Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Queens Of The Stone Age - Era Vulgaris (2007)

Musically, 2007 has been fairly uninspiring, and it's nearly July. This should be cause for general melancholia and lament, but 2006 was like this as well, as was 2005 and so there can be no true sense of loss unless you've essentially lost something you cherish first, right? It's evident when Paul McCartney is still able to sell records that people are a bit starved for something, anything -- even the grossly recycled. Indeed, it's quite difficult nowadays to sift through all these products and find something you like without resorting to the familiar; they simply don't make bands like they used to. If not for The Police getting back together -- oh glory for everything that is right in this world -- and an expected release from Radiohead, I expect this year to be an otherwise abysmal wash. Anything that may prove me wrong is quite welcome.

Well, thank you, Queens Of The Stone Age, for being the first in line. I was initially skeptical due to my reception of Lullabies To Paralyze in 2005, and still insist that album simply stops trying a little more than halfway through, despite its brilliant first half. I was even more worried when this album's lifeless opener, "Turnin' On The Screw", which couldn't find a screwdriver, let alone the screw. Yet, this proved to be indicative of nothing, because Era Vulgaris is quite the prodigious album, with only one other dud undeserving of doffing ("I'm Designer"). The interesting thing is not so much that it merely raises the amplitude from their last effort, but that it does so in a myriad of ways, carving its irreverent sexual intensity with astonishing menace. "Battery Acid" sounds like the mechanical pounding of robot paranoia; "Into The Hollow" is an elegant psychedelic groove; "Sick, Sick, Sick" is just sick, as it name suggests, with wailing flourishes and delirious riffage;

and "Misfit Love" flails in manic swarming drones. But don't let Homme's low-key guitar ministrations and bass amps fool you; softer numbers like "Make It Wit Chu" and "Suture Up Your Future" still evoke similar feelings of rawness with exacting precision. Other beauties: "River In The Road," "Run Pig Run" and especially "3's & 7's." In short, these guys remind us not only that rock still lives, but why it's so damn good. Rinse, wash, repeat. Rinse, wash, repeat. B+

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