Hype is rarely justified, and the hype surrounding supergroup vanity project Them Crooked Vultures was unlikely to ever be a convincing corroboration.� Nevertheless the judicious trio of Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl carry with them a combined calibre that is, without doubt, likely to remain unmatched for what remains of this decade.
If Grohl’s appearance on Queens Of The Stone Age‘s Songs For The Deaf (2002) set pulses racing, then Them Crooked Vultures should send the blood gushing from the heart out through all available orifices. Them Crooked Vultures tend to deal in the instinctual – the animal.
The jaunty New Fang, as driven by Grohl’s varying drum patterns and Homme’s continued sliding dedication to ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons, is gleefully underpinned by Jones’ bold bass, and though it seems a simple enough song – one that could appear on QOTSA’s Era Vulgaris – it’s the bewildering changes in pace that demonstrate the group are not merely functioning as individuals obsessed with their own parts. Rather, Them Crooked Vultures is a fair representation of equally matched musicians. Of course, Homme, as front man, naturally takes the lead, but even the most cursory of listens reveals each member throwing their guts at each song.
Mercifully moving on from the 1967 garage-rock production style that Homme has dwelled on for far too long, Them Crooked Vultures is a natural sounding rock record containing more than a few surprises. The horn arrangement at the end of Mind Eraser, No Chaser (reminiscent of second QOTSA album) adds a certain pomp, whilst the intermittent clavinet panned to the left of Scumbag Blues adds a quirky funk to an otherwise unchained, rifftastic behemoth. But, again, Them Crooked Vultures attempt to avoid the predictable. Bandoliers is struck with galloping two-part guitar harmonies and strings that echo Babe Ruth’s 1972 record The Mexican.
Yet some tracks merely serve as ammunition for dense, dull, prog-rock warfare. Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up wanders off into Hendrix-styled Third Stone From The Sun territory complete with hypnotic bass riff, heavily echoed vocals and tapped triplets on Grohl’s ride cymbal. Though probably great fun to play, it makes for an incredibly leaden listen. Similarly, Gunman sounds about as dangerous as Franz Ferdinand playing at a Thursday night disco in Woking.
Unfortunately, aside from Caligulove, these closing tracks represent the worst of Them Crooked Vultures: self-indulgent, meandering, uninspiring and completely bereft of hooks. Considering the album starts so strongly, Them Crooked Vultures could have delivered a classic, finely toned EP; but, as it is, it’s a little flabby.�Considering the make-up of the band, that’s really saying something.
That said,�it’s important to maintain perspective. After all, this is Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl all in the same band. It’s not going to be complete tosh, is it?