 combined with ultimate stoner rock.

Make Yourself was put out in October of 1999. It was Incubus’ third album, and it was a little different than Fungus Amongus and S.C.I.E.N.C.E. Make Yourself was slightly more… I guess the word I’m looking for is “subtle,” even though that’s not a word that’s entirely appropriate for the album, but it best conveys my meaning. What I’m getting at is that the band added some variety. Instead of all out raging all the time (don’t get me wrong, cause it rocks hardcore), songs like “The Warmth” and “Stellar” bring in a (for lack of a better word) mellower aspect before the rock n roll really hits. It’s a pretty good way to keep the album moving. It settles into a groove, it builds, and it slips right back into the groove. It’s a good change up, because it keeps the listeners on their toes and appeals to those who prefer raging Incubus and those who prefer mellow Incubus.

Now, what’s unique about Incubus is that they’ve managed to put out a lot of albums, always tweak their sound, and never lose their fanbase (until MAYBE their last album, but I’m holding out for a really good release next year). Make Yourself is a good example of this talent, especially since they dropped DJ Lyfe for DJ Kilmore. Maybe this didn’t have a huge impact on their sound change, but it sure seemed to. I find Kilmore’s sound more prominent than Lyfe’s was and Kilmore’s sound gives the record kind of a mystical feel, apparent on one of the albums singles “Pardon Me.”

I think it’s pretty apparent that this album wasn’t exactly industry changing, and as Tyler Fischer of Sputnik Music puts it, it wasn’t technically challenging either (his review is here). But despite these facts, it’s a great album. It takes you from the hit single “Drive” (which is actually fairly unrepresentative of the album as a whole) to the groove “Battlestar Scralatchtica” to the more familiar roll and toil of “When It Comes” and “Out From Under.” Brandon Boyd’s vocals and lyrics improved in my opinion too. He’s depressingly hopeful (total oxymoron there) in “The Warmth,” an easy groove with silky vocals and a bass that doesn’t quit. The chorus, which urges the listener “Don’t let the world bring you down” and “Remember why you came here and while you’re alive/experience the warmth before you grow old,” really resonates with the listener.

My final words for this album are “experience the warmth,” and really appreciate what Make Yourself has to offer. Not only does it rock your socks off, but its got a great message that Boyd manages to keep from being cheesy. I think Dirk Lance is one of the better bassists to come out of the 90s, Mike Einziger has mastered the art of switching up his style on the fly, and Incubus is a band that has a lot of chemistry. Brandon Boyd really expanded as a vocalist with this album and I really do find the addition of DJ Kilmore did a lot for the band — if you’re looking for an experience thats about as 90s/2000s as it gets, “Battlestar Scralatchtica” is your jam. I think this album marks a major growth for the band and might make my top list for the early 2000s.

So that’s what I have for you. I really encourage you to go listen to this album because just about everyone I’ve met who has given Incubus a shot hasn’t had regret. Until next week, and I really do mean next week and not the week after, keep listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: Drive (so help me God you had better know this one already), Stellar, Pardon Me, Privilege, The Warmth, and last but not least Battlestar Scralatchtica

Stay Crooked, Guys

Well, my favorite month is here! And now it’s time for one of my favorite albums, so straight to the music shall we?

Album: Them Crooked Vultures                                   Artist: Them Crooked Vultures

TCV

Them Crooked Vultures is what we refer to as a “supergroup.” Comprised of Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl of basically anything amazing (and by that I mean Nirvana and The Foo Fighters), and John Paul Jones of this little band you may have heard of called Led Zeppelin, they really just can’t go wrong.

Them Crooked Vultures started in 2009 in Los Angeles. I don’t know exactly what made these three rock gods get together and be like, “Hey, let’s do something amazing,” but it obviously happened at some point. The group was selling out concerts before their debut even dropped.

Them Crooked Vultures (said self-titled debut) opens with “No One Loves Me & Niether Do I,” and I think it’s one of the best demonstrations of what the album is all about. It starts out really heavy on a Led Zepp kinda grove paired with some always tight drumming from Dave Grohl and then switches to the dirty rock n’ roll of Queens of the Stone Age. Admittedly, I wouldn’t say the album is more awesome than any of it’s parts; I find it to be a little drawn out sometimes. However, I would say it is just as awesome as it’s parts. Josh Homme is a really talented guitarist, Dave Grohl is basically the epitome of everything a drummer should be, and well, JPJ manages to play just about everything else. Like seriously, I’m pretty sure he plays about half this album.

One of my favorite things about Them Crooked Vultures is the grove of it. These guys just lock in together and really bust it out. The perfect example of this is “Gunman;’ it’s the kind of song that makes you bob your head while JPJ and Grohl just go. Homme manages to pull it back though; his slower vocals sync in perfect balance and his later guitar solo pushes it right back up. But grove isn’t everything. The weirdness is just as important. For example, “Interlude With Ludes,” reminds listeners that sometimes thinking outside the box is just what rock n’ roll needs. It’s very Led Zepplin/Queens of the Stone Age-esque.

Apparently I’m not the only one that cares about the Vultures though. Their first single “New Fang” (again heavy on the Led Zepp) won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance (which is honestly the only award I care about anymore). It’s honestly almost everything you could hope a Foo/Queens/Led Zepp mashup could be. Almost.

