18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Stands up as a great rock record,
This review is from: Era Vulgaris (Audio CD)
As a major fan, upon first listen I was immensely intrigued by this release, but not immediately hooked. This is an album that begs you to play it over and over so that you can unearth something new every time you put it on. And it certainly delivers on that lingering promise.
Any new Queens album now suffers as a result of automatically being held up against the now-classic Songs for the Deaf, but doing this is a huge mistake on two levels. Firstly, not many albums can come close to matching the perfection of that record - it was one of those magic one-offs, a moment in time you could get lost in. Secondly, one should consider the two excellent albums that pre-dated SFTD - their excellent self-titled debut and, still my personal favourite, the gloriously hedonistic Rated R. Viewed in relation to their entire back catalogue, the progression to Era Vulgaris starts to make much more sense.
While their two previous albums have seen the revolving door in full-swing, they've certainly to me had the feel of Josh Homme solo projects. Certainly, Lullabies suffered as a result of, first and foremost directly following SFTD, but also being the first post-Nick Oliveri album. In addition, poor old Joey Castillo had the amazingly hard feat of following Dave Grohl's breathtaking guest turn on the third record.
Not that Lullabies was a bad record by any stretch - it was at times daring, always dark and moody and threw up some classic tracks - The Blood Is Love, Someone's In The Wolf, I Never Came and Burn the Witch among others have all gone down as classics already. The album's only downfall was it's timing, and possibly being a little over-long.
And so we come to Era Vulgaris. After two albums of Homme plus whoever feels like dropping by, this is the once again the sound of a band binding together. That's why on first listen it most instantly draws comparison to Rated R - more direct, tighter, shorter tracks. However, it is also the least commercial release since their debut, but I don't think this hinders it. The classic Queens blueprint is instantly recognisable - heavy riffing and the great hooks are still there. You just have to give them more time to ingrain themselves into your psyche...which they inevitably do.
Homme has mentioned how Joey Castillo and Troy van Leeuwen have had considerable input into this record, and the majority of this album has unusually grown organically in a more conventional band/studio process, and hence the reason this sounds more like a "band" record rather than a bunch of random musicians all chipping in.
But what of the most important aspect - the songs? Many people will have heard the Julian Casablancas-assisted Sick, Sick, Sick, as well as the first single 3s & 7s. While the former signals a slight departure in sound, it's relentless and building fuzzed-up hook is irresistible. The latter is one of the more interesting songs on the record - it's like 3 great tracks fused into one giant monster of a tune. Listen to it over and over and you'll never get bored.
I'm Designer carries a more minimalist, almost robotic sound reminiscent of Rated R's Leg of Lamb. Although this feels like a return to Rated R-era Queens, sonically, it's much more experimental than the first two albums - fusing elements of Industrial and New Wave into their classic desert rock sound.
Mark Lanegan only leads one track on the record this time, for the galloping wail of River in the Road, while Josh Homme does his best Lanegan impression on the outstanding Into the Hollow. I was stunned to learn in a recent interview with Homme that it isn't actually Lanegan singing on this track. Anyway, this tune is right up there. Mid-paced, brooding and intense, the song burns a hole right into your soul. It's like a more pumped-up version of the beautiful I Never Came. Not surprising seeing as this track came together directly after Lullabies. This one gets better ever time I hear it.
Another of the more interesting songs is Suture Up Your Future. With its unsettling yet beguiling vibe, this is a song that slithers its way into your head and doesn't leave for weeks. This also wouldn't have been out of place on Lullabies.
Make It Wit Chu is still a beauty of a tune, and definitely stands up to the original Desert Session version - although I'm sure many would disagree with me on that! Misfit Love grinds and pounds like Terminator on steroids and is simply meant to be played very very LOUD.
This is a 4/5 album for me as it contains one definite filler - Battery Acid goes nowhere and you feel was written by Josh in his sleep. It's QOTSA by numbers. Also, album opener Turning On The Screw sounds like a good idea, but half-finished.
Otherwise, this is a superb album. Like I said, don't expect another Songs for the Deaf. That ain't going to happen. Just marvel at a band who never rest on their laurels, always deliver, and on this evidence, look like they may continue to take their pulsating heavy-riffing magic in a new and interesting, but always compelling direction every time they converge in the studio.
No other band around right now does what they do. Ambitious, innovative and I can't stop listening to it. Highly recommended.
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Initial post: 31 Dec 2008 18:58:18 GMT
Although I disagree with you on some aspects, an excellent review! Battery Acid is definitely the most diverse track from QOTSA so far in my opinion, but it's a beast when you give it a chance. Turnin' on the Screw is brilliant, but I must agree it feels as if it's missing something, though I'm not sure what. You didn't mention Run Pig Run, an awesome track both dark and pumped. The UK Bonus songs are also most certainly worth a mention; Running Joke is another Lullabies-esque charmer, and Era Vulgaris pretty much summarises the feel of the whole album, dirty rock, and does it very well.
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