Queens of the Stone Age landed their time machine at Terminal 5 last Friday night to deliver a history lesson by performing their self-titled debut album straight through to support its re-release this month—a rare feat in the modern music industry.
A band willing to bare its raw, unpolished roots to the world is refreshing. For Josh Homme, lead singer/guitarist and QOTSA founder, embarking on the month-long US tour to share his initial vision of hypnotic self-described “robot rock” is also feeding the band’s sixth ongoing studio effort.
Cult classics like “Regular John,” “If Only” and “Mexicola” provide a strong bedrock of tight, gritty ditties to build on.
“Doing the rehearsals for the first record is really defining the new one,” Homme told The Guardian. “It’s been turning the new record into something else. What we were doing was kind of bluesy and now it’s turned into this trancey, broken thing. The robots are back!”
Officially from Palm City, Calif. (3 miles from Mexico), the band’s first show was played and eponymous album recorded in late-’90s Seattle (re-released by Rekords Rekords/Domino Records). Those grungey echoes ring true.
Born out of the ashes of Homme’s previous metal band, Kyuss—don’t call it stoner rock!—QOTSA has smoothed some of the edges without sacrificing edginess, due in part to the regularly changing line-up. Lately it’s guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Michael Shuman, Dean Fertita on keyboards and guitar, and drummer Joey Castillo.
Given their longevity, the rotating cast is clearly not a sign of weakness. Homme is regularly in not-a-sidebands, like Eagles of Death Metal and his latest venture, Them Crooked Vultures, with Dave Grohl and John Paul Johns of Led Zeppelin.
The re-issued album was also expanded by three tracks: “The Bronze” and “These Aren’t the Droids Your Looking For” from the QOTSA/Beaver split EP, plus “Spiders and Vinegaroons” from the Kyuss/QOTSA split EP.
That last psychedelic B-side was skipped in the live performance. Homme needed time to cover more recent ground, including “Turnin’ the Screw” and “Make it Wit Chu” off their latest work, Era Vulgaris.
They also squeezed in “Little Sister” and “Burn the Witch” off the previous album, Lullabies To Paralyze. And of course, they closed with “No One Knows” from the third album, Songs for the Deaf.
Sadly, the breakout sophomore effort, Rated R, was neglected. But that’s OK, because Homme didn’t waste his chance to lecture the crowd between songs.
“Some people say that because you see everything that you’re spoiled,” he told the New York audience. “I think you understand things that other towns don’t understand. You understand that you can’t try to be cool, that’s impossible. Cool is, you like something and that’s it.”
Cool class came with a caveat: “But what do I know, I have a mullet,” he said. “I’m from the desert, I dunno jack shit.”