Yesterday saw the American release of Queens of the Stone Age’s sixth studio album — and first in six years — …Like Clockwork. Over the course of the previous five LPs, the band has come to define the modern sound of what fans and critics call stoner rock, and what co-founder Josh Homme has termed robot rock. Here are ten of the best songs from those five records, in chronological order.
Regular John (from Queens of the Stone Age)
I’ll say this much for Queens of the Stone Age. There was no awkward early phase to the band’s career, where they spent a few albums forging their identity and finding their sound. Right from the opening track of their first album, they hit the ground running. Homme’s melodic, almost dreamy vocals act as a great counterpoint to a barrage of fuzz guitar and piston-like drumming. This song was co-written by Homme and fellow Desert Sessions collaborators John McBain (Monster Magnet) and Alfredo Hernández (Kyuss).
Feel Good Hit of the Summer (from Rated R)
If the PMRC was still around — remember them? — I could just imagine Tipper Gore playing this song in a hearing and wincing with every utterance of its lone verse, “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol.” I can also imagine her secretly digging this song’s sick riffing and killer rhythm.
The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret (from Rated R)
This is perhaps the prototypical example of how QOTSA deftly combines crushing, sludgy metal riffs with supremely melodic, almost pop songwriting. It’s also a great showcase for what a great creative partnership Homme and Nick Oliveri once had.
No One Knows (from Songs for the Deaf)
Two things make Songs for the Deaf the group’s best album to date, and apply to this song as well. There is a little less meandering in the songwriting, and Dave Grohl absolutely owns on the drums. Some have taken issue with the highly compressed production on the record, but I think that just adds to its power. I also love the spooky background vocals in the second verse.
First It Giveth (from Songs for the Deaf)
Grohl is a star once again on “First It Giveth,” a song that is at once sinister, groovy, and punishing. Lyrically, “First It Giveth” is about how drugs can inspire musicians to reach greater heights, but only temporarily. Draw from that what you will.
Hangin’ Tree (from Songs for the Deaf)
Oliveri’s bass and Grohl’s drums roll in like sinewy, headbanging thunderclouds and Mark Lanegan shines on vocals on this seductive rocker.
Everybody Knows That You’re Insane (from Lullabies to Paralyze)
Ah, Lullabies to Paralyze. The first Queens album after bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri was fired, and one that a vocal group of fans would like to forget. Sure, it lacks the visceral punch of the previous few records but don’t sell it short. ”Everybody Knows That You Are Insane,” for example, lulls you into thinking it’ll be an ordinary Queens stoner trance number before kicking into high gear by the first chorus and never letting up.
Someone’s in the Wolf (from Lullabies to Paralyze)
Normally, a song clocking in at more than seven minutes signals slight indulgence at best, or complete daffy excess at worst. “Someone’s in the Wolf” is neither. It is indeed a macabre, herky jerky showpiece for QOTSA’s special brand of insanity.
Sick, Sick, Sick (from Era Vulgaris)
You remember when Metallica released St. Anger and they tried to pass off their shitty sounding record as their attempt to produce a brutally naked and aggressive album? Queens of the Stone Age actually did that on some parts of Era Vulgaris, and on this song in particular. And now, to apologize for making you think about St. Anger, I offer this video. Unless you’re in PETA. Then you’ll be even more pissed.
Run, Pig, Run (from Era Vulgaris)
For as much as Era Vulgaris can meander from time to time — I have to be honest on that fact — there could be no better way to close out the album than “Run, Pig, Run.” Rarely has the band sounded more menacing and powerful than on this track.
Bandoliers (from Them Crooked Vultures)
It’s a bonus song! So certainly I’m not trying to pass off the Them Crooked Vultures project — featuring Homme, Grohl, and the legendary John Paul Jones — as Queens. But it’s close enough, and this song kicks so much ass it must be included.