QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
BOTTOM LINE Triumphant rock anthems packed with swagger and guitars
Anyone who worried about Queens of the Stone Age teaming with “Uptown Funk” producer Mark Ronson for their new album “Villains” (Matador) doesn’t know the band very well.
The band, especially frontman Josh Homme, is not easily swayed and, in a way, “Villains” sounds like Queens has retrenched, back to the relentless punchiness of 2007’s “Era Vulgaris.”
Ronson’s contribution, though, makes that punchiness sound even crisper and gives the band’s groove even more swagger. However, as he showed in “Uptown Funk,” Ronson’s strongest skill may be in fitting disparate styles together into the same song and that helps make two of the album’s epic songs even more potent.
The nearly seven-minute “Un-Reborn Again” starts off like the heavy-duty glam rock Homme constructed with Iggy Pop last year on the well-received “Post Pop Depression,” before settling into a fuzzy-synthed section that sounds like a demonic version of The Cars. Then, just when that pattern seems predictable, Homme drops in a bit of Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” To top things off, there’s a bit with edgy violins.
On the 6 1⁄2-minute “The Evil Has Landed,” a wall of grand ’70s-styled guitar riffs gives way to a bit of a hip-hop drumbeat and guitar blasts before the wall goes back up again. That repeats until the defenses seemingly go down and it’s an all-out hard-rock sprint to the end.
When the band wants to be straightforward, like in the single “The Way You Used to Do,” it piles one ZZ Top Texas boogie guitar line on top of another to irresistible effect, while Homme delivers an arch, anthem-worthy vocal. The punishing pace of “Head Like a Haunted House” is like one cool guitar riff running to the next until everyone is exhausted.
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It’s just one of the many ways that Queens of the Stone Age’s risk-taking makes “Villains” a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride.