2000 - Stylus Magazine: Rated R Review
by Keith Gwillim
Now that Dave Matthews Band has gone fully pop, and Phish is on indefinite hiatus, what's a stoner to do? Oh well - no use crying over spilt bongwater. Especially when you have the Queens Of The Stone Age.

Big, weird name; and an even bigger and weirder sound. Sure, you could call many of the songs off of Rated R grunge, but Nirvana and Soundgarden never sounded so spacey, so transcendental, so...well, stoned. A recapitulation of everything that they stood for when the boys were known as Kyuss, but so much more, Rated R is a burned-out jaunt through one band's really groovy trip, dude.

"Feel Good Hit Of The Summer," "Better Living Through Chemistry," "Monsters In The Parasol" - song monikers such as these should clue you in to the fact that you won't see QOTSA at a Nancy Regan rally in the near future.

The Queens make no attempt to hide their love of mind-altering substances - the album's opener, "Feel Good Hit..." serves as the apotheosis of the whole set. An incendiary guitar riff that would make Kurt Cobain's corpse orgasm lashes out in a frezy against militarized drumming as lead singer Joshua Homme chants one line over and over again: "Nicotine, valium, vicoden, marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol....c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!!!!!!!!!!!!"

No, wait - I know what you're thinking: "Yeah, a bunch of Scooby-Doo freaks blazin' in their basement, gettin' fat on three-cheese Doritos who think they're the next friggin' Led Zep." Wrong. Queens Of The Stone Age is the band that will inspire that sort of musical moronity (but don't hold that against them). They're too tongue-in-cheek, too savvy and intelligent to be discounted as amatuers, yet sophomoric enough to not buckle to pretentiousness and delusions of grandeur. And they can write a killer hook.

Aside from reciting Robert Downey Jr.'s shopping list on Rated R, the Queens read from the Metal Bible at every turn. Pounding Black Sabbath riffs, drumming that would do John Bonham proud (well, maybe not that good), and vocals that can alternately conjure images of Cobain, Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, and Ozzy's more sedated moments abound.

Witness the second track, "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret," which single-handedly tries to resurect the days when "Black Hole Sun" ruled the radio. A clunky drum break clears the pipe on "Feel Good Hit...," and as the purple haze dissipates, a measured rhythm guitar tip-toes around a plinking electric piano. Homme breaks out in the chorus, crooning "Whatever you do, don't tell anyone..." as a malicious baritone sex belts out the news of the world. As for what he doens't want you to tell, your guess is a good as mine, though I suspect it's one of two things: 1) that rock is indeed not dead, just on a really bad trip, or 2) don't reveal the location of Homme's secret stash, dude-mar.

Rated R is chock full of great moments like that one, thankfully. "Auto Pilot"'s soaring blues riff proves you're flying the virtuostic skies, and by the time Homme and Co. attempt a Beach Boys-like harmony towards the end, you'll realize the overhead oxygen masks ain't pumpin' 02, baby. A rapid-fire riff frames the paranoid babblings of "Monsters In The Parasol," which leads into the stellar "Quick And To The Pointless." A demented twist on "Hey Mickey" (complete with goofy handclaps and cheerleader shouts), "Quick..."'s over-before-it-began barrage of bratty noise will leave you reeling.

By far, the best song on Rated R is the creep-jam of "Better Living Through Chemistry." As Homme's seemingly phoned-in and echoed vocal cops a chorus from Bjork, tribal drumming and a subversive piano lull you into a calm. After an extended instrumental section, the guitar breaks out in an attack that is at once energetic and lethargic. A nocturnal ride through druggy psychedelia, "Better Living..." never lets up, and never fails to captivate.

Queens Of The Stone Age are not without their faults, though. "In The Fade" doesn't really go anywhere, and resorts to reprising "Feel Good Hit..." for no good reason. The freak-out horn section that closes out "I Think I Lost My Headache" just bludgeons the listener to the point of irritation, as it meanders on the same repetitive refrain for over three minutes. But the strong points, such as "Better Living..." or the acoustic experiment of "Lightning Song" more than save the album, and are what you remember after all's said and done.

If they ever remake Dazed And Confused and set it in this time frame, Queens Of The Stone Age better be on the soundtrack. Bore-rockers Creed may ask "Can you take me higher?" but QOTSA are the ones who answer the call. Rated R is some of the most adventurous hard rock I've heard in a while. Now pass the Visine, man.

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