Two words that could strike fear into the heart of any long-time connoisseur of Queens of the Stone Age’s hard-rocking, saucy riffola: Mark Ronson. He of ‘Valerie’ fame. He of ‘if in doubt, whack a horn on it’ fame. But also he of ‘Uptown Funk’ master-stroke fame. See, when Ronson gets it right, he gets it really right. And judging by ‘The Way You Used To Do’ - the first cut from QOTSA’s forthcoming, fully Ronson-produced LP ‘Villains’ - it looks like he might have got it really right this time. You can all exhale now.
True, the shoulder-shimmying, finger-clickin’ riff that runs throughout is nothing like the thunderous desert rock of the Queens of old. But, for years now, Josh Homme and co have been equally as keen to push the pedal down and go full throttle on the hard stuff as they have to ease back and dial up the sass that lies beneath.
‘The Way You Used To Do’ is the most extreme example of the latter approach yet. It’s central motif is still gnarly enough to sound massive on the enormous stages they’ll be gracing later this year (hello, O2 Arena), and by the latter third of the track Homme and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen are weaving their customary enormo-riff magic all over the shop. But it’s fundamentally more dancey, less dense and generally more ‘up’ than anything they’ve put their name to to date. You can picture ol’ Ginger Elvis hip-swinging his way through the whole affair, with a glint in his eye and an eyebrow raised, knowing he’s written a really rather excellent, in his own words, “song about screwing”.
So yeah, if you’re mad that ‘The Way You Used To Do’ doesn’t sound like ‘Songs For The Deaf’, then blame Ronson. But if you’re on board for the path that Queens of the Stone Age have been continuing down for the fifteen years since, then this looks like a pretty damn intriguing next step to us.