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Era Vulgaris

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Reviews

Average Rating
★★★★☆
(121 Reviews)

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  • At least now it can be said that Josh Homme and Queens can make a five star record without Nick Oliveri. Following Nick’s departure from the band, Queens released Lullabies to Paralyze, a great record that, unfortunately, seemed only to emphasize that Oliveri was not there, from the not so subtle lyrical jabs in “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane” to increased prevalence of slowed down grooves and blues, with often exceedingly slick production. Sure, the drawn out psychedelic riffs had been a QOTSA trademark from day one, but the lack of ANY punk/speed metal counterpoint was a constant, sad reminder that we were never going to hear “Millionaire” live again. Lullabies was a great record with unavoidable, bittersweet timing.

    Years later many of us have gotten used to Queens without Nick, and appropriately Josh and company have unleashed a perfect record for this particular place in their career. Enough to remind of us of the good old days, and enough new stuff to remind us why this is one of the most inventive groups in rock. The production is rawer and more lo-fi than everything since their debut. The riffs are harder and the music is faster than on Lullabies. Everything we used to love. On the other hand, there’s great stuff we haven’t heard. Spidery guitar lines weaving in and out on songs like I’m Designer and Turning on the Screw, and a composition (3’s and 7’s) which throws everything Queens has done well in their career into one incredibly catchy riff rock buffet for your repeated consumption. Elsewhere, the album’s two most powerful cuts, the murky “Suture up Your Future” and “Into the Hollow” show Josh having perfected his falsetto wail, and remind the listener of the difference between hard and heavy. The combination of haunting grooves and emotional vocals on these 2 cuts are worth the price of admission alone. And “Make it Wit Chu,” another Desert Sessions redux, is no-frills classic rock that is as simple and honest as the original seventies soul and funk it is imitating. Lyrically, Josh continues to make strides. He’s come along way since the days when “marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol” was known as his most legendary turn of phrase. In “I’m Designer” he toes the fine line between comedy and commentary ever so well, all while singing the verses in a rhythmic pattern I can only describe as “crazy homeless bluesman meter” that reminds you everything he does is at least a little bit tongue in cheek.

    With a few exceptions, almost of all this release is excellent, and it continues to reveal new layers to me each time I pop it in. And quite honestly this is probably the most rewarding aspect of Era Vulgaris. It lacks the irreplicable manic presence of Oliveri both musically and lyrically, but makes up for it with musical ingenuity Lullabies only hinted at. Whether you prefer Rated R or Songs for the Deaf as the definitive QOTSA statement, this is probably their second best album.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Crap on a crap cracker, this album just gets better and better when I listen to it. If this is the direction the Queens are taking themselves musically; then damn. This is what rock should sound like. From the robotic repetitiveness of the guitar riffs, to the face melting buttery smoothness of the solo’s. The keyboard, drums, bass; everything is just clicking. Era Vulgaris is definitely one of my favorite albums. In my opinion this album solidifies that Queens of the Stone Age are sitting way up on the rock pedestal along with Floyd, Zep, and the Doors.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • This album is beginning to end a sonic work of art. I don’t think I would call it a concept album, but it certainly has a cohesive feel that makes listening to it end too soon. Maybe it’s a hint of classic progressive rock attitude. At the conclusion of this CD…I hit play again. I have liked QOTSA albums before, but I don’t remember being as addicted to anything they have done like this album. There are great guitar parts, soulful singing by Josh Homme and Mark Lannegan, searing six string solos, layered sound textures, rock solid rhythm/percussion, burning bluesy roots, quirky thoughtful lyrics and melodic growling bass. They threw everything in but the kitchen sink into this amazing sonic brew…buy it and put it on repeat!

