Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is Queen Of The Stone Age's 'Songs For The Deaf'.
Although Queens Of The Stone Age’s previous record ‘Rated R’ was an underground success, gathering unanimous critical acclaim; it was 2002’s ‘Songs For The Deaf’ that brought the group from experimental garage band to revolutionary icons of the hard rock.
The album takes the listener on a psyched out road trip across the Southern California desert from Chino Hills to Joshua Tree - hometown of front man Josh Homme. Along the way, the album is interspersed with fictional Californian radio stations that the listener manages to pick up along the route. From Kip Kasper’s K.L.O.N.E. Radio, a fictitious, tongue in-cheek jab at LA’s tiresome, repetitive pop music stations of the noughties, all the way through to the eerie W.O.M.B. fronted by a nameless female DJ.
The album’s opening track You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire starts the journey off with a punishing, ear ringing meld of thick bass and distorted, yet melodic guitar riffs that are used to awaken the “Deaf” listeners whom have been hypnotised by the generic, repetitive pop music they’ve been subjected to, until now. Nick Olivieri’s lyrics, also a stab at the sanitised, nonsensical drivel spouted by the manufactured pop princesses and boy bands that saturated the airwaves at the time. Two minutes and 37 seconds in, the track goes silent, and you’re lead to believe the sadistically pleasing assault on your senses is over, just as you’re about to take a breath, the punishing beat kicks back in for one last bridge before seamlessly marching in to the album’s lead single, No One Knows.
Although music can never be considered perfect, it’s ever evolving and too diverse to ever achieve such an acclaim, yet No One Knows comes close to it. Written by Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan, the song proves you can use melodies and pop sensibilities; still manage to sound unique and create a song of commendable calibre. The track aided by drumming from the infamous Dave Grohl, and a bass riff that cattle-brands itself into your brain. The track manages the envious feat of still sounding fresh nearly 15 years after its release, a theme that runs through the entire LP.
The album doesn’t subscribe to any pre-established genre, each track taking on a different theme or style, mimicking the album’s concept of a tripped out wanderer scanning through the varied stations on his/her FM dial. We’re taken from the (somewhat) radio friendly No One Knows to the Desert Rock chant-a-long First It Giveth, a throwback to Homme’s earlier endeavours in Kyuss, this being a more polished piece of work than those Stoner Rock days. This is followed by what is probably the album’s stand out track, Song For The Dead. It slowly creeps in, then there’s an abrupt hissing of a hi-hat followed by a dulled, fast paced guitar riff, all of which is then overshadowed by the most beautifully intricate drumming, again provided by Grohl. Singing duties are taken-up by the raspy vocal tones of former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan. As the title suggests, this song is a powerhouse, of levels that would be appropriate to raise the departed from their eternal slumber.
The adventure continues into The Sky Is Fallin’ a wistful, flowing track, carried along by a harmonic chant from Homme. Often overlooked; most likely due to it being sandwiched in the middle of an album filled with work of such a high calibre. Six Shooter is a short, explosive track, penned and performed solely by Olivieri. Profanity filled, with an excitement for violence (it pretty much summarises why Olivieri, would later be sacked from the band). This track alone awarded the album its parental advisory sticker.
Hanging Tree the second track taken and reworked from Homme & Co’s ‘Desert Sessions’, uses Lanegan’s rough and raw vocal delivery to portray the brutality that is aptly described in the track’s title. The trippy journey through the Californian desert continues with Go With The Flow, arguably one of the decades greatest hard rock songs, that even non-fans can’t help but subscribe to for its high energy and accessibility. The album’s closer, Mosquito Song aptly juxtaposes the LPs opener. A medieval ballad, it begins on a whimsical note and climaxes in an epic sound of crescendoing drums and horns.
Queens Of The Stone Age is a band that has never produced any work that could be described as subpar, never achieved this level of uniformed perfection again until 2013s ‘...Like Clockwork’ which is an altogether more refined album, compared to ‘Songs for the Deaf’ which, is rough around all the right edges. It is the bands magnum opus.