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On Era Vulgaris, Josh Homme's lot manage to pull off the neat trick of sounding like no one else while tweaking their sound considerably.
Peter Murphy, 21 May 2007
Ball-breakingly tight guitar riffs, killer robot rhythms, neo-psychedelic melodies, twisted intricacies. Yup, it’s the return of the Queens.
Josh Homme’s lot always manage to pull off the neat trick of sounding like no one else while tweaking their sound considerably with each successive album. If Lullabies To Paralyze was a strange forest fairytale dusted with desert blues courtesy of Billy Gibbons, Era Vulgaris finds the band holed up in an abandoned funkhouse in the centre of a shady copse, waiting for some strange sexually-contracted fever to pass.
‘Into The Hollow’, with its supple rhythms and serpentine Van Leeuwen/Homme guitar interplay, revels in the limber boogie of Funkadelic, the Allmans and Sly at his most fried, while ‘Misfit Love’ is the kind of weirdo Prince/psyche-rock mutant Trent Reznor – who guested on the omitted title track – might manage if he got his head out of his own oriface for five minutes.
But if this record’s all about the groin, it’s wearing a studded codpiece. ‘Suture Up Your Future’ and ‘Battery Acid’ are vicious and sophisticated, grindhouse rock spiked with a lysergic variation on the Captain Trips virus. Drummer Joey Castille plays a blinder throughout, managing to stay fast and loose no matter how slippery the groove – and the grooves are slippery, none more so than the (now traditional) Desert Sessions repray of ‘Make It Wit Chu’, which is foxy and falsettoed even without PJ’s input. Elsewhere, ‘I’m Designer’ will make you think you’re i-pod’s knackered, evoking Royal Trux circa Accelerator.
There’s still a revolving door personnel policy in operation. Mark Lanegan is back, moaning at midnight on the Brothers Grimm metallurgy of ‘River In The Road’. Julian Casablancas contributes vocal and Casio synth guitar to ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’, which pulls off a quintessentially Stone Age trick cribbed from Funhouse: brutalisingly simple music played with virtuosic bravado. The magic is all between the cracks and crevices, pitched squarely in the indefinable realm of the feel.
In short, this one’s all about bodily fluids, blood, beer and blunts. The feelgood hit of the summer.