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • An excellent new Queens of the Stone age album every two-and-a-half years or so has become something of a tradition, so while the high quality of their most recent release is no surprise, it’s certainly no less pleasant for it. QOTSA have always been able to maintain a balance between rock’s opposite poles–arty without being pretentious, technically proficient without being mechanical, heavy without being angry–and Era Vulgaris does nothing to interrupt that streak, delivering more of the narcotizing, classic-minded hard rock that Josh Homme has been delivering since he formed the band out of the ashes of the even-greater Kyuss. Building on the sounds of the band’s previous four albums without cannibalizing them, Era Vulgaris is yet another excellent album in the QOTSA tradition–loosely constructed, wide-ranging, and determinedly rocking, with none of the woe-is-me drivel that weighs down so much of what passes for rock music these days. And as usual, it’s littered with the muscular, surging guitars and smart melodies that have become Josh’s stock in trade, making this yet another classic album for blasting in your car with the windows open. Despite their well-documented history of heavy turnover, the band actually sounds as tight as ever here, taking about ten seconds of the opening Turnin’ On the Screw to lock into a killer groove that never quite lets up until the album ends. The following Sick, Sick, Sick is even better, bringing a manic, rapid-fire energy to the proceedings, with vocals that are less sung than declaimed over a backup of speedy metallic riffage. Some might proclaim Make it Wit Chu too mellow and playful to fit on a QOTSA album, but I actually found its bouncy, piano-tinged arrangements and insinuating crooned refrain to be perfectly in keeping with the band’s traditional good time-oriented approach. Of course, just in case anyone does find that track overly lightweight, Josh & Co. follow it up the with the memorably intense riff-rock of 3’s and 7’s before skidding into the laid-back, trippy haze of Suture up Your Future. And while many QOTSA albums have petered out on the final few tracks, Era Vulgaris is not one of them–Run, Pig, Run fires out of the blocks with a wall of thick, hard-pounding riffs and harsh noises backing a winding, ominous vocal. It’s certainly not the first song to highlight a darker, more visceral aspect to the Queens’ sound, but with the possible exception of the last album’s Someone’s in the Wolf it may be best, and it brings a suitable conclusion to yet another top-notch album in Josh Homme’s ever-expanding catalogue.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Queens of the Stone Age smash and roar through some of the best, most influential hard rock out there, even with a lineup that never seems to be the same twice.

    And while their latest, “Era Vulgaris,” starts off with a whimper, it quickly works itself up into a bang that can be heard right through the end. Their music here is grimy, rough and raw, but it tries out some new sounds and quirkier edges, without losing the grimy, brooding feeling.

    It opens rather limply — “Turning on the Screw,” a jumbled tangle of clashing cymbals, drums and almost mute basslines, which just sort of meanders around in circles. Josh Homme sings mournfully that “You got a question?/Please don’t ask it/It puts the lotion in the basket.”

    Fortunately things perk up in the next song — dark, rapid riffs and twisting melodies are all over “Sick Sick Sick,” a creepily rapid song that gets more tantalizing as it continues. And it leads in to more good music of various types — the sinuous desert-rock, “Misfit Love’s” weirdly plaintive lament, creepy industral grinds, tightly-woven rock’n'roll with a catchy edge, fuzzy blasts of muscular metal, and finally the shifting, layered finale “Run Pig Run.”

    “Era Vulgaris” is something of a contradiction — it’s a very polished album, but it also has grime, sweat and rough edges. That is to say, the band is expert at spinning some really tight songs with few weaknesses, but it’s got the raw power you usually associate with young bands. Bless their dark little hearts.

    Homme’s rapid, nimble guitar goes overtime with fast, sharp riffs. And that guitar is woven with some dark murky bass, rapid drums, darkly curling keyboard and occasionally some samples (a rattlesnake?), all played with rapid-fire energy. The music twists itself either into a hard-rock rope, or a thunderstorm of brooding, shifting musical layers. And they’re not afraid to throw in something quirky and weird, like “Misfit Love.”

    Homme’s jagged lyrics all center on his life near Hollywood — selling out (“How many times must I sell myself before my pieces are gone?”), sex, taking risks and leaving the past behind all come into play. Homme sings them in a rough, enthusiastic voice, although he also gets to roar and groan some spoken lines — and even gets accompanied by the smooth-voiced Mark Lanegan and mournful Julian Casablancas.

    Hollywood never seemed so alarming and enticing as in “Era Vulgaris,” which starts rather weakly, but soon blossoms into a dark, dirty little gem. Vibrant.

    Posted on December 30, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now