In closing, there have been a lot of supergroups to do it right (Traveling Wilburys, for example) and even a lot to do it wrong (I mean, too many egos in one place doesn’t always go as planned). I personally think that Them Crooked Vultures managed to get it right on this one. I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed when we didn’t get a new Vultures album this past year like supposed rumor had it, and I can only hope that these guys get together again. They’re all obviously having fun, and it translates: this is a fun album to listen to.

Any suggestions? I won’t lie, I’m not promising anything of any quality for next week so I would really appreciate some help! Until next week, keep listening!

Honorable Song Mentions: No One Loves Me & Neither Do I, Mind Eraser No Chaser, New Fang, Scumbag Blues, Bandoliers, Gunman, Spinning In Daffodils

Also, sidenote: my good internet friend and fellow music writer Sam has an album listening club if you’d like to check it out. I’m thinking about joining myself! You can find the link to his page over in the sidebar.

Desert Drive

Wow, this is late. Even for my recent late streak this is late. 11:15? And I still haven’t packed for orientation tomorrow. My house is still internet-less, which makes this whole blog thing increasingly difficult, and it also makes just about everything else increasingly difficult. I hate to admit it, but internet is just a necessity these days.

A not so brief word about my album choice this week: originally the intention was to do Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart, because I went to a Frank Turner concert on Friday (which was awesome) and he signed my copy of the album on vinyl. Unfortunately, I still don’t have my speakers for the turntable hooked up, so I can’t listen to it. If I had internet, I would suck it up and listen to it on Spotify or YouTube or something, but I don’t. Then, I said “What the heck?” and decided to purchase the Killers’ Hot Fuss because I wanted that album anyway. So I did. I bought the last copy at Best Buy. And it was blank. It was very disappointing. So I exchanged it for…

Album: Songs For The Deaf                                             Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

songs-for-the-deaf

Man, these guys are weird. I love Josh Homme because he isn’t afraid to be kind of a freak. Every time I listen to a Queens album the first time through, I have to get over the general sound of it first before I can really begin to rock out. Queens of the Stone Age definitely isn’t like anything I’ve written about yet.

Songs for the Deaf was the third album for Queens of the Stone Age, released in 2002. Dave Grohl plays drums on the album, and even put the Foo on hold to tour with Queens of the Stone Age following this album. And, lets be honest with ourselves here. Dave Grohl and Josh Homme always rock together, so shouldn’t this album? Songs for the Deaf was “produced” by Nick Valentine (but Josh Homme later criticized him for his work, claiming he merely recorded it and essentially did nothing else), and contains tracks written both by frontman Homme and Nick Oliveri.

Before I get to the actual musical quality of the album though, I want to talk about the album’s layout. Songs for the Deaf plays like a radio. When I say that, I mean that they actually put fake radio excerpts in the album. Basically the concept is a car ride from what I believe is supposed to be LA to somewhere else in California, and the driver tunes into the different radio stations of different cities on the way. All in all its a good concept: the album basically parodies the radio and criticizes it for being “KLON Radio” (Clone Radio), playing songs that sound “more like anyone else than anyone else,” and the “infinite repeat” that the radio often bestows. Like I said, all in all it’s a good (and mostly amusing) concept, but I agree with Eric Carr of pitchfork.com — eventually, after a couple of run-throughs, they get in the way of the music. (You can read Eric Carr’s review of QOTSA’s Songs For The Deaf here). I actually found myself trying to change the radio station in my car a few times. Oops.

But let’s talk about the music now, shall we? I guess I’ve most often heard QOTSA lumped into the “stoner rock” genre, but that seems a little general to me. Songs for the Deaf could definitely be thrown into the metal genre I think. Actually, there’s a radio excerpt that says “All death metal, all the time,” and it’s immediately followed by some screaming vocals with a somewhat creepy sounding chaos of guitars and drums. Whether that was done simply for parody purposes is for you to decide.

However, I think you could call most of the instrumentation on this album chaotic — but it’s organized. I think it was my sister who told me it was “robot rock” once. It’s made of layers and layers and layers. That’s something you can really hear if you listen, especially in tracks like “No One Knows” and “Go With The Flow.” And another thing: I guess you could call it “desert rock” (I don’t technically know the definition for this genre, so go with it). Literally, every time I listen, I can’t help but think about the desert or cactuses or something, but I think that was kind of the point. I don’t know, maybe the “Go With The Flow” music video had an impact on me or something.

The album isn’t “all death metal, all the time” though; the final hidden track (which is what it says on the CD, but it isn’t really all that hidden) entitled “Mosquito Song” has more of a mellow, western feel. The acoustic guitars in the beginning lend a “Hotel California” feel to the song, while later in the track the band seems to be joined by the symphony from hell. It’s a great end.

I’ll come out and say it — not every single song on the album had me flat out impressed, but overall I’d label the album as a success. Between the ultimate statement of the radio parody, the classic weirdness that only Queens can provide, and the straight up rock n’ roll, the album is a great listen, regardless of any hiccups. The writing partnership of Homme and Oliveri seems to be a successful one, but it’s late, I’m tired, and I have no internet so this post is gonna suck anyway so I’m just not going to go in depth with the lyrics tonight.

The eventual goal is to post about their latest album …Like Clockwork, but I need my turntable for that 🙂 But you’ll just have to keep listening until then.

As always, comments or suggestions are appreciated. Seriously, I would love to write about something you all suggest, so leave a comment with a request!

Honorable Song Mentions: No One Knows, Song for the Dead, Go With The Flow, Gonna Leave You, Do It Again, Mosquito Song (Really if you want some good, dark and twisty rock out music, just pop in the entire album)