They’re the redneck mavericks of desert rock, uncompromising and unforgiving. A band, as Dave Grohl has it, made up of ‘badasses’. They’re the Queens of the Stone Age. Josh Homme & co. have always done things their way and, if you didn’t like that, you could pack up your toys and do one elsewhere. Those of us who did jump aboard that rusty old Cadillac and sped out into the desert with them came back changed. We had experienced something better, something bigger than the sum of us: something weirder. We had experienced the sound of real music.
As you’ll have read by now, ‘Like Clockwork...’ (the band’s 6th LP) is set to be released on June 3rd and will feature a diverse roster of cameos, from Trent Reznor to Elton John, by way of Alex Turner. The few snippets, studio cuts and live videos we’ve seen so far indicate that this is going to be the album of their careers. Josh Homme claims the album is coming from ‘a dark place’, which is arguably where Queens do their best work. Fans of 2002’s seminal ‘Songs for the Deaf’ will also be frothing at the bit at the news that everyone’s favourite sticksman, Dave Grohl, returned for recording duties. Basically, there’s no way this album will be anything short of ‘fucking amazing.’
To prepare, I’ve been doing lunges in my garden, whilst trying to scream like Nick Oliveri getting a prostrate exam. As well as this, I’ve had the Queens back catalogue on repeat, night and day, for the last 6 weeks. Narrowing down QOTSA’s back catalogue to just 20 songs is a nigh impossible task, but here’s my best attempt. Why not tell me what I’ve missed in the comments? So, here it is: 20 songs ‘heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls’.
20. Sick, Sick, Sick
2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’ was a fantastic album, but suffered from too much filler. Sick, Sick, Sick is not that album’s best song, but this Julian Casablancas featuring number is a classic Queens’ track that only gets better with each listen. It’s got a rhythm to rattle your ribcage and a video to make you nibble your fingers down to the bones.
19. Suture up your Future
Another ‘Era Vulgaris’ song, Suture up your Future trundles along on a creeping bassline as Josh Homme’s weary harmonies paint a sad tale of overwhelming apathy.
‘Tried to fake it, I just can't take it/
I don't care if it hurts/
Just so long as it's real/’
18. I Appear Missing
A new track, and a bloody good one. Everything we’ve heard so far from ‘Like Clockwork...’ has been Queens turned up to 11. This has it all: the sweeping vocals, the trundling, jangly riffs, that weird lopsidedness, and of course, a strange desert-set video.
17. Everybody knows that you’re Insane
Before we even get into the music, how brilliant a title is this? Homme’s telling a story in just 5 words. Who is he speaking to? What have they done to make everyone think they’re insane? Why don’t they know they’re insane? The first verse stretches out like the sunset over the far rim of the desert, and from then on it’s a steady, thundering riff that carries us through to those frantic choruses. There’s also a brilliantly spun-out, slow-building solo of the type Queens excel at. Classic of the Stone Age.
A gem from 1998, Mexicola features a slinking bass line from Homme’s alter-ego ‘Carlo Von Sexron’. As with many later Queens songs, its a shape shifting beast of riffs, tight little guitar fills and brilliant lyrics, this time dealing with a picaresque jaunt down Mexico way.
‘Setting sun deals hands of gold/
There's velvet eyes in Mexico/
From so far away and all she said was true/
Speak in tongues, speak in lies/
drooling livers, born to die/
It’s a wonder that those guns don't point at you/’
15. A Song for the Dead
Mark Lanegan is at his gravely best in this song. You could graze your shins on his voice and still be picking out sharp little stones a month later. In beautiful polarising contrast are those fabulous ‘Ah, Ah, Ah Ahhhh’ harmonies that lead us up to that raggedy solo, before the song slips and slides down into a head-banging, neck-breaking finale. Dave Grohl’s not bad on the old drums, either.
14. Burn the Witch
This video is darker than dark, and really is the stuff of nightmares. The song is driven by a fabulously bluesy riff, the work of ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, who also doubles up with mark Lanegan on the lower parts of the verses. Homme’s falsetto was laid over the initial mix to create this duelling combination of unnervingly carefree vocals.
