Queens of the Stone Age: Villains – Album Review

With QOTSA appearing on Later... with Jools Holland this week, Mike Marshall looks back on last month's album release...

Label: Matador
Tracks: 9
Running Time: 48:00

Each Queens of the Stone Age album has its own unique identity, probably because each album has a distinctly different line-up of musicians, typically with a list of additional collaborators longer than the tracklist. ‘Villains’ stands out for its lack of guests, and a much more settled member list: Jon Theodore on drums is the only musician not credited for every track on their previous effort, 2013’s ‘…Like Clockwork’, and he drummed on both its title track and during the album’s touring cycle. Listening to ‘Villains’, this consistency is reflected throughout the record.

‘Villains’ starts with a strong opener, ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’ is catchy, intriguing, and powerful, evolving from haunting crescendo into layered textures of catchy riffs and a slick groove-driven bassline. Everything a good QOTSA song has. It’s followed by the lively and slightly gothic ‘The Way You Used to Do’, which isn’t just the first single off the album, but a summary of the album as a whole. Sadly.

This is where ‘Villains’ falls flat. There were more memorable elements to the first track than the next seven combined. Each song, individually, has a punch-laden, slightly off-kilter groove easily capable of engaging an audience, but when played in sequence they severely lack identity. Their best albums, most notably the spectacular ‘Songs for the Deaf’, ebbed and flowed through a series of fantastic hits, with each song feeling distinctive, and highlighting its own and its neighbours’ best points. Comparatively, the consistency of style through ‘Villains’ makes the album lack cohesion. It’s not until its finale that any spark of invention returns.

What a finale though. ‘Villains of Circumstance’ is, comfortably, the highlight of the album. Starting subtle and mellow, the track steadily develops an increasingly haunting quality before briefly unleashing two minutes in. Despite not being as fast paced as most of the album, this burst is much more intense for the peace surrounding it. The song keeps pulling back, restraining itself with greater tension each time, creating an eerie sense of ferocity that is truly captivating.

Overall, ‘Villains’ is a respectable album, despite the samey centre. There isn’t really a bad song, just an inescapable feeling that they’ve done this before. Amidst the many projects of Josh Homme, QOTSA always stood out, something that ‘Villains’ mostly fails to do. Their edge and bite remains, but seems confined to the outskirts of the album. Hopefully they’ll retain more of it on their tour and next release.

Check out Josh Homme and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age performing a string-orchestra version of Mike’s favourite track from ‘Villains‘ on Later… with Jools Holland this week and let us know in the comments what you think.

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