Queens of the Stone Age have been a mainstay in my musical rotation for many years. When I heard a new album was on its way I was excited to say the least. Villains is the seventh full length studio album and was expelled on 08/25/17. Upon first listen the album is good, if not a little unremarkable in relation to other works of QOTSA. This isn’t a bad thing. I believe a good album should fit like an old shoe, like you’ve almost heard it in a past life through the previous works of the band. Is Master of Puppets any less remarkable for its similarities to Ride the Lightning? No, they are both solid pieces by the same act. In this way Villains fits nicely into the QOTSA catalogue. The beautiful thing, however, is upon further investigation the themes of the album are unique and insightful. This is what makes Villains a must hear. Personally, Villains brings me back to the days when I would listen to a record with lyric sheets in hand trying to decipher the meaning of each track because I knew they were trying to say something. Homme and company are definitely trying to say something, I implore you to listen.
The theme of Villains seems to be: The music industry is a minefield and love is what really matters. There are several lyrical passages which bring this message to light. However, the first track Feet Don’t Fail Me says it clearly: “Driven by feelings I cannot hide/ to be so civilized/ one must tell civil lies.” Homme goes on to point out the several flaws with the industry, from the youth with dishonourable motivations, to shallow image driven celebrities.
I won’t go track by track, although I am tempted, in hopes that you will listen for yourself and find your meaning in Homme’s words. Rather, I will hit my three personal favourite tracks. Feet Don’t Fail Me commences with spiralling wet delay that creates a spinning tunnel of sound. This is an interesting track as it creates the feeling of a live band beginning their set with noise. At the 1:45 mark the song breaks into a funky rhythm akin to RHCP or even Parliament. It’s not the funkiest song in the world, but perhaps in the QOSTA catalogue. This track introduces listeners to the masquerade that is the music industry. The requirement to present oneself in a certain manner, to wear the mask of decorum. Fortress is a spacey piece which addresses the mask introduced in the opening track. Homme stated in Rolling Stone: “When you’re younger, I think you are encouraged or you encourage yourself to hide behind a mask. As the years have gone on, that mask has worn away. I’ve lost any reason to hide.” The lyrics of Fortress speak of the dangers of wearing this mask. “Every fortress falls/ it is not the end/ it ain’t if you fall/ but how you rise that says who you really are.” This track doubles as a love song with its twist. “If ever your fortress caves/ you’re always safe in mine.” The most interesting song musically to me is Head Like a Haunted House. Coming from a punk background, the drums of this track bring me to a good place. The distinct bassline is also intriguing and catches listeners ear immediately. The verse is reminiscent of the work of Jack White, while the vocal style of the chorus brings me back to The Dead Kennedy’s. The lyrics are also intriguing and play on the willingness of would be celebrities to do whatever necessary to meet their goals. “Drink the Kool-Aid and swallow the pill/ you say you don’t and you won’t but you will Busted.”
Although the lyrical themes of Villains are intriguing and bring the album to a level not achieved by the music alone. The album isn’t perfect I did find my mind drifting over tracks like The Way You Used to and Domesticated Animals, which was disappointing considering they are the second and third tracks on the record. Luckily these tracks are followed by Fortress and Head Like a Haunted House. Once these tracks are finished the album levels out, but the remarkable pieces are contained within the first half of the record. All this being said, I’ll be back, lyric sheets in hand trying to decipher the words of Homme and co. and will enjoy the ride again. Well worth the price of admission, check it out.