Friday, April 24, 2009

FDF Volume 2 Issue 136 - Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R

By: March

Album - Rated R
Artist - Queens of the Stone Age
Key Players - Nick Oliveri - bass, backing vocals, percussion. Josh Homme - lead vocals, guitar(s)
Produced By - Chris Goss and Josh Homme

Release Date - June 6, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - If you know me, you know I kneel before the altars of a few musicians/artists. QOTSA is one of those bands. I stumbled upon them on the debut cd when I was an intern at a radio station (no they didn't play them) but the jock made a suggestion and I took HER advice (chicks can rock too!). Since then I have devoured the bands music, doing what I can to get as many of their live shows on cd. Even with my 'trading days' probably behind me, at last count I had over 250 live shows from the band on cd, some taped by myself. All that being said, you might be saying, sounds like its a band you'd not really blow the dust off the cd. My favorite bands, like yours, are always like a comfortable pair of shoes. You look and feel great wearing em but you can't have em on all the time. Okay that made little sense, but the idea is as much as I enjoy their output I know that there are other things worthy of my attention as well (like 3 other studio records, side projects and a live cd). So perhaps there wasn't as much dust on this one, but it has been a while since this got the old "front to back".

Overview - This was the second full length release from California band Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA). The record was a hit with critics and fans alike putting the words "Stone Rock", a moniker the band dislikes, to the tips of critics tounges. The heavy rock record gave the band a slot on the Ozzfest stage that summer, and despite an early afternoon set the band would garner more fans. Homme and Oliveri would channel some of their former band Kyuss (FDF Looks at ..and the Circus Leaves Town) into the mix, but the revolving door of musicians kept each track even more unique than the last.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Oliveri hammers out a simple bass line as drummer Gene Trautmann compliments him. The buzzy guitar comes up and the band launches "Feel Good Hit of the Summer". The song repeats the line nicotine, Valium Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol over and over..that is all it has, but Homme rips off a flashy solo and you can hear Dave Catching on the electric piano pushed up in the mix. The backing vocals are members of the band, mixed with some female vocals and if you really listen you can hear Rob Halford (Judas Priest) loan his pipes to the chorus. It is sort of rinse-lather-repeat formula, but it was always a fun song both on record and live. Nick Lucero (who played drums on most of the record) quickly starts off "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret". Oliveri has a smooth bass line as the track is accented by vibes and piano. Homme keeps the guitar in check until the chorus, and there it hits down a little harder, but they are quick to return to the catchy instrumentation of the verses. With hardly a gap "Leg of Lamb" begins. Homme has a hushed vocal delivery and the song has an odd tempo to it, but the guitar has a certain "squeal" to it. Lucero keeps the drums pretty laid back and Oliveri whispers various lines leading to the chorus, where the band sings in a higher oactive range. On "Auto Pilot" Oliveri takes the lead vocal duties and Homme plays both drums and guitar on the track. Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan makes his first appearance on the record with his terrific backing vocals. The song is "clean" for a QOTSA song, with the drums, bass and vocals all keeping about the same vibe. Homme tosses in a few riffs over the top and then the band has a moment of high harmonies on the chorus and you can hear phase on voices and an acoustic guitar before falling back to the tempo previously heard on the track. Conga style drums open up "Better Living through Chemistry" and Homme repeats a simple guitar line before Oliveri comes over it all with a swooping bass line. Keyboard fills bulk up the track as the vocals begin, with Hommes vocal track phased out giving it a very trippy feel. The song has some "false endings" and at times gets heavy but keeps a very mellow sort of vibe to it all. Homme has a distorted short guitar solo before Lucero bring the drums in and there are a series of phased "oohs and ahhs" as Homme runs the scales and then the vocals fade from one channel to the next giving the (headphone wearing) listener a sensation the band is circling them. The oohs and ahhs repeat for the bulk of the song as it fades with the drums line keeping consistent before the band plugs it back in to the riff of the verse. On "Monsters in the Parasol" the band has an urgency we haven't heard for a few tracks. The guitar riff is pretty simple and it is accented a lot with cymbal crashes. Oliveri whispers lines like "Hair" in a very breathy tone that adds a unique touch. The band repeats a few lines before hitting the chorus and Homme runs the guitar part right through everything Oliveri speaks "I don't even know what I'm doing here" and a female voice chants "yeah yeah yeah" and with guitars and handclaps "Quick and to the Pointless" begins. On-line reports this was a one take and done version. Basically Oliveri laid down the vocals that were intended to be "scratch" vocals but the band like the sound so much they kept it. It is the shortest track on the record (under 2 minutes). In a live setting Oliveri would scream his bloody freaking head off. The track is really "quick and to the point" that is for sure. Mark Lanegan returns on "In the Fade" and takes the lead vocals. Dave Catching has a haunting electric piano intro as various "noises" quietly fill out the sound and with a quick drum clack off Oliveri swoops in with the bass. Lanegan who has one of the best voices in rock in my opinion adds such a great dynamic to this track and his howl comes on the chorus, and they were smart in over dubbing his voice so he seemingly harmonizes with himself. The vocals are the high point to the track, but the smooth bass line from Oliveri is also very appealing. As the track fades there is a reprise of the first track, "Feel Good Hit of the Summer". The crunchy QOTSA guitar sound comes out on "Tension Head". Homme gets the coolest sound out of the guitar and Oliveri gets the duties on lead vocals. The band is a "trio" for the first time on this track. Its Homme, Oliveri and Trautmann on drums. The song has a dark, but sweet freaking groove to it. "Lightning Song" follows and is a major departure from the other tracks. 12 string acoustic guitars, Indian style percussion and piano are swirl around on the instrumental track. The album closes with the longest track "I Think I Lost My Headache" (8:40). With a deep bass sound and a guitar riff that slowly repeats over the bass line. Dave Catching offers up lap steel giving the song a haunting sound and the steel drums and percussion add a unique sound and feel to the track. The steel drums are up pretty high in the mix as Homme begins the vocals. The song has a very "full" sound as in a mid tempo affair for the bulk of the song. Lanegan returns to offer up backing vocals and there is a horn section that makes the song fuller than anything we've heard. The final few minutes is a slow, looping, ever quickening musical interlude with the steel drums, bass, guitar and drums all growing and growing in speed and volume. As the electric instruments begin to fade is when the horn section comes in. It repeats the same riffs and the trumpet is the instrument making the noise over the top of them. This is repeated over and over and the track ends.

