Dusted Reviews

Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Queens of the Stone Age

Album: Songs for the Deaf

Label: Interscope

Review date: Aug. 29, 2002

Songs for the Radio

I never much cared for Kyuss and when I heard Q101 ("Chicago's Rock Alternative!") spinning the life out of "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" back in 2000 I could've given a fuck about the Queens of the Stone Age. But something seems to have happened during the past few years, because Songs for the Deaf, the new album by the Queens of the Stone Age, is a balls-out, hateful, heavy, and catchy piece of work that rocks like it was 1994 all over again.

Enough time has passed for social acceptability to allow a certain degree of fond reminiscence about Soundgarden, Faith No More, and even Metallica (you know, the real Metallica) and Songs for the Deaf captures the ghost of our fallen (but yes, still living) childhood heroes plenty well. Part of the "something" that has changed about the QotSA is the addition of Dave Grohl on drums. While Grohl may be a schmuck when wearing a guitar, his drumming is still unmistakable and is still awesome. While Rated R contained many of the same sludgy, grungy melodies found on Songs for the Deaf, they never quite broke through the sludge, onto the solid rock. Grohl's tightly-tuned snare and inhumanly perfect sense for the melody of rhythm is just what Josh Homme and Nick Olveri (the head Queens) needed to break the threshold of boredom and really get the heads thrashing. Grohl brings his best stuff, evoking most specifically his drumming on the first Foo Fighters album; an album (like this one) on which fairly ordinary "grunge" tunes were given a serious kick that turned them into true rock hits. His intro fill on "Song for the Dead" is obnoxious in a metallically endearing sense, but isn't ostentatious in the least. As well, no verse reaches a chorus without Grohl's noisy approval, but again, while most rock drummers would make asses of themselves doing something like this Grohl pulls it off nicely.

While Grohl steals the show, Homme and Olveri (as well as the other new throwback enlistee, former Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan) also have a fine sense for combining heavy with pretty without sounding too lame. While individual roles are difficult to discern, it would seem that Lanegan is the one responsible for the darkest secret of Songs for the Deaf: its catchy, nearly wussy, pop backbone. Chords tend to resolve pleasantly, vocal harmonies are hit at 7ths and 3rds, and guitar solos evoke everyone from the Smashing Pumkins to the Eagles (check "The Sky is Falling"). Even during the eeriest, evilest moments, Homme and Olveri can't help but hit the pleasingly right notes, even when the wrong notes would sound that much more fucked up. While a band like High on Fire might have a good time alienating their listeners with a bit of dissonance, the QotSA play it pretty straight. The guitar lines shreddd and wail, but do so in more of a bearded sense than purely a long-haired one. And occasional dopey maneuvers like distorted harmonics or two-guitar solos help to further expose Homme and Olveri as guitarists and as songwriters. And although there isn't a major progression on the album, Songs for the Deaf still feels like a pop album.

Lyrically, Songs for the Deaf makes a nonstop mockery of the state of modern music and radio. Frequent (and hilarious) skits throughout the album find radio DJs claiming things like "We play the songs that sound more like everyone else than anyone else!" and "How's your drive time commute? I need a saga. What's the saga?!" Even the album's title implies a gross ignorance on the behalf of their record-buying public. Irony piles upon itself as Olveri screams "Give it to me / Give me some more!" shortly following the first skit. He's being sarcastic, but he doesn't seem to realize that he is doing so on such an obviously catchy song.

So whatever. It's a grunge album, kinda. Nobody said grunge was back in style or anything. Which is not to say that grunge doesn't still have a special place in the hearts of the masses; the record-buying public, if you will. The same thing goes for plain old pop tunes, and this album has both. It's heavy, it's cheesy, it's catchy, but it's not nearly as embarrassing as it could be. It's even pretty good. Maybe I'm just deaf.

By Sam Hunt

Read More

View all articles by Sam Hunt

Find out more about Interscope

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.