August 2002 - Juice Magazine: Songs for the Deaf Review
by Samantha Clode
Where do you go in 2002 if you're a hard-rock fan? You can head for the charts and the soft-cock crap of Creed, Staind, Nickelback and myriad other leather pants-wearing, bad-hair scowlers. Then there's the pseudo bile of Linkin Park, Puddle Of Mudd and other Fred Durst-associated trash. Maybe you're stuck listening to those albums released back when grunge was a buzzword. Wherever you turn, you're fucked. Enter Queens Of The Stone Age. Those who caught onto 2000's breakthrough Rated R, album number two for the band (vocalist/guitarist/tall guy Josh Homme and bassist/occasionally nude bearded guy Nick Oliveri) were left wondering how QOTSA could possibly better the feat. Here was an album finally hard enough to knock you off your feet but as smooth as cough syrup; "Heavy enough for the guys, but sweet enough for the chicks," as Homme attests.

With the follow up, Songs For The Deaf, the pair, together with the now-permanent ex-Screaming Trees singer Mark Lanegan (plus guests like Dean Ween, Chris Goss from Masters Of Reality, Alain Johannes and Natasha Schneider from Eleven and more), have given birth to an absolute monster. An "Apocalypse of Pop Music as we know it", as the album's bio smirks, and it's right.

"Impressive" doesn't even begin to capture it. Whereas so many bands today add unnecessary layers of sound, instruments and production gimmickry to mask what are essentially mediocre songs, Homme goes for jugular beat structures and direct-hit riffs, and builds the complexity from there. Strings, atonal guitar assaults and keyboards all adding to a schizophrenic mix that falls into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The songs are more diverse, primal and immediate than what you get from just about any other band these days, and maybe that's why this album seems so damn good: it's just one hell of a sexy ride.

This time, the most prominent addition to the QOTSA sultry family is Dave Grohl, back behind the kit where he belongs. As Homme rightly attests, there simply isn't a better rock & roll drummer out there; and it's Grohl's pounding that helps turn the intensity dial up to 11 across the entire record. From the drug tale of "First It Giveth" to the libidinous punk rock of "Six Shooter" to the epic pounding on "Song For The Deaf", Grohl hammers and hits like there's no tomorrow. (Unfortunately for him, it also shows how lightweight the Foo Fighters sound is. Sure, there's a big difference in style, but I know who I'd rather be getting into bed with.) Live, his presence makes what was already going to be a great gig a mindblowing one. Having been lucky enough to catch a recent QOTSA show in New York City, I've never experienced anything like it. Recorded as a "concept" album around fictitious radio broadcasts ("WOMB FM" my favourite) Songs For The Deaf moves seamlessly from track to track; it's like a David Lynch dream sequence you want to live in.

"Millionaire" ups the ante straight away; single "No One Knows" perfectly showcases Homme's self-confessed "robot rock" style; Lanegan's growl on the dirty swamp of "Song For The Dead" and the marching beats of "God" would have Jim Morrison sitting upright in his coffin. "Do It Again" sounds like a naughty glam-rock schoolchild; the delicate vocal melodies of "Sky Is Falling" screams in contrast to Oliveri's "Six Shooter", while "Gonna Leave You" and "Mosquito Song" are the sweetest poison for the listener. There is simply no bad song here, no Eddie Vedder wannabe vocalist or please-understand-me wailings. And I'm pretty sure there are no leather trousers.

Songs For The Deaf is an album that'll make you want to drive too fast, drink too much and fuck the one person you know you really shouldn't. Rock & roll just doesn't get better than that.

9 out of 10

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