Where are they now? - Queens of the Stone Age was a revolving door of musicians from the get go with Homme and Oliveri as the two constants. Drummers have gone and gone the most but in 2004 Oliveri was shown the door. Rumors were rampant that Oliveri had struck a woman and that Homme wanted no part of that. Since then Queens of the Stone Age has only grown to a larger audience, and a more stable band line up. Joey Castillo has been the drummer for the last few records as well as Troy Van Leeuwen who has played guitar and keyboards. All that being said the band still tour and record. It has been a little too quiet in the Queens camp for me personally, but something should be looming. Homme hopes to have another "Desert Sessions" record out, as well as a re master of the bands first record done in 2009.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- Some folks have the Dead, (FDF looks at Workingmans Dead) others, Phish (FDF looks at Billy Breathes..I have Queens of the Stone Age. (actually I've only seen U2 and Phish more) but I've seen QOTSA 11 times now. The first was an in store performance at the Shrewsbury Newbury Comics. They did a full electric set and I met all the guys before the show. If you are on face book my image w/Josh was my profile picture for a while. Two days later I saw them as part of Ozzfest. They played at about 1:30 in the afternoon to a less than polite crowd but even in 30 minutes they gained some fans. September 30, 2000 was at the now closed Axis nightclub in Boston. WBCN broadcast this show and its still one of my favorite live concerts on cd. Oliveri performed the last few tunes naked as well, which was umm..ahhh..well. June 1, 2002 the band played the Paradise and Dave Grohl was the drummer for the band at the time. It was hot, sweaty and awesome. That fall(September 1st) they played Avalon, then 2 nights later Lupos' in Providence. For the first time ever I hit the Webster Theater in Hartford for their March 26, 2003 show. What I recall about this show more than anything was the heavy security to get in. They still brought it though making the drive worth it. Later that summer (July 25th) they were part of the newly revived Lollapaloosa tour. A lot had changed with Lolla, but QOTSA were good and Audioslave, Incubus and Jane's Addiction (FDF Looks at Nothings Shocking) were all worth the trip. A few months later (Sept 10, 2003) they were back, and back at the same venue as Lolla (Comcast Center) and this was opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (FDF Looks at The Uplift Mofo Party Plan). Earlier in the day I was supposed to go to an "intimate performance" but Josh got stuck in traffic and I didn't have anything I needed for the show that night, so I bagged it. I made it to the show and QOTSA were great even though it was a short opening slot. March 28, 2005 I saw them at the Roxy and it was good, but I was stuck behind a bunch of ass hats all night so that sorta bummed me out. By this time Mark Lanegan (FDF Looks at Uncle Anesthesia) was doing all the shows with them so that was always a great time. The last time was October 9, 2007 when the band played Lupo's in Providence. At the time I was sort of "ehh" on their latest record but when they played live I hurried home and listened to the record again, and have since warmed up to it a great deal.

FDF Overall Take - In recent years QOTSA have become stronger musically mostly due to a consistent set of core members. The band has had more success commercially than they ever have and should keep this rolling through the next record, as long as it doesn't take too long to arrive. Rated R is a good representation of their work and gives the listener a good primer as to what the band is all about.

Links -
Official site, and myspace
Also a great fansite that I helped a little with in the early stages.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The mp3s have been removed..

Feel Good Hit of the Summer
In the Fade
Tension Head

All the tracks taken from "Rated R" which you can buy here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Mark - Total Drums said...

The drumming on QOTSA tracks are always really solid and powerful. Love it.

At 2:21 AM, Blogger TanmoySarkar said...

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