First It Giveth, And It Giveth Again And Again…
Milo here, treading carefully through the realm of CD reviews temporarily.
As we’ve seen in the past with my woeful attempt at a Metric review, which I’ve since deleted in shame, I’m not the most talented when writing about music, or anything really, but that’s beside the point. However, since my Top Ten Songs, Albums and Bands Redux have been published, I am feeling a surge of confidence and thought I’d channel that into a review of this absolute beast of an album.
As seen by its dramatic rise through my aforementioned Top Ten Bands, Queens Of The Stone Age have quickly become one of my favourite bands due to them being masters of heavy, stoner-influenced rock, a sub-genre that is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. This is, in no small part, helped by Josh Homme’s haunting voice, as well as Troy Van Leeuwen’s guitar playing and Nick Oliveri’s bass. Moreover, in the odd instances where we get Dave Grohl on drums, there is also an amazing and distinctive beat.
And ‘ow ’bout that! That is almost the lineup behind Songs For The Deaf, the band’s 2002 tour de force concept album, and one of my personal favourite albums of all time, bar Van Leeuwen. The album, I think, has a loose concept of a desert road-trip, which is made more obvious by some of the music videos. The neat little additions of radio interference between songs really promote this idea and can also bring a bit of comedy here and there which, along with the band’s dark sound, make for a unique experience and brilliantly atmospheric one at that.
I have no idea how Reuben stretched out the intro of his for so long, I’m beginning to waffle; let’s talk ’bout dat music, boi.
(This is retrospective Milo, this is what Reuben would call an “in-depth review” so it’s pretty long, boi.)
The album opens with a sort of intro thing that perfectly catches the atmosphere of the album. You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire starts out with a radio tuning into “KLONE Radio”, a parody of radio stations, then turns into quite a metal-influenced track with bassist Nick Oliveri on vocals. As a bass player, I find Oliveri to be a perfect fit for QOTSA, but as a vocalist he can be a bit hit-and-miss. This, in my opinion, was one of the misses as he is a bit bloody screechy and that got on my tits.
However, just when you think the album will be mediocre, due to the lacklustre opener, No One Knows hits you in the face and makes you feel rock. Probably the most well-known QOTSA track, the song is, for me, taken over by Dave Grohl’s pounding drumming, which is some of my favourite on any song. Though the song is definitely where Grohl comes into his own, the rest of the crew aren’t slouching about either, with Josh Homme pumping out the legendary riff that the song is known for, Nick Oliveri sticking to what he does best and even busting out a lil’ solo, which in itself was awesome and unexpected at first listen, and Homme also showcasing his signature vocals.
Then, directly following a definite high-point in the album, is another in First It Giveth. A bass-driven track if I ever heard one, from the first note Oliveri owns this track and anyone listening to it along with the fast-paced, consistent, hypnotic bassline, as well as deceptively complex drumming, a wall-like guitar riff and instances of flamenco guitar. On top of that, Homme’s vocals exist to accentuate the sense of paranoia in the track, mixing in brilliantly with the theme of drug-induced creativity.
Mixing perfectly into that is A Song For The Dead. Opening with something awesomely reminiscent of The Specials Ghost Town then turning to a high-pitched, energetic riff and some brilliant offbeat drumming from Grohl and then coming together a bit more with the bass and THEN slowing down a bit to vocals courtesy of Mark Lanegan, of Screaming Trees, which I am definitely not against. Overall, the song is 5 minutes 52 seconds of stop-starty, fast-paced hard stoner rock and is a lot better than I just made it sound.
Following that, The Sky Is Fallin’ is another great song. Driven by a powerful, off-beat riff, the songs opens with Homme’s haunting vocals and, coupled with a subtle bass line and tom-tom-heavy drumming, makes for quite a foreboding intro which slips into the aforementioned riff and some particularly exceptional songwriting, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, after some more amusing radio chatter closing The Sky Is Fallin’ comes probably the lowest point of the album in Six Shooter which is, thankfully, the shortest song of the album. As said before, I’m not a fan of Nick Oliveri’s high pitched squealing vocals, which is something this song has in abundance. Moreover, the overly explicit lyrics doesn’t do anything for me and sounds more like a thirteen-year old learning a new word than anything remotely QOTSA. It also feels completely out of place, as well.
