Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age – Villains

Queens of the Stone Age’s 2013 release …Like Clockwork was a surprise hit for the band that took six years to come out. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait as long for the band’s follow up Villains. The previous LP was mired in dark, bleak songwriting and moody, slow burning numbers, thanks to frontman Josh Homme being bedridden for four months. This album is more upbeat, energetic, and makes you want to dance harkening back to the band’s previous jam-laden releases.

You may not find the same depth here as with the 2013 LP, but you will find irresistible music and catchy hooks that are impossible to stop singing. QOTSA waste no time making you boogie with the opening track “Feet Don’t Fail Me” as Homme croons “I just gotta move” during the chorus and refers to himself as a “dancing fool” clearly embracing the spirit of the LP. The following track “The Way You Used to Do” finds the band taking their skill at making harsh, dirty riffs and turning them into bouncy, slick grooves. With searing riffs and Homme’s sensual vocals, the song entrances you with its energetic drive. It may make you dance, but it’s still gritty, dirty, and just a little heavy. “Domesticated Animals” slows things down with its echoing swirling riff and sleek attitude. The intense music that expands through out and the rough vibe harkens back to some of their classics.

It’s no surprise the band wanted to make a dance record, their songs already drip with intense grooves. Rather than tacking on a bunch of synths and relying on generic club music, they take what they do well and lighten it up with Mark Ronson’s tight production fully taking advantage of his pop/funk background. One great instance is “Your Head is a Haunted House.” The track speeds out of the gate with a psychedelic tinged riff and Homme’s come hither whistle opening the song. You can barely keep up with the pulsing music and his manic vocals. Out of all the tracks on the LP, this one instantly grabs you and won’t stop shaking until it’s over.

But for an album that’s supposed to make you dance, most of it is quite subdued. Homme and co get away from heavy grooves and upbeat riffs on tracks like “Un-Reborn Again,” “Fortress,” and “Hideaway.” These are slow burning songs that are still great. They just don’t represent the fun vibe that kicked off the album. The latter song plays out sleepily with Homme’s soothing vocals, while “Fortress” seems surprisingly sentimental. Homme acts as a source of comfort as he sings “If ever your fortress caves/you’re always safe in mine.” These songs give the album some variety, but it’s not until the end of the record do we return to the high energy jams.

“The Evil Has Landed” is a somewhat sensual track beginning with Homme’s sexy croon of “close/come close.” There’s a definite groove to the music, but it also has this sexiness and swagger to it like some of the band’s finer songs. The only issue here is it goes on far too long. Clocking in over six minutes, near the end the track switches gears speeding up the tempo and vibe making it feel like an entirely different song. It doesn’t really add anything and makes you want to hit “skip” instead. The closing track “Villains of Circumstance” catches you off guard with the slow, ballad opening making it sound like something off their previous effort. But once we get to the hook, the music opens up not to a full roar, but to a mid-tempo growl, while Homme croons sweetly completing the haunting, yet soothing tone.

Villains is a fun, energetic ride with the Queens of the Stone Age. While it doesn’t feel monumental like their previous LP, there’s no denying the album is just good. After being mired in dark themes and bleak outlooks for the past few releases, the guys decide to let loose and have fun bringing us along for the ride. And it’s hard not to shake your hips and sing out loud thanks in part to Ronson’s input. It’s undoubtedly a QOTSA album, but with more grooves injected. Without a single bad track tarnishing the record, this one sits up there with their most acclaimed work.  While there are a handful of songs that instantly grab you, others will take a few spins before winning you over.  It’s sexy, energetic, and a bit mysterious all elements that make a good QOTSA album.

Villains tracklist:

1. Feet Don’t Fail Me

2. The Way You Used to Do

3. Domesticated Animals

4. Fortress

5. Head Like a Haunted House

6. Un-Reborn Again

7. Hideaway

8. The Evil Had Landed

9. Villains of Cirumstance

Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, The Crypt 1331, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Reality-Comics. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and Green Day.

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