Few bands can claim to have had such an impact in the last few years asQueens Of The Stone Age. Arriving on the scene at a time when dance musicwas still ruling the roost and metal meant baggy shorts, bad rapping andfaux teenage angst, their straight up heavy riffing, allied to a popsensibility and narcotic intake, opened the floodgates for a legion of real rock bands tocrash through and achieve both critical and commercial success.
Now with two multi-platinum selling albums under his belt, Queens’ frontman Josh Homme has once again retreated to his desert ranch with aselection of friends and associates, this time including P J Harvey,to get loaded and crank out volumes 9 and 10 of his infamous DesertSessions.
Away from the commercial spotlight that is so sharply focussed onthe Queens, the Desert Sessions allow Josh and his cohorts to spin off ontangents, experiment and generally mess around. It’s a testament to thetalent involved that, despite gratuitous self-indulgence, the whole thingremains eminently listenable.
It’s not all 15-minute Mogadon heavy stoner rock though. Timeand time again the pop nous that put the Queens in a league above theircompetitors shines through. On tracks such as I Wanna MakeIt With Chu, Josh’s killer instinct for the perfect pop hook lifts the wholething above a glorified jam session.
But it’s when the assembled cast reallyfree themselves from the commercial anchor that things get interesting. When Polly Harvey’s incomparable voice soars above crashing drumsand incendiary riffs, or when everything is stripped away and we are left with just vocals and guitar recorded in one take, we have someof the most direct, raw, bluesy, primal rock that will come bursting throughyour speakers this year.
Switching on a moment’s notice from the playful and light-hearted to theobscure and heavy, there are enough accessible moments not to frighten offany of the Queens’ more casual fans, whilst those who have followed the bandsince their decidedly non-chart friendly days as Kyuss willappreciate the more wilful elements, the thunderous riffs, psychedelic airand happy experimentation.
What you have hear is a group of talented, successful musicians playingfor the hell of it and enjoying every minute . As the man himself hassaid, “I think bands want to play together, and it’s primarily for that. Ithink it’s cool that it comes out and people review it and that’s good, butthe main reason is, ‘Do you remember why you started playing?’” The DesertSessions are a valuable reminder of what this whole music business shouldreally be about.