So it was with bated breath and rabidly clawing fingers I purchased the debut collaboration between Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl the morning it came out. I was at work but the first chance I got I took a spin on that sucker and…
Cheesy reaction? Maybe. But a more seriously well-deserved exclamation perhaps has not been sounded since, oh, maybe since QOTSA’s Rated R or Led Zeppelin’s second album were released to rabid fans. In fact, if I were to tell you that at one point, when the Clavinet lead in track #6 ‘Scumbag Blues‘ came on I jumped from my seat and pumped my fist in the air would I be risking a slew of justified mockery?
Probably. But I could care less. In case no one’s noticed I am a music junkie/snob/fanboy extraordinaire and to have a collaboration like this, that rocks this damn hard, well, I’ll take the jabs and then some. Because simply put, Them Crooked Vultures RULES!!!
Thirteen tracks. Let’s start there. If you were to ask the cut I’d imitate Joe Cabot’s Thing-like voice and say, ‘Juicy Junior. Reeeaaal juicy!’ We’ve got Homme on guitar and vocals, Grohl on the skins* and John Paul Jones on Bass and various keys. JOHN PAUL JONES!!! Other than being one-forth of possibly the greatest rock band of all time (yeah, I mean that) this guy is one of the meanest masters of the thick-stringed axe to ever live. Everyone in Zeppelin was top tier** but the rhythm section – Bonzo and Jonesy were, along with Moon and Entwistle, among the archetypal powerhouses we would see influence bands like The MC5, The Jesus Lizard, and even some sludgier stuff like The Melvins and Helmet.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that to a degree the album sounds like the new QOTSA album. The recording technique especially reminds me of Era Vulgaris – a lot of room on the drums and vocals, and more than you’d usually hear on the guitars of a modern rock album. My theory since Era has been that Mr. Homme has gone back to eating hallucinogenics and playing his guitar in the desert and this has influenced his approach to capturing the feeling of that massive desolation on his records. The influence of Kyuss’ heyday generator parties and the Desert Sessions is always felt in Queens, but these last two efforts, it’s a major part of the sound. Neither Era nor Vultures sound like anything else Homme’s done in Queens and I for one like the mutation. But to say that Vultures sounds like the next logical Queens album also undermines it, because there is A LOT of JPJ and Dave Grohl on this thing.
For one the clav’s (is that the Hohner Clavinet?), organs and bass effects scream of Zeppelin. That aforementioned bit in Scumbag Blues is so reminiscent of Zep’s Trampled Under Foot it’s a thrill. But then there’s the riffage. Some is classic Homme, that Kyuss-and-beyond-sci-fi sound, but some is also trilly and very English – reminiscent of Jones’ 1999 mind-fuckin’ solo album ZOOMA. And the Zep comparisons don’t stop there either, because Grohl plays his drums really hard here – obviously the man is no Bonzo (not an insult – who is?) but he tries and sounds great doing it here. Again, lots of room on the kit in some tracks and you can hear the way he is just beating the hell out of the skins. It’s common knowledge that Bonzo was often mic’d from far away, like outside the room and down the stairwell far away, and that’s what Grohl is going for here.
People complain all the time that there’s no good rock music any more. It irritates me more and more because I often feel like I would go broke if I actually tried to buy everything that comes out every year that is good. Of course a lot of those folks who complain have been singing the same lazy song since, oh, let’s say 1994, when a certain band ceased after its front man’s suicide. Those are the folks that, in reality, really aren’t all that into music – they were at the time because it was the boom wave to be so and this constant complaining is their way of getting out of saying that they’re really just too lazy and fickle to love music enough to go out and FIND the good stuff. Lot’s of great bands out there working their asses off folks, but the trick is you’ve gotta find ‘em. In most cases radio and/or empty-v aren’t going to give them to you. In the case of TCV they will because it’s a band comprised of modern legends. Just remember, maximum volume yields maximum results.
I’ll leave you with my a quote of my favorite non-Morrissey lyrics in quite some time:
“On the good ship Lollygag- LSD and a bloody pile of rags” – track #9, Interludes with Ludes.
Nice. Who says poetry is dead?
* Where he belongs. Sorry, I respect the hell out of the man, I mean, who in 1994 would have thought the drummer from Nirvana would have gone on to do anything, but I couldn’t care less about the foo fighter’s sometimes sappy, often crappy style of radio-rock.
** Even though Plant’s sometimes masturbatory oo’s, ah‘s & ah-pushes
could get a bit embarrassing while driving around with my parents in
their wood-paneled Chrysler Mini-van listening to the box set that
introduced me to them in 1990.