Sound: With such a stacked résumé and a loud disposition, Nick Oliveri is the polar opposite of the stereotypical bassist that fades into the background. Though with so many different bands Oliveri's been affiliated with, his biggest claim to fame and highest-lauded role as a musician was being the bassist for Queens Of The Stone Age. Having worked with founder Josh Homme previously in Kyuss, Oliveri's presence and energy were definitely an important force for QOTSA, and it's not by coincidence that the band's albums he was an integral part of - "Rated R," and their apex album, "Songs for the Deaf" - are regarded as the band's best albums. However, his time with QOTSA would be cut short when he was fired from the band due to rising tensions that soured his friendship with Homme, including Oliveri facing domestic abuse allegations.
Despite Homme heavily considering disbanding QOTSA after Oliveri's leave, QOTSA continued, and despite Oliveri occupying his time with plenty of other projects, he had shown his desire to rejoin the band numerous times, whether temporarily or permanently - though Homme was always apprehensive towards Oliveri's return in any case until recently, when Oliveri made a small vocal contribution to QOTSA's latest album, "...Like Clockwork," as well as letting him make a guest appearance at one of their shows to perform "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire."
It's pretty clear that Oliveri sees "...Millionaire" as a signature of his songwriting style - from the loud and recklessinstruments to his kamikaze shout-singing, it's a perfect microcosm for Oliveri's untethered energy. That energy is almost exclusively banked upon in Oliveri's new solo project, Nick Oliveri's Uncontrollable, which is a sonically-juxtaposing adaptation of The Uncontrollable, the acoustic side-project he had with The Dwarves frontman Blagg Dahlia. Whereas the previous Uncontrollable releases were an unplugged side to Oliveri, the newest release, "Leave Me Alone," is a raw manifestation of his reckless energy.
Whether it's Oliveri ripping his frenetic basslines over simple and bludgeoning punk/metal guitar riffs in "Human Cannonball Explodes," "Come and You're Gone" and "Get Lost With Me," the roadhouse swagger of "Keep Me in the Loop" and "Death Leads the Way," or the many bouts of hectic guitar solos from a number of guest guitarists - from Phil Campbell and Lightnin' Woodcock to Bruno Fevery and Mike Pygmie - the easiest way to define "Leave Me Alone" is that it's the unrefined rock power that was particularly absent in the latter-half of QOTSA albums. The cases of uneven tempos and measurements in "Human Cannonball Explodes," "Come and You're Gone," "The Robot Man," as well as the instrumental explosion heard in "The Void" further state the fact that "Leave Me Alone" is ingrained in Oliveri's world, only working on his own stable (or rather, unstable) schedule.
On the other hand, Oliveri's calling-card compositional style ends up being very one-dimensional. As the majority of tracks run the very same way - with heavy and simplistic riffs, messy and unkempt solos, and abrasive vocals - only one color is really seen throughout the album - save the brief acoustic track "Leave Me Alone," which echoes back to the acoustically-geared earlier years of The Uncontrollable. And as much as the album evokes the high-gear sound of earlier-era QOTSA, it functions as a double-edged sword, and for the worse, that feel can seem too trapped in the past. // 6
Lyrics: In the same package deal as Oliveri's corrosive rock style, the lyrics he pens are as unhinged and incendiary as his delivery of them. Oliveri wastes no time beating around the bush with themes, and with his songs primarily gravitating towards brash articulations of mental and mortal instability, he's not just being callous for the sake of being callous, and speaks from personal experience. "Human Cannonball Explodes" is about the car accident he got into last year, whereas "The Robot" portrays the infamous standoff he had with the SWAT team some years ago, and "Come and You're Gone" may be a not-so-subtle allusion to the troubles he had with his girlfriend, which ends in a physical altercation.
However, there are also cases of inspiration repetition from QOTSA material. The sardonically perverse noose humor in "Keep Me in the Loop" stems from "Hangin' Tree" and "A Song for the Dead" ("if you're hanging around/I'm holding the noose") off of "Songs for the Deaf," and of course, Oliveri's penchant for dropping the term "millionaire" in "Luv Is Fiction" and "Get Lost With Me" easily tie back to his own magnum opus QOTSA track, "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire." // 6
Overall Impression: As expected, the result of Oliveri's commandeering of The Uncontrollable comes off loud and rugged, and if The Black Keys and Jack White make the kind of rough-and-tumble rock meant for the skinny-jeaned hipster crowd, "Leave Me Alone" offers the kind meant for the bearded and tattoo-clad roughnecks that you wouldn't want to pick a fight with. Though Oliveri plays his role strongly throughout the album, it's unfortunately one role, and the limited scope of "Leave Me Alone" may leave more to be desired. But as obvious as it may be to point out how all the album needed was Homme's elements to round it out into another bad-a-s QOTSA album, "Leave Me Alone" shines a decent spotlight on Oliveri's musical characteristics. // 7
- Sam Mendez (c) 2014