From the explosive opener, “Regular John,” to the subtle and soulful closing song, “I Was a Teenage Hand Model,” this is one splendid debut album by QOTSA. From the gimmicky Mexican-tinged thematics, to the abstract song titles that have seemingly little to do with the lyrics, to the crushing and tuneful guitars and awesome drum work, this is one of the best rock and roll CDs in my collection. It’s like Led Zeppelin meeting the Pixies who meet up with the Stone Temple Pilots. There’s lots of muscially pleasing stuff here, riff after riff, gigantic chord after gigantic chord, as the songs breezily sail forward before you even know what hit you, without one plain or unworthy musical moment occuring.
Mastermind Josh Homme, he of the pleasing, purely melodious song structures emanating from his head to his guitar on a 24-hour basis, plays stellar guitars while changing his falsetto voice and mood from mournful to pleading to bored as the album moves along. It’s not all Homme, though. Part of this album’s charm is its pervading darkness, underneath all the big guitars, crass, indifferent attitude and bravado. Much of this ingratiating darkness comes from the heavy bass sound heard throughout. Mixed with Homme’s crush-heavy ax guitar is somber, Soundgarden-like tuning down, which makes for great music. These guys are much more akin to Nirvana than bands like the Foo Fighters, Blink-182 or most radio bands today who are slaves to their record companies. In my mind, QOTSA were undoubtedly so sure of themselves back in 1998 for one reason: Their music was unstoppable. It’s notable that QOTSA’s original drummer was great on the skins; his drums on this album really enhance the overall sound.
One song of special mention is the somber “You Can’t Quit Me Baby.” Playing the role of a lost, depressed soul, Homme sounds mournful and weary as a heavy bass and hard-popping drums surround his isolated voice like down-and-out bliss. The song is a bit of a respite on this heavy rock record, and it fully makes its point, even stands out quite prominently as the music begins to wind down.
No, this debut record is not as complex or musically diverse as QOTSA’s later album, Songs for the Deaf, nor is it as sonically easy on the ears perhaps as Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R, but therein lies its beauty. This is Led Zeppelin for a later age — Zeppelin with a sense of humor, irony and better tunes.