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Bit of an anti-climax
on 20 January 2014
I'm a bit of a fan of the Queens, so it's a shame that this record has so little to get excited about. First of all, it's short by modern standards - 10 songs and 45 minutes, which was fine in the days of a record every two years, but not when it's six years since Era Vulgaris, and even four years since Them Crooked Vultures. The other argument is that it's far better to have 45 minutes of pure gold, but unfortunately half the album is filler. And I know that apparently Josh Homme was in a dark mood when he wrote much of this, and maybe that's reflected in the album - that doesn't really work for me. Try 'Spark' by Alain Johannes for an example of a short, dark album that really works.
More detail - it starts quite promisingly; Keep Your Eyes Peeled a challenging dirty riff with those light melodic vocals, and I Sat By The Ocean, a sweet melodic number, albeit one that you imagine Josh Homme could probably knock off without too much effort in ten minutes. And then... well, the fifth song, My God Is The Sun, is the heaviest song on the album, a surging and pounding affair, but it's cloaked on either side by two songs that move from ordinary ballad (Vampyre) to faux-Talking Heads (If I Had A Tail)... then some lounge soul (Kalopsia) and a really awful and twee ballad (Fairweather Friends). The songs get more memorable the more you listen to them, but it's down far more to familiarity than any real depth or quality.
So, you're 70% through an album that hasn't got going at all. Strangely, it finishes quite strongly. Smooth Sailing, a delicious funky riff and feel, adorned with falsetto vocals that just about stay on the right side of the Scissor Sisters, and to glorious effect. I Appear Missing is the stand-out song on the album, melancholic but with furious drive and melody, a song that could stand out on any Queens of the Stone Age album. It winds down with Like Clockwork, which is mostly falsettto vocal and piano. Not a bad song, and one that would usually be a fitting end to any album, but unfortunately given the number of ballads on this record, finishing with yet another one makes me feel a little bit cheated.
So there - half an album of good songs, with the other half so-so. Worth buying for the highlights, but not their finest hour. Well, not their finest three-quarters of an hour.