A gradual improvement, Hangin’ Tree is both a fine example of Dave Grohl’s spectacular drumming and how it fits seamlessly with the guitar work, in particular. Once again, Mark Lanegan takes vocals in his own unique direction and, though I’m not a fan of the chorus, the rest of the song is pretty good, good enough to get the Six Shooter out of my head anyway.
After the slow and steady re-ascend from Six Shooter, one song takes the album instantly back to the heights reached in No One Knows and then says “Nah, this ain’t high enough, boi” and goes even higher. The song in question is, of course, Go With The Flow, which is easily one of, if not my favourite QOTSA track. From literally the first second to the last, everything comes at you; drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and it just doesn’t stop. The energy felt in the track is absolutely infectious and makes me want to jump around like a mad man, when I haven’t even finished my Pepsi can, yo. Everything is ridiculously chaotic and has everything I love about QOTSA.
Following that absolute choon, comes quite an underrated classic in Gonna Leave You. Another Nick Oliveri led song, he also lends his voice to unexpected results, considering his previous vocals. The way he sings is much more akin to his backing vocals and less like the screaming maniac from the other two songs he sang on, and feels a lot more at home on the album. I’m very much a fan of this style, as I am of the song as a whole, featuring some beautiful whining guitar and the thumping drums, similar to that on No One Knows.
Seamlessly flowing in from that track, Do It Again employs the stoner influence to great effect and results in great, laid-back vocals from Homme, as well as some brilliant backing from Oliveri, and an archetype QOTSA riff. Moreover, it is flowed by a cacophony of radio chatter, which was missing from some of the previous songs, including Jesse Hughes, of Eagles of Death Metal, as a preacher. There ya’ go, a lil’ bit o’ knowledge for ya’.
After that comes probably the most uneasy feeling track on the album, God Is In The Radio, which has some underlying quality about that gives me the heebie-jeebies. Perhaps it’s the monotonous keyboard in the intro or the ominous sounding bassline, but it’s probably the instances of silence where vocalist Mark Lanegan whisper/mumbles a bit before a wicked solo. However, when not mumbling like a schizo, Lanegan restrains his growlier tendencies for, in my opinion, a cleaner performance.
Following that is another very underrated song in Another Love Song, which is another song I hold particular dear. Have I said ‘another’ too many times? No? Good, then I’ll continue without being so rudely interrupted, if you’d be so kind. The cymbal-heavy drum work and brilliant guitar are, though great, completely overshadowed by Nick Oliveri’s vocals, which are some of the best in the album and’ll make you completely forget about that mentalist from Six Shooter. In short, it’s three minutes of fantastic rock music.
Though not necessarily the best on the album, the title track A Song For The Deaf definitely feels like the grand not-finale. With both Homme and Lanegan on vocals, but Homme taking most of the duty, it has quite an epic feel about it, well, about as epic a QOTSA can be. It’s an amalgamation of everything heard on the album and would be a great finale, even if its one and half minute silence is interrupted by a slightly disconcerting recording of Feel Good Hit of the Summer.
Unnecessarily following that, Mosquito Song acts as a prologue to Songs For The Deaf. It’s an acoustic track with a chorus of horns and piano and something that I usually omit from my listens but am doing so for you, three or four people reading this.
Now, for most, this might be a disappointing end to a stellar album. Not for this handsome demon, however, who bought the UK limited edition of the track.
This includes a live recording of The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret, one of QOTSA’s best-known songs, at The Troubadour in LA. The song is already excellent and, though I’m never really one for live recordings, it’s a great and energetic performance. Seeing that you’ve behaved ya’self, you can have the video to the original:
After that, and concluding the album, is a cover of Everybody Gonna Be Happy by The Kinks. Though not an obvious choice for QOTSA, it’s a brilliant cover and a great song. Funnily enough, it may even be one of the highlights of the album. I know what you’re thinking, now “If a cover is a highlight of the album, that says more about the quality of the album than the quality of the song.” Well, it really shouldn’t because this is a great song.
Woo! That was a bit of a marathon.
Overall, Songs For The Deaf is an absolute masterpiece of an album. Everything is on point and the vast majority of songs on here are some of the best QOTSA have ever produced, yet there are few sneaky ones that spoil it. That, along with great little additions like the interference, the hidden outtake and the hidden song, make for a memorable and flawless rock experience.
Other Thangs Similar: Welcome To Sky Valley – Kyuss, Rated R – Queens Of The Stone Age, One By One – Foo Fighters
Two 100’s in as many days? How about that.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations