Villains review by Queens of the Stone Age

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  • Released: Aug 25, 2017
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (116 votes)
Queens of the Stone Age: Villains
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Sound — 9
Queens of the Stone Age is a Californian alternative/stoner-rock band, which has one of the richest discographies in the last decades, the band, which studio projects are characterized by the unique style, which is always recognizable. The band's lineup has been always changing with only Josh Homme, musician, singer, songwriter, and producer, as the permanent member. Except Josh Homme on vocals and guitar, the lineup also includes Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, Dean Fertita on guitar and keyboard, Michael Shuman on bass guitar and Jon Theodore on drums. In fact, all these people took part in the recording of the previous band's album "...Like Clockwork".

For nearly 20 years of the band's existence the sound has changed a lot and evolved from being heavy and typically-southern to more accessible, melodic, and mainstream. The tendency of becoming the band, that provides albums with not only guitar music, got evident on the new album's predecessor. Now that's just the fact - we can hear beautiful string arrangements and background synths throughout "Villains", and there's even a place for glam-like sax parts on the track "Un-Reborn Again", though the album sound is still dominated by catchy guitar riffs and noisy solos, creative and unexpected hooks and bridges, swinging basslines and heavy drums. This diversity of instruments and parts of the songs can be explained with every-song's complicated structure - the average length of the tracks on the album is 5 minutes. And though the structure is hard to understand, we can't deny the fact, that we can hear all the layers of music, every sound and every movement, because the production on "Villains" is great. Homme's vocals on this album reach emotional peak, sound pleasant, soft, and sweet sometimes, though at the same time Homme often turns back to more dynamic, aggressive, and hysterical style.

As you see, "Villains" contain the most atypical material, the band has ever recorded. The fact, that QotSA, which is already famous for being stoner/heavy-music-oriented band, take the risks and successfully deal with them by combining different influences, allows us claim that this record is, at least, one of the strongest in the band's entire discography. It shows and proves a lot composing and artistic talent of the members of QotSA.



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Lyrics — 8
"Villains" sounds consistently both musically and lyrically. Both sides of the record are united by the main feature of it - by maturity. And this high level of maturity is shown throughout the record, especially in the lyrics and the persona of Josh Homme. Villains is a straight follower of its predecessor, "...Like Clockwork", on which Homme explored topics of loneliness, depression, emptiness, isolation. "Villains" is different, but it's like a sequel, like a gulp of air after the sinking. This album is the album of the 44-years-old man, who knows, what Life is, who has a wife and three kids, who overcame depression. And you believe him. The evident massage of the majority of the songs may sound naïve: keep moving, listen to yourself, listen to your desires, you'll never be young again, no matter, how hard you try, so, just go on, otherwise the villains and the demons within your haunted-house-like head will commit "screwacide" and leave nothing behind you. And it would sound empty and senseless, if it wasn't Josh Homme and if there was no "...Like Clockwork" back in 2013.

Moreover, Homme filled the lyrics with autobiographical facts ("I was born in the desert, May 17 in '73...", "When I first met her, she was seventeen...") and facts about the people around him (just listen to "Un-Reborn Again"), or, for example, the song "Fortress" is a great metaphoric track, with strong emotions and sincere message, addressed to his children. His lyrics are sometimes narrative, usually metaphoric, several times Homme even created words to explain his feelings. The meaning may be evident, but the way, that Josh expresses it, is delightful. And even the mutualism between the music and the lyrics is enjoyable a lot: songs with vital message are energetic and dynamic and the love-songs or ballads are beautifully arranged and sound epic. There's a strong logic and correlation between them.

But the main indicator of Homme's maturity is one of the most straight-line tracks on the entire album - "The Way You Used To Do". At first glance, it's a usual love-song in the cover of sticky guitars, swinging sound, rock'n'roll atmosphere. But the fact, that the man dedicated this song to a woman, who "gave birth to monsters, who will terrorize normalcy", and that the man will "bury anyone, who confines them", is adorable. And even the only moment, when music stops, and the drums beat like heart in silence during the phrase "So, lay your hands across my beating heart, love", shows us, how much creativity and talent is behind that record. This is truly a high level of songwriting and maturity.

Overall Impression — 9
So, musically "Villains" is one of the most extraordinary albums by QotSA so far. It's provided with both extremely dynamic and catchy guitar epics and orchestrated, beautiful, slow-tempo ballads. The band took different influences - late-'70s Bowie for synths and vocal performances, dance-punk on "Head Like A Haunted House", Led Zeppelin-like riff on "The Evil Has Landed", dance-music, swing, rock 'n' roll - and created the radio-friendly mixture of it all. There's a lot of experience and years behind it, and that's why it is, definitely, the most mature record. It's not as emotionally strong and astonishing as its predecessor, "...Like Clockwork", but it's still sincere and convincing, it's something, that is totally different.

But the main achievement of the record is that on Villains Josh Homme creates a new image of himself - an image of a loving Husband, of a wise Father, of a strong Man, who overcame the crisis, a Man, who's getting older and giving it up. Josh reinvents himself as an artist, and this is the main indicator of the strong and talented personality.



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49 comments sorted by best / new / date

    GR84
    The album is excellent, very rewarding on repeated listens, very mixed and complex in its production and writing, the final track, in my opinion, ranks up with the best they have ever recorded, only somewhat low point for me was "Domestic Animals" - interesting track but a tad repetitive for me. Other than that this is a stellar album from QOTSA!
    GR84
    *Domesticated Animals.... correction Still cant find this mythical edit button for comments, 
    imbatman1312
    I really like Domesticated Animals, I find Hideaway kind of forgettable though. Definitely the catchiest album that's come out this year for me.
    JaguarGod
    I'll accept the hate from this but, for me, nothing stood out on this album. There wasn't any dynamic in the songwriting. At least Clockwork shifted gears here and there to make it more of a ride. I don't know, might need to listen to it more but so far there's little drawing me back in. 
    BassFishin
    I highly recommend giving Un-Reborn Again and Domesticated Animals another shot.  There is some great shit going on there.  
    JaguarGod
    Those were actually my favourite songs from the album. I might give it another crack soon and see how I go. 
    False_God
    I do agree with you on that. Its not as dynamic, but still a great album.  Tbh my favorite thing about the album, even above the song writing, is the producing on it, Mark Ronson has always being a favorite of mine but I was a little skeptical when I heard he was working with Queens.  It worked out beautifully!
    Rbastid
    If nothing else, .....Like Clockwork had I Appear Missing, which might be the band's greatest live song to date. Here I see nothing that I'd die to see played live, I see more things meant to appear on the next iPhone release commercial.
    Ristifer29
    I gotta say, I'm fairly disappointed with this album. It's by no means a bad album or anything, but for a follow-up to ...Like Clockwork, it was fairly underwhelming. I heard a lot of previews talking about how funky/groovy it was before release, and I'm not hearing any of that. The songs seem fairly plain, without a lot of the trademark quirks that result from Homme's personality. A lot of it just seems subdued from both a songwriting standpoint as well as a production standpoint. Well, except for Head Like A Haunted House. That song is just a ton of fun. But even with the production, the album seems very flat and unexciting. It's still a decent album, and there are great moments. But I'm not feeling it to be as quirky and exhilarating as their past records. Mind you, my favourite album of theirs is Era Vulgaris, so I know I'm in the minority there. I'm still going to give this a few more listens and see if it impacts me a bit more. But as of right now, it's not hitting me in the right spots.
    paltares8
    Queens are one of my favorite bands. I was skeptical like a lot of people seemed to be about Mark Robson producing, and while its certainly not as heavy as any of their previous albums it is still good. Certain songs are growing on me more than others. I think if it were another band it would either be hailed as a great rock'n roll album or quickly forgotten, but the fact that everyone who likes Queens has high expectations, and rightfully so, as all of their albums are excellent, and everyone has that one album or phase that the band went through that speaks to them the most. Anyways, I am enjoying listening to it and looking forward to seeing them again in a couple weeks.
    BassFishin
    I do love this album.  The only song I'm not crazy about is Hideaway, which is a good song, just nothing too special to me. The Way You Used to Do is incredibly catchy, though the mix isn't my favorite. With those two hangups out of the way, the rest of the songs I absolutely adore.  Un-Reborn Again has quickly taken a spot among my favorte QOTSA songs, period.  
    GR84
    I am finding "Hideaway" to have some really cool production layers to it and really enjoy the sound the more i hear it.
    Eissari
    Villains Of Circumstance is definitely my favorite track off this album.. Probably weird comparison but Josh has that similar power in his voice in this track like Rob Halford has in some Judas Priest songs.. Like (Take these) chains. Overall not their best album but still really solid. Im sure I will like it even more after couple of listens.
    sano.beta
    Weakest QOTSA album
    BassFishin
    Even though self-titled is punchier, fuzzier, and has more kick-ass riffs, I find myself gravitating more towards the sound of Villains, these days.   It may be their weakest, I'm still processing that and won't have a real judgement for a long time - but I love it all the same.  
    sano.beta
    That album just doesn't work for me, somehow. There are some nice songs, but it doesn't make the whole album great. And that whole hype..
    robo37
    It's much better than their self titled imo, not that I'm knocking it.
    BwareDWare94
    These extended intros of practically nothing are pointless and annoying. Just cut the fucking song. And years later, I still hate this fuzzy guitar tone. Dear god that is an annoying sound. Maybe it's great music, but how does one get past something they find so annoying?
    bonekrusha27
    Some of you guys need to appreciate that English isn't the first language for a lot of these UG writers who provide us with a shit ton of free media, lessons and all sorts of other cool shit. 
