Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age – “Villains”


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Queens of the Stone Age, from left to right: Dean Fertita, Josh Homme, Jon Theodore, and Michael Shuman.


Four years after releasing their last album, …Like Clockwork, Josh Homme and the rest of Queens of the Stone Age make a groovy and danceable return with Villains. Produced by Mark Ronson, Villains doesn’t serve us a rehash of anything from the band’s discography, but it is absolutely, unmistakably a Queens album.

2013’s …Like Clockwork was a dark, brooding, and deeply personal album, inspired by Homme’s experience being declared legally dead, and his subsequent four months bedridden. The major tonal shift in the album marked the departure of longtime drummer, Joey Castillo, but also invited many of Homme’s friends, such as Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, and Elton John, who all made performances on the album.

This time around, Villains completely refutes that. It’s theatrical, upbeat, care-free, and performed strictly by the band’s regular line up of Josh Homme (vocals, guitar), Michael Shuman (bass), Troy Van Leeuwen (guitar), Dean Fertita (keyboards, synths), and new addition Jon Theodore on drums.

Villains still has the familiar swagger that QOTSA is most well known for, but is unlike any previous album of theirs. Gone are the days of riff-heavy stoner rock from Rated R and Songs for the Deaf, instead focusing on creating a more accessible sound, and the use of synthesizer is more prominent than ever.  As previously quoted, Josh Homme has said that, “Rock should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls,” and with Villains, that is truer than ever.

The opening track, “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” is perhaps their best opener yet, with a slow build-up of drums, synthesizer and chanting, exploding into the grooviest guitar riff from the band yet. “Domesticated Animals” has Homme fully embrace his inner David Bowie, and harkens back to the glam rock the lead singer sources as one of his biggest inspirations.

“Fortress” serves as the antithesis to the previous album’s “Vampyre of Time and Memory,” the latter’s lyrics expressing Homme’s disconnect from the world, and the former showing his acceptance of that darkness, and moving on from that.

“Head Like a Haunted House” is a fast tempo, theatric punk number, that would not sound out of place in the musical “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” “The Evil Has Landed” is the purest rock sound on the album, feeling almost as if Led Zeppelin had made a comeback in 2017. “Villains of Circumstance” closes the album on a beautiful, albeit slightly cheesy note.

After a tonally heavy album like …Like Clockwork, it’s simply great to see Josh Homme and co. finally have fun again on an album.  If its infectious harmonies and rhythms don’t have you dancing all the way through, Villains at the very least will have you tapping your toe and bobbing your head throughout.