Sound — 9
We've all seen many a supergroup come and go, but Them Crooked Vultures has the potential for staying power. Besides the obvious fact that vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme already has an established rapport with drummer Dave Grohl, there's a familiar enough quality to the songs on Them Crooked Vultures' self-titled debut record to not alienate any previous fans. To put it simply, if you've enjoyed the most recent work from Queens of the Stone Age, you'll likely embrace TCV with open arms. And when you add in the wild card (i.e.. Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones on bass and keyboards), well, the cool factor has been solidified. It's true that there are a few songs on the new record that veer into highly experimental and self-indulgent territory, but the vast majority of the 13 tracks maintain a good balance between melody and awe-inspiring arrangements. Grohl and Homme have already made an obvious connection through their assorted collaborations, so one of the most interesting aspects was to see what Jones brought to the table. There are a few times along the way when the songs take a Zeppelin-type turn (and yes, Zeppelin's influence is something found in a good deal of rock today), but for the most part it's the dark, grooving QOTSA-like riffs from Homme that steer the way. No One Loves Me & Neither Do I starts it all off with the trademark sexy-scary sound, and the song features a variety of musical sections (other than the obvious chorus and verse). Most of the 13 tracks pack in some sort of surprise or twist that you wouldn't necessarily expect arrangement-wise, and that's one of the most intriguing aspects to TCV. The first single New Fang is infectious from the opening slide work to Homme's amazing falsetto abilities. Behind the generally enjoyable root melody to tracks like New Fang, Elephants, and Bandoliers is the creative approach take to layering the instrumentation. QOTSA utilizes this technique often, but TCV takes it to the next level, which becomes extremely obvious when you listen to the intricacies through headphones. Some might feel it's all overkill with so many instrumental sections smashed together, particularly in the closing experimental track Spinning In Daffodils, but by the same token this is a band that is attempting to go beyond the norm. While Homme's sonic guitar sound and capable vocals usually steal the show, Grohl and Jones have their moments. Grohl's at his best in New Fang and Gunman, which both feature an unbelievably vibrant percussion section, as well as the uniquely timed Mind Eraser, No Chaser. The bass is always thick and is certainly a driving point to TCV, but Jones shines when he delivers a funky Stevie Wonder-like keyboard solo in Scumbag Blues. The sum total of instrumentation ends of being the key selling point, with Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, A Perfect Circle) often creating a head-scratching, but intriguing mix of the musical mish-mesh.
Lyrics — 9
There's always an undercurrent of sexuality with Homme's music these days it seems, and TCV keeps that tradition going strong. Of course, the key is to not make the topic mundane, and you don't get the same old regurgitated lyrical content. Whether it's the twisted and hilarious Caligulove (Hold me real close; Clap me in irons; Come on caligulove me) or the tense Reptile (Don't rest too long; It's a mistake we can't take back; Take one lying down for a change; And oh it's like cleaning up after an orgy), it's hard to not get sucked in to the unusual rhyme schemes that TCV devises.
Overall Impression — 9
While there are a few moments along the way when TCV get wrapped up in what seems to be an extended jam session, for the most part the self-titled record is a satisfying one. There is no shortage of thinking outside of the box with song construction, and that's refreshing in itself. From the slide work to the strong vocals to the often-changing rhythmic quality, the 13 tracks set the bar high. Again, there is an obvious extension from QOTSA that is undeniable, so your opinion of albums like Lullabies to Paralyze and Era Vulgaris will likely predetermine how you'll respond to the Homme-Grohl-Jones trio.