Originally released in September 1998 on Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard’s Loosegroove label, the debut album from California’s Queens of the Stone Age offered a devil-may-care mash-up of styles which felt like a breath of fresh air. The 90s had been dominated first by grunge and then by nu-metal, both of which wallowed in the pain and isolation of some never-ending teenage meltdown. It was high time that somebody launched the good times again and just rocked out.
Fans that discovered Queens of the Stone Age in the wake of their second album and commercial breakthrough Rated R still found the grooves of its less-celebrated predecessor instantly recognisable. After years out of print, this expanded and re-mastered edition offers those still unfamiliar with this somewhat unsung outing one more chance to get up to speed.
Although less varied and dynamic than Rated R, Queens of the Stone Age simply crackles with energy. At its best, it’s just as electrifying, even if it doesn’t maintain the dizzying momentum which rolled its follow-up to instant glory. Musically, it draws deeply from diverse pools, echoes of 70s hard rock reverberating alongside alternative, grunge and stoner rock sounds, the latter of which mainman Josh Homme pioneered with his former band Kyuss.
From the upbeat and driving, laid back and reflective to dirgey and downright quirky, this is a colourful collection that’s damn-near impossible to dislike. Whether reeling off fan favourites such as Avon, Mexicola and You Can't Quit Me Baby or digging down to unearth offbeat efforts such as I Was a Teenage Hand Model and instrumental Hispanic Impressions, it’s the sound of Homme finding his muse with often glorious results.
The bonus material, drawn from the albums Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age (1997) and The Split CD (1998), adds some further interest. The Bronze is an inoffensive little tune which bounces along merrily in keeping with the album’s overall tone while the instrumental These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For is, by comparison, angular and haphazard. Spiders and Vinegaroons, meanwhile, winds up being the oddest piece on the entire release, a slightly surreal instrumental retaining enough Queens flavour to make it fit. All in all, this is the perfect soundtrack to a lazy afternoon lounging in the park with a little glass of something and a special cigarette.