    jean_genie
      I agree with the ratings - B+. If it was made by a band without QOTSA's pedigree, A-. With the exception of The Evil has Landed (which has an AWESOME bass line) , I feel like the album is something other bands could do, but QOTSA did it better. I've never said that about any other QOTSA record, except maybe the first - once Josh figured out how Not To Be Kyuss, he was in a class of one. Not every track was a winner, but very few of them could have been made by anyone else.       What's really interesting (to me) about this record is that it's the first one that doesn't heavily feature Nick Oliveri (Kyuss bassist) , Dave Grohl, or Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees vocalist - another grunge/90s guy). It's also got way more synth than any other QOTSA record (more on that in a minute) , and is the first QOTSA record to not have a heavy, single-note riff, like "My God is the Sun." There have been lots of those on every QOTSA and Kyuss record, one on ...Like Clockwork, and in that case it even felt forced. It's an awesome song, but didn't *quite* fit the record.    Meanwhile, Josh has been awful busy since ...Like Clockwork. Iggy Pop's Post Pop Depression is one of the best QOTSA records (sorry Iggy, you got Idioted again) , and he even showed up for (and was wasted on) a Lady Gaga track. Good song, but any schlub could have played that part.    So I wonder what's up with these Bowie/Numan/Stranger Things synths. Was that Ronson? I doubt it, since Josh clearly has a strong enough personality to always sound like himself, even on other records (less the Gaga one). But maybe a little. Is that something that interested him, but which he never pursued when he was recording with his grunge buddies?    I know 'we'll see' is a cop-out. But I can't help thinking that ten or twenty years from now, this will be like David Bowie's Low: a record that was appreciated a bit at the time, but after seeing the influence it had, the critics fell all over themselves to pretend like they knew it was a masterpiece the moment it dropped.    Something tells me this record will be very important, either because of the influence it will have, or the change in musical direction it signifies. I could very well be full of shit, but that's what my gut says. 
    copperwreck
    The first album without Oliveri, Grohl & Lanegan? I thought they had been out of the picture for the past for 10-15 years.
    jmarse
    olivieri and lanegan did backing vocals on if i had a tail and dave played on a bunch of tracks.
    BassFishin
    Oliveri had nothing to do with Lullabies or Era Vulgaris, though.  Grohl had nothing to do with them, either.  
    Hungry_Hameds
    Era Vulgaris...
    jean_genie
    Era Vulgaris had Chris Goss and Alan Johannes, both as performers and producers.  Goss was in Kyuss, and Johannes has been Homme's go-to guitarist since before QOTSA - he was the touring guitarist for TCV as well.  Also Lanegan vocals, but only on one track.  Blink and you missed it. Those guys may not have been "on the payroll" for every record, but Villains in the first QOTSA record where a former grunge or desert buddy doesn't have heavy performer, producer, or songwriter credit.
    mitchellhartogh
    God this is poorly written, still a fair review, just really poorly written.
    howyjr
    Poorly written is pretty much the norm around here - and, to be frank, it seems to be ubiquitous to journalism in general these days.
    AEnesidem
    I found this album a little boring. Can't put my finger on it but i just don't feel lik ei want to listen to it again. But like clockwork was an absolute beauty so, maybe we're spoiled
    Rbastid
    I was pretty disappointed by this record.   It's clear as day it was produced by someone who spends most of his work making records for soloist who's songs will almost never be performed by an actual band. The instruments are completely blown out by the vocals, they are tin-y (the drums feel like they'd be right at home on ...And Justice for All) and the Bass is very over processed to the point it might as well just be a synth. The groundwork for catchy, yet different from QoTSA, songs are there, but they just don't feel like QoTSA. I'm getting more the feel of Muse, The Killers (Fortress) or hell even Eagles of Death Metal (Head like a Haunted House). To top it off some of Josh's lyrics for this record are complete garbage. Fortress? Did he suddenly become a 13 year old boy who was dumped by girlfriend and discovered the Cure all in the same week? Domesticated Animals follows suit with just terrible lyrics, but again decent bones for the music. The biggest disappointment for me is what feels like the complete absence of lead guitar, sure there are the catchy riffs, but nothing that you can picture Josh or TvL standing up on stage and wowing the crowd with. As for the good. The Way You Used to Do is an ear bug and I can easily see it being a huge song in advertisements and even in Grammy voting. Un-Reborn Again, Hideaway and The Evil Has Landed are clearly the most QoTSA-ish songs and probably the best on the record, though both Un-Reborn and Evil could do with having the last minute or so cut from both songs, as it feels completely unnecessary and drags on a good song into boring.
    Mamurra
    Overcoming depression? I mean okay you can overcome depression once but it's not like it won't ever come back...
    tomwebbsayshi
    Great Album! Can't stop listening to Feet Don't Fail Me and Evil Has Landed; absolute bangers!
    keith_vu
    Dude who wrote this review seriously needs to go back to english class & learn about run-on sentences. Not mention how to properly use commas.
    antonov12
    Let's see how well you do writing a review in Russian then.Not everybody on here is from an English speaking country.