Will I burn in Hell?/
Then write it down/
& cast it in the well/’
A straight-up, balls to the walls, full-steam ahead banger. If this song doesn’t get you moving around, you’re a cold, heartless, so-and-so.
12. Make It Wit Chu
QOTSA do longue music, and it’s flippin’ fantastic. Homme’s in full crooner mode as that sensual lead guitar paints scenes of long afternoons spent in bed. All together, ‘Any tiiiiiiiiiiime, anywheeeeeeeere’.
11. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
Another ballsy song title, and the perfect antidote to whatever manufactured dog shit ends up polluting the radios this summer. Can you imagine those little Belieber twerps singing along, J.B himself leading them in a chorus of ‘C-C-C-C-C- CoCaaiiiiiiiine’? No, me neither, at least not until he starts smoking crack when his career’s in the shitter in about three years.
10. Lost Art of Keeping a Secret
Coincidently, the next song on ‘Rated R’ after Feel Good Hit..., Lost Art... is the theme tune Austin Powers should have had. From the fantastic 1960’s spy theme intro we’re led into a pounding falsetto chorus that suggests it’s in your best interest to keep your bloody mouth shut. And when Josh Homme suggests something, there isn’t much arguing to be done. Yeah, baby.
9. In My Head
For me, this was the soundtrack to Mexico ’09. However, I realise some of you weren’t with me on that trip, so I’ll just say that it’s a lovely, honest song that you should feed into your ear holes right now.
8. Mosquito Song
Hidden songs are a bit redundant these days, aren’t they? Presumably, they also were in 2002 when ‘Songs for the Deaf’ came out, with this beautiful little bastard tucked away at the rear end, like that last bit of stuff from the night before you just found in your pocket. The song features a whole host of guests, including Dean Ween (formerly of Ween) and Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle). Also, check out the video of the song set to footage from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s horrifically beautiful.
7. No One Knows
That video. Those drums. Nick Oliveri’s bass solo. Shit, son.
6. 3’s & 7’s
Lie to my face and tell me this isn’t one of your favourite Queens songs.
5. Little Sister
The song that made cowbells cool again. The beauty of Little Sister, is that musically, it’s such a simple song. That steady guitar riff leads into a driving chorus, followed by a slippery little few bars of sliding, and then it’s back into verses about dancing cheek to cheek with your sister. Inevitably, it all falls apart in a brilliantly wonky solo.
4. Hangin’ Tree
Mark Lanegan’s best work with Queens, Hanging Tree is a fantastic mid-tempo ballad about strange fruit hanging from the trees. The verses are stretched and haunting (by this point you can feel the lethargy of ‘Songs for the Deaf’s cross-desert journey) and the choruses are brilliant, and tinged with sinister nostalgia.
3. Go with the Flow
As far as first lines go, ‘She said I’ll throw myself away’ is up there with the very best. The music video for this song is almost perfect and (here’s some trivia for you) it was even filmed in Bonny Blighty, which must be why it looks so bloody depressing. The video is spot on in capturing the brilliant drive of the song, augmented by those jangly pianos and haunting, reverberating lead licks. There really is no other option but to go with the flow.
2. My God Is the Sun
The first song we heard from ‘Like Clockwork...’ My God Is the Sun just might grow to be the best Queens song of all time. The main riff is an instant classic and Homme’s haunting vocals have never sounded better. The chorus also sounds like a mountain collapsing into the sea, or the sun exploding in slow motion, lending a sense of epic proportions to the song, something which Queens have never done as well. There’s also something fabulously unsettling about the way Josh Homme declares ‘Well I don’t know what time it was/ I don’t wear a watch/’. Genius.
1. You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
Buenas tardes, señores y señoritas! Aquí está la mejor canción de Queens of the Stoneage. This ferocious, snarling beast of a song will forever be Queens’ heaviest hitter. Nick Oliveri screams his guts out Josh Homme silences all competitors with that lead guitar. The best parts of this song are the throbbing intro, the wild and desperate ending, and everything in between.