Words: Conal Cunningham
For Josh Homme and the rest of Queens of The Stone Age, nothing is impossible and versatility is key. From becoming the first band to play secret sets on the same day at both Reading and Leeds festivals – via helicopter (obviously) – as well as Homme returning to the band after recordings with both Eagles of Death Metal and Iggy Pop, seventh album ‘Villains’ sees the band take a noteworthy different step. The appointment of Mark Ronson as the albums producer, most famous for the once seemingly inescapable – albeit, irresistible – ‘Uptown Funk’, breathes fresh and groovy life into the experience of the guitar-shredding band.
The most obvious Ronson-influenced track is standout The Way You Used to Do. The distorted, clappy number is the Queens most danceable track yet – whilst keeping in check with their rollicking rock nature. The entire album is a climatic masterpiece, with brooding transitions into catchy chorus’ aplenty such as in Feet Don’t Fail Me and Domesticated Animals. This tension building, slow-burner of an atmosphere mixes fluently alongside more energetic tracks like the drum-driven Head Like a Haunted House and the intensely infectious guitar solos in The Evil Has Landed, as well as in the slower brilliance of album closer Villains of Circumstance.
With the tense, confusing and divisive political climate of the moment, alongside the poignant but prominent issues of mental health within the music industry and society; the theme of the villains that you personally deal with as well as villains in society seem a pretty important theme to talk about and reflect upon. Homme, although an accomplished rock-god, expertly converses with this theme, conveying his vulnerability is just as similar as everybody else’s. He applies a plethora of tender lyrics throughout the album, such as the delicate “even if you fall/ it’s how you rise” as well as “if ever your fortress caves/ you’re always safe in mine” in Fortress, “desperation can lead to madness […] need a hand take mine” in Head Like a Haunted House and even the simple “come close” in The Evil Has Landed. The unfortunate truth is that the ‘evil’ of divisiveness has indeed ‘landed’ in our society but as Homme shows in his lyrics; it’s unity, togetherness and conversations that are progressive in beating which ever villains you battle with.
Homme croons in album opener Feet Don’t Fail Me, “when the needle hits the groove/ I commenced to move/ I was chasing what’s calling me” and it would be plain foolish to suggest he was mistaken in his chosen career calling. On ‘Villains’, he and the band have produced a majestically relevant album. We are all the same, we all have villains – and we can dance with them too.