Sept. 6, 2002 - KNAC: Songs for the Deaf Review
by Frank Meyer
Jesus... where do I start with this record.... where to begin....?

I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I first saw these guys in Austin about three years ago and was not impressed. I had heard Kyuss and never really gotten into them, but I was at SXSW anyways so I figured what the fuck and checked ‘em out. They were boring. Cut to a coupla year later and KNAC.COM’s Program Director extraordinaire plays me the Rated R single “The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret” and, well shit howdy, color me impressed. The tune grows on me and the album is scored. The album grows on me and the weed is scored. I am hooked. It’s a fucking masterpiece. Cut to me here now writing this to you listing to the opening track “…Millionaire” for the 79th time this week since purchasing Songs For The Deaf and getting all choked up and breathless just trying to put in words how great this all is. How to put it into words…? Well, lemme try...

Flat out, this is the best record of the year. Hell, this may be the best record of last year and probably next year, too. From open crush of “…Millionaire” into the bouncing, spiraling Iggy Pop meets Queen sheen of “No One Knows” into rumbling anti-anthem “First Giveth,” mastermind Josh Homme and partner in crime Nick Oliveri deliver the most devastating opening three songs on any album since GnR bitchslapped us with the 1-2-3 of “It’s So Easy/Nightrain/Out Ta Get Me” and Jane’s Addiction gave us the eternal “Up The Beach/Ocean Size/Had A Dad.” These guys are at their peak here, folks, delivering song after song of hazy brilliance. Even guests Dave Grohl (playing drums at his champ-best), Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), and Dead Ween (Ween), don’t upstage the dirty duo for a second -- they are clearly in charge here.

“Song For The Dead” is almost a patchwork piece of ‘60s riffs, teetering between tinges of “Purple Haze” into smidgens of Cream and Sabbath over a Blue Cheer beat. “Hanging Tree” swings along in sort of an acid-tinged waltz kinda way, and Lannegan switch hits for Homme on vocals, making it basically sound like a Screaming Trees, which might be a good thing if they needed it… but they don’t. These guys are doing just fine on their own. The punk rock howl of “Six Shooter” and the trippy “Sky Is Falling” prove that in spades (what does that mean?). Unlike most bands, who blow their load on the first 1/3 of their album ‘cause they don’t have enough strong songs, Songs For The Deaf is back-heavy with excellent tunes. “Go With The Flow” explodes out of the gate, mixing new wave-y Elastica sounding riff with a ‘60s garage rock chorus that kills. “God Is In The Radio” sounds like Sabbath covering “Spirit In The Sky” and is just so demented and delicious. “Do It Again” is another one that uses a retro feel to establish a very updated sound. It opens with some Gary Glitter-like “Heys” at the beginning before settling into a heavy yet sexy groove that is just as catchy as crack. Homme, once a shy singer, has blossomed into a seductive, charming vocalist with a great range yet he has the good sense to keep it simple and deliver the melody rather that scream his guts out (he leaves that to Oliveri on cuts like “Six Shooter”).

And then there’s “Another Love Song,” a perfect example of why these guys are so amazing and why they will surely be around in 20 years (if they wanna be). The song takes the Stones’ “Paint It Black” and twists it into a Seeds-sounding rocker if covered by The Monkees in the year 2013. It points to the past and the future at the same time like all great rock n’ roll should.

The fact that this album ends with horrific, monstrous, metallic, detuned sludge rocker with lush falsetto, harmony vocals that almost defy the very nature of the heaviness of the rest of the music should not surprise you at this point. The fact that this closing opus is followed by a hidden bonus track that is essentially a ballad taken from the POV of a mosquito shouldn’t exactly freak you out either. And I guess, the fact that there are guitar parts and harmonies all over this record that I don’t think have actually been discovered by mankind yet shouldn’t surprise you either… So the fact that Chris Goss of Masters of Reality is one of the puppet-masters here should come as no surprise either…

...And the fact that this album is likely REALLY good on drugs should not be a shocker, either. Actually, I think the fact that this album is just as good, if not better, sober is the real surprise here.

I think when they titled this Songs For The Deaf, they might have meant that even a deaf guy could tell it was a killer album. Or at least that’s what I think they meant… or at least that’s what it means to me...

5 stars

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