>> Villains is all the proof fans of Queens and rock alike need to confirm that the band has in no way fizzled since their last release. Beyond that, QOTSA is showing the scene that they are still able to reinvent their sound without sacrificing their gritty hard-rock origins. Homme and the gang are showing no signs that the band is ready to slow down or succumb to any rock band cliché; This latest drop feels like an invigorated indication that they are just getting started.
There is no doubt that working with Mark Ronson gave Villains a new edge over other current rock releases. I was slightly worried that Ronson would have attempted to touch the writing process too much and break their sound, but the new dubby groove that can be heard in a few tracks was not at all overdone. Any change to the band’s sound feels completely organic and necessary.
Iconic Queens guitar is a common theme within the record. Homme’s choppy riffs are cut by the occasional playful and dirty lick, and random screaming bends make tasteful interruptions in just the right places. The four string bottom-end blueprint also lost none of its flavor in the Villains mix. It did, however, get a dubby makeover in a few areas. The bass riffs themselves are not compromised in any track, simply treated with dance-fueling filters.
One of the most powerful production choices in the album is the notion to leave the lead vocals relatively undoctored. There’s no hint of auto-tune or filtering of any sort, and Homme’s delivery is as clean and true as ever. Also on the subject of vocals, the backup tracks are intelligent and well-attacked.
The track order could have used some rearranging. The beginning of the album is very groove-heavy, while anything after track five (Head Like a Haunted House) seems to be an homage to traditional QOTSA structures. The new sound may have seemed a little more revolutionary if sprinkled throughout some of the less pronounced tracks, but at this point calling this bad is quite nit-picky. The truth is, it is fairly difficult to find any objectively negative aspects to this album.
Queens of the Stone Age has clearly not lost any momentum. It has only been three years since the release of Like Clockwork… and Villains is just as fresh as any of their earlier drops. Nothing stagnant, nothing missing. New sound and iconic performances. 4.8/5 <<