By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
Film fanatics! You know those films where there’s airy, dramatic synth as the protagonist walks across a high, barrier-less bridge, to meet their fate? Imagine that they’ve done that, and they’re about to open this grand, tall doorway, and instead of meeting their nemesis or Dumbledore or some bollocks like that, they open the door to find Queens of the Stone Age throwing a raucous, rowdy shindig? That’s exactly how Feet Don’t Fail Me opens their brand new record, Villains. Strolling out of the desert, this is an insanely dancey record that doesn’t put a foot wrong, and with Mark Ronson producing this record, you can really feel the groove as your feet start to move.
Unsurprisingly, firstly because it’s QotSA, the two singles released in the run up to the release of Villains, The Way You Used to Do and The Evil Has Landed (the song titles don’t get shorter), were was very promising in terms of quality, and the sound that they’d be going for, which feels like an old-school rock sound, with that fuzzy, driven sound that’s synonymous with Queens of the Stone Age, along with epic, eerie and ethereal synth being thrown into the mix. Pretty standard stuff, but QotSA know a thing or two about high standards.
Compact in the number of tracks, it’s just nine songs long, but each one is a blockbuster, an epic or a dirty, funky groove that’s bound to get you moving. It’s been a long time since …Like Clockwork, but Villains makes the four year wait well worth it.
Killer riffs form a foundation for an album that’s actually… a dance album, if that sounds right? Not dance as in EDM, but the sort of dancing you’d find in Grease, except Queens of the Stone Age are the rowdy greaser gang, getting up to no good, punching people with guitars and what have you.
Two of the best tracks on the album are right at the start and right at the end, with Feet Don’t Fail Me being the epic opener designed to get you groovin’, with Villains of Circumstance being the long, slow, emotional ending. It moodily sits at the bar, sipping whiskey, sucking on cigarettes and suffering. It’s not the usual fare you expect from QotSA, but it fits into the same category as tracks such as Vampyre of Time and Memory and Mosquito Song; those heavy, emotional songs that bring a darkness into your mind. Lyrics like “Close your eyes and dream me home, forever mine, I’ll be forever yours” are dark, poignant and tell a tale of someone who’s lost their love.
Ronson’s Rowdy Rock Production has really added something to this album. It’s retained that classic QotSA sound, assumedly because Josh Homme is a man who takes no shit and would have easily chokeslammed Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch through his own decks if the tried to overhaul QotSA, but the funky feel to it, with the long, deep emotional songs turning every song into an epic on its own merits. For instance, Head Like a Haunted House feels like it’s come straight out of the 60s & the 70s, with a real surf rock vibe to it, but has that dirty, fuzzed up QotSA feel to it that funks you sideways.
Un-Reborn Again is a track with weird synth and punching guitar, and is, without getting too excited about this album, is another blockbuster. Hideaway is a driving, bluesy track, Domesticated Animals comes right out of the QotSA textbook, and Fortress is cut from the same cloth as Villains of Circumstance, a slow, emotional track that gets into your head whilst pulling at your heart strings.
More than anything, this is a front to back, side to side, up and down enjoyable album. Perfect? It’ll never be Songs for the Deaf, but it gets incredibly close to reaching that bar. And when a band’s being going for song long, it gets harder and harder to bring out a quality album, something Josh Home and the Dancin’ Queens have been able to do this time.
Pleasantly surprising, full of funk, dance, emotion, riffs and power, Villains might just be one of the best albums you’ll listen to this year. They needn’t worry about their feet failing them.