Album Review Queens Of The Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

In spite of all their drama, the twists and turns of QOTSA haven’t killed the band - they’ve just taken it in a new and, ultimately rather welcome direction.

According to Queens Of The Stone Age, this is ‘the common era’: a ballsy title, for a band whose internal rivalries and ructions could so easily have seen them plumb the depths of mediocrity on this, their fifth album. Since the departure of half-man, half-chainsaw Nick Olivieri, Josh Homme’s sticky fingerprints have become ever more apparent in QOTSA, with naysayers claiming that ‘Era Vulgaris’ would be a Homme solo record in all but name.

They’re almost wrong. The record represents a lateral progression in the life of QOTSA as a whole, perfectly capturing the glaze-eyed unease of the late nights in Los Angeles where it was recorded. Homme is still the master of ceremonies - Julian Casablancas’ guest vocal on the chorus of ‘Sick Sick Sick’ is almost lost in the thunderous cacophony, like a child being ducked by the local flame-haired bully in the deep end of the swimming pool.

Elsewhere, ‘I’m A Designer’ and ‘Misfit Love’ are snarling, robotic panthers, while ‘3s and 7s’ artfully skewers the three minute pop song and turns it in to a Frankenstein’s monster of a radio jingle. The rest of the album isn’t as immediately successful - the pop hook of ‘No One Knows’ is shunned in favour of the dark sprawl of ‘Into The Hollow’ or the quietly sad ‘Suture Up Your Future’. However, inaccessibility is often exchanged for unremarkability, as on Mark Lanegan’s forgettable ‘River In The Road’ and the workmanlike ‘Turning On The Screw’.

In spite of all their drama, the twists and turns of QOTSA haven’t killed the band - they’ve just taken it in a new and, ultimately rather welcome direction. ‘Era Vulgaris’ might not be transcendent, but it certainly isn’t common either.

 

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