Queens of the Stone Age, “Songs for the Deaf,” 2002 Interscope Records
From the time the Los Angeles radio DJ fades into the opening riff of “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire,” one can tell that the Mojave Desert rockers Queens of the Stone Age mean business. The Queens have enlisted a new member since their critically acclaimed “Rated R” album in 2000, former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl. Grohl joins frontman/lead guitarist Josh Homme, bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri, and guitarist/vocalist Mark Lannegan, formerly of 90’s band Screaming Trees.
“Songs for the Deaf” is an eclectic rock album, with DJ’s from L.A. to the Southern California High Desert fading in and out between songs, making the album feel like a weekend drive from the beach to the desert. “Songs for the Deaf” ranges from Oliveri’s awesome blue-meanie-with-a-nicotine-fit screaming vocals on “Millionaire,” to Homme’s neo-crooning on the lush, beautiful “The Sky is Fallin’,” to Lannegan’s bassy warble on “Hangin’ Tree.” Grohl keeps all the songs on a fast track with his explosive drumming skills. The fact that the three cycle vocal duties throughout the album make for a really interesting hour of power that is unparalleled in current rock music.
Highpoints on “Deaf” include “No One Knows,” the hard-hitting, no-nonsense first single from the album, “Gonna Leave You,” an anthem for anyone who has ever made the decision to get out of a bad relationship, and the all-encompassing “Song for the Dead,” which showcases all the members talents. Lannegan sings in a scratchy-crooning style, while Grohl tears up the drum kit and Homme lays down riff perfection with his guitar hooks at the end of every line, and Oliveri holding it all together with his bassline, ending in a warp-speed jam implosion that includes a rare drum solo from Grohl. “The Sky Is Fallin'” is a touchstone for the band as well, an alternative-metal ballad in which Homme ponders the meaning in life, with the lyrics “The sky is fallin’/human race that we are/has left me crawling/staring straight at the sun/all in a moment, I notice/every dog has his day/I paid attention/cost me so much to hate/for so long, I saw only wrong/but now to remind, it’s just a waste of time.” This is easily the best all-around album the Queens have released to date, a must-have for anyone disenchanted with rap-rock and wanting real rock.
Find out more at the Queens of the Stone Age website: http://www.qotsa.com
Sparta, “Wiretap Scars,” 2002, Dreamworks Records
“Wake up, can you hear me?” begins the opening track “Cut Your Ribbon” of Sparta’s debut album “Wiretap Scars.” Sparta is the first of two bands to arise from the ashes of the now-defunct band At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta is the other. This album, an amalgamation of Alternative Rock and Emo, is great for a debut album, but loses some of the thunder from their At the Drive-In days.
Alas, Sparta is a different band, and they make their presence felt right from the get-go with “Cut Your Ribbon,” their first single from the album. A loud, raucous tune that creeps up on you, “Ribbon” is a showcase of where Jim Ward, Paul Hinojos and Tony Hajjar have been before, and where they’re going musically. Beautiful chords with high pitched guitar tones is the norm for this album. “Air” is another high-point of “Wiretap Scars,” a haunting melody starts the song, which eventually turns into emo fireworks with loud guitars and screaming vocals.
The point where the album hits its stride is “Sans Cosm,” an emo-march which has beautiful melodic guitar-lines with a screaming chorus call-and-response that evokes memories of At the Drive-In’s glory. This song shows Sparta’s ability to create beautiful, exquisite music while retaining a hard-rock edge. “Rx Coup” sounds like a 21st version of The Police, with a chorus that sounds like “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” you’re left waiting for vocalist Jim Ward to start the ee-oh’s from the Police masterpiece. On its own, the song is dripping with emotion, but ends a little too soon. The bottom line is that this album is good if you’re into emo-tinged alternative. Otherwise, you might consider this a waste of $12.
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