MUSIC REVIEW | Back in the Groove With Queens of the Stone Age's "Villains"
When Rolling Stone asked Josh Homme why Villains sounded looser than their previous records, he replied, "Frankly, that's just because I like to dance." Although there have been songs from Queens of the Stone Age that are worthy enough to groove to ("Misfit Love", "Smooth Sailing", "Monsters in the Parasol"), the kings of the desert rock scene have always been more focused on ripping guitar riffs rather than the dance floor. Perhaps this is why Homme and the gang phoned up Mark Ronson, who produced massive hits for Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Teriyaki Boyz.
If the idea of a pop DJ producer taking the reins of Queens of the Stone Age scares you, it shouldn't. Even if the tempo is cranked up just a bit more than usual, the identity of the band is not tinkered with in the slightest. When they hit the neon-colored dance clubs with album open "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," they do so with a very Hotline Miami-like manner. Skulls are cracked, bones are broken, and the ones in charge are too stoned to care. It's all about the art of the flirt when "The Way You Used To Do" puts its boogie-woogie shoes on, as normalcy is terrorized with a fluttered heart.
A rockabilly vibe kicks "Head Like A Haunted House" into gear, with the "Xanadu's and xanadon'ts" fighting one another for the throne. Meanwhile "Domesticated Animals" turns it attention toward a certain group of people looking for a bad kind of revolution. (Considering the band recently had some choice words for a certain "fascist, clown penis" world leader, I wouldn't be surprised if it was their clever way of slapping him with their dicks.) The drug-fueled mentality of "Un-Reborn Again" is a frightened tease, like a stripper pole-dancing for the very first time. It's awkward, but at least it's a hot mess of sorts.
"Hideaway" walks off the floor and into the lounge for a much-needed drink. With a hint of new-wave style Homme saunters with rough sexuality as he recites "I'm all dressed up, no one left to blow/Addiction to friction leaves you raw". The mojo returns fast and furiously in "The Evil Has Landed," starting off slow with a Them Crooked Vultures-ish mentality before kicking the speed to ludicrous levels near its end. In its own way it reminds the listener that if they're too tired to screw, then they're not really living.
Of course Villains does take a moment to slow things down for a waltz or two. "Fortress," which sounds like a spiritual successor to "Into the Hollow," is a beautiful tribute to the frontman's daughter, with the father consoling her when times are tough. Album closer "Villains of Circumstance" is a broken heart's cry for satisfaction, as if the spirit of 2013's ...Like Clockwork returned to the spotlight to remind us all of how scary and dangerous this world is. And yet, it reminds us that love is what matters most, with the band embracing whoever's listening and telling them that they'll be there for them through thick & thin.
Villains may not be Queens of the Stone Age at its strongest, but it still is one of this year's most enjoyable records. For what it's worth, it accomplishes what Homme set out to do: make the listeners shake their asses with a bloodthirsty snarl. Turn on a black light and put on your finest robe, as the bad guys have a turn at the victory party.