By Charlie Catmull
‘Villains’ is Queens Of The Stone Age seventh studio album and the follow-up to 2013’s critically acclaimed ‘…Like Clockwork’. But instead of repeating or expanding upon the end-of-days gloom of the more expansive tracks of ‘…Like Clockwork’ – take the title track for instance and its less than subtle wink to the doomsday clock, which is all the more relative these days. The band have changed things up for 2017, creating a body of work that is very current yet still undeniably their own unique rock sound, and is as Homme state’s ‘here to do bad guy stuff’ (NME)
On ‘Villains’ Queens chose to bring in producer Mark Ronson in a move that may have scared their more hardcore fans, as the thought of a ‘pop’ record from the band who basically created ‘stoner rock’ may seem like a betrayal of their legacy. But rather than remove the bands basis in hard rock, Ronson has worked with Homme and co. to add a new electronic edge to their music. Which gives a refreshing sonic bite to the expected bark of the riffs which first gave the band their fandom. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Homme stated Ronson was brought in to create a ‘friction’ to take their ‘old sound and screw it over’ and it is this screwing that makes ‘Villains’ such an enjoyable record.
I use the word enjoyable here strongly as this LP represents a perfect mixture of classic rock n roll and an infusion of Ronson’s work in dance music and pop to create music that does not lend itself to the reflective, gothic nature of their earlier work. Stand out single ‘The Way You Used To Do’ could easily fit in to any pre-drinks playlist with its bouncing rhythms and fast pace, whilst second single ‘The Evil Has Landed’ builds in tempo throughout, until driving guitars burst in to a height that can only cause people to both mosh and dance at once, like a goth on ecstasy. An image only reinforced by the electronic whirls found all over ‘Head Like A Haunted House’ (not mention the track title itself).
Aside from the chop and changing of their heaviness, a collaboration does work two ways and the band do retain the deep existential themes they often delve into through their song writing, such as on ‘Hideaway’. But this inclusion does not always gel amongst the rest of the tracklist. It is only the closer ‘Villains Of Circumstance’ and its discussion of fate, which comes as a welcome winding final word to an album that brings with it more highs than lows. To prove to fans the Queens they know so well are not gone but growing.