Jan. 27, 1999 - Toronto Sun: Queens of the Desert Music
by Kieran Grant
Stone Age Wasteland

Queens Of The Stone Age are the heirs apparent to a kingdom known as "stoner-rock" -- that is, if you believe us rock writer types.

If you believe Queens Of The Stone Age, though, the California band is nothing of the sort.

"We're a little uncomfortable with that 'stoner-rock' tag," says Queens Of The Stone Age drummer Alfredo Hernandez, whose band plays Lee's Palace tomorrow with Otis and Hev's Duties.

"There's more to us than that," Hernandez adds. "It's all about clean fun."

For the uninitiated, stoner-rock has come to be a blanket-term for a crop of semi-popular U.S. hard-rock bands like Monster Magnet, Masters Of Reality and Fu Manchu -- groups whose focus on no-frills grooves is so solid their music becomes trancelike.

That description should fit Q.O.T.S.A. Guitarist-singer Josh Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri, and Hernandez pretty much wrote the book on stoner-rock as core members of post-metal cult faves Kyuss, which Homme formed 10 years ago while still in high school.

But Hernandez is right: There is more to the band.

When Kyuss' ideas wore thin and the group split in 1995, Homme spent two years recharging his batteries -- studying international business and touring as auxillary guitarist with Seattle's Screaming Trees.

Judging by Stone Age's strong, self-titled debut album, which came out in October on Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard's Loosegroove Records, the band also spent their "time off" ingesting new musical influences rather than illicit herbs. Steady, tuneful, and spacey at the same time, it's an ideal album for would-be metal fans who haven't liked anything since Black Sabbath's first three records -- or The Melvins' last. It also spills over with oddball musical references to Iggy & The Stooges, Devo, Television, and '60s German experimental rockers Can.

The band just like to call it "desert rock."

"There's a lot of open space, heat to the music," says Hernandez, who, along with his bandmates, grew up in the Southern California desert. "When we first started this band, Josh and I were living in Seattle, and it felt like such a different environment. The surroundings in the desert are sharper. You don't see no concrete. You don't see no buildings. Your thoughts tend to flow better, and spew more.

"This record is a mesh," he says, laughing.

Open-minded but tight-fisted?

"Tight pants but a loose shirt."

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