2000 - Sex n Rock n Roll: Rated R Review
by Jon Regardie
The fact that Queens Of The Stone Age begin their new album, Rated R, with a track called "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer"—not to mention the fact that the song discusses seven illicit substances—prompts the deductive logic that the Palm Desert, California-bred band is delivering a sloppy-wet kiss to the long-haired, goat-throwing "stoner rock" scene that embraced their self-titled debut. "Crank up the rock and bring the drugs," the cut appears to trumpet. "It's time to get completely ripped!"

Easy, dude—put the bong down and think again.

A close listen to "Feel Good Hit" reveals that, although the lyrics consist almost exclusively of the words nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, alcohol, and, of course, "c-c-c-c-cocaine," vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme delivers them with a generous helping of sarcasm. Homme is toying with fans' expectations—a practice he continues throughout the course of the beguiling long-player. Although the Queens frequently lay down serious riffs, recalling those of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Soundgarden, they occasionally coat their heavyosity with a surprisingly melodic, almost pop veneer.

It's a gutsy approach for a group that evolved from the remains of Kyuss, which, before dissolving in 1995, inspired a fevered following. Kyuss' four albums—including '92's revered Blues For The Red Sun and the '94 follow-up, Welcome To Sky Valley—helped create the so-called "desert rock" scene, a movement whose dense, delirious numbers mirrored the oppressive, pounding heat of the community a few hours east of Los Angeles. The outfit's '70s-style chops paved the way for acts like Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, and Orange Goblin.

When ex-Kyuss members Homme and bassist Nick Oliveri teamed up to form Queens in '97, they delivered a repetitive, robotic album that traveled the path they'd forged years before. With Rated R—produced by Homme and Chris Goss and recorded with multi-instrumentalist Dave Catching and alternating drummers Gene Troutman and Nicky Lucero—the band has expanded its sound, experimenting with new approaches and stylistic flourishes.

Case in point: "Auto Pilot," which interjects spare, airy vocals into a surprisingly catchy tune. Likewise, the speedy "Quick And To The Pointless," with bratty backing yeah yeahs and a smattering of handclaps, is the type of song that wouldn't be out of place on a Sleater-Kinney disc. "In The Fade," with lead vocals by Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan (Homme played second guitar for the Trees during the Kyuss-Queens break), is an arcing, quas-romantic track.

Not that the Queens completely forsake their past. "Better Living Through Chemistry" is a nearly six-minute guitar sprawl perhaps best enjoyed with a Lava Lamp and a cloud of sweet-smelling smoke, while "Monsters In The Parasol" comes chock full of Homme's twisting vocals about, well, monsters, parasols, aliens, and things "covered in hair." For its part, "Tension Head" is nothing short of pained and penetrating, jacked with lyrics about "feeling so sick, on the bathroom floor."

Rated R is an album that pushes the envelope, though it's careful not to nudge that envelope off the table around which the group's fans have so faithfully gathered. Queens Of The Stone Age want to expand your mind—though not necessarily through the use of illicit substances.

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