Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age


(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Wretch , 6.5/10
Blues For The Red Sun , 8/10
Sky Valley , 7/10
And The Circus Leaves Town , 5/10
Queens: Queens Of The Stone Age , 7/10
Queens: Rated R , 6/10
Queens: Songs For The Deaf , 6.5/10
Queens: Lullabies To Paralyze (2005), 5/10
Mondo Generator: Cocaine Rodeo (2000), 6/10
Mondo Generator: A Drug Problem that Never Existed (2003), 4.5/10
Unida: Coping With The Urban Coyote , 6/10
Brant Bjork: Jalamanta , 6/10
Brant Bjork: Operators , 6/10
Brant Bjork: Local Agent (2004), 4/10
Brant Bjork: Saved By Magic (2005), 5.5/10
Brant Bjork: Somera Sol (2007), 4/10
Orquestra del Desierto: Orquestra del Desierto (2002), 5/10
Orquestra del Desierto: Dos (2004), 4/10
Queens: Era Vulgaris (2007), 5/10
Eagles of Death Metal: Peace, Love and Death Metal (2004), 5/10
Eagles of Death Metal: Death By Sexy (2006) , 5/10
Eagles of Death Metal: Heart On (2008), 5/10
Queens: Like Clockwork (2013), 4/10
Queens: Villains (2017), 4/10
Links:

Summary.
Stoner-rock of the 1990s was first pioneered in southern California by Kyuss. Wretch (1991), basically, expanded on Chrome's hurricanes from the perspective of hard-rock (Chrome without the new-wave frills), but Blues For The Red Sun (1992) was a majestic work in a completely new dimension, a collection of disturbing symphonies for bulldozers and bombers, with disorienting interludes worthy of acid-rock. The waves of feedback and the cascades of melting steel coming from Josh Homme's guitar, the vibrant eloquence of John Garcia's crooning, the seismic bass of Nick Oliveri and the tribal drums of Brant Bjork, combined to produce the effect of high-tension electroshocks, breakneck gallops and incandescent lava. Welcome To Sky Valley (1994), on the other hand, was almost baroque in the way it fused all those elements into a uniform and organic one, like an act of vanity from a bunch of cannibals.
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Nei loro dischi i Kyuss sembrano voler condensare la quintessenza dell'hard-rock, come se volessero registrare l'ultimo disco di hardrock che sia possibile registrare, dopo il quale non sara' piu' possibile dire nulla che non sia stato detto. I Kyuss hanno composto dei dischi che sono conturbanti sinfonie per bulldozer e bombardieri, ma al tempo stesso con "adagi" degni dell'acid-rock. Con loro nacque di fatto il genere "stoner".

Kyuss sono l'espressione delle frustrazioni e delle tensioni accumulate dalla gioventu' di una cittadina come Palm Desert, nascosta nel deserto della California meridionale. Dopo un raro Sons Of Kyuss (1990), i quattro giovanissimi esordiscono con l'album Wretch (Dali, 1991), contenente materiale che data dal 1988, all'insegna dell'hard-blues psichedelico piu` brutale dai tempi dei Blue Cheer, mescolato alle detonazioni piu` visionarie dei Chrome e alle devastazioni piu` criminali dei Discharge.
Hwy 74 e` un po' l'archetipo del loro stile, un'esasperazione di quella corrente che parte dal blues, passa attraverso il rock and roll e perviene all'hardrock. Il "drumming" pirotecnico e potente e in primo piano, il chiasso chitarristico spinto a livelli maniacali e il canto sempre su tonalita` sinistre e minacciose alimentano quella progressione verso musicalita` sempre piu` rozze, in definitiva verso il "Rumore".
Uragani sonori si succedono a uragani sonori senza concedere pause: Black Widow (un blues alla Doors), Katzenjammer (un rock and roll acrobatico), Love Has Passed Me By (un vibrante boogie sudista a velocita` supersonica) provocano scosse sismiche a ripetizione. Ad ispirarli non sono tanto i Black Sabbath, benche' altrettanto monolitico e sensazionalista sia il loro approccio, quanto i Pink Floyd e i gruppi della psichedelia texana. L'album trionfa non tanto per la qualita` delle composizioni, che anzi si assomigliano l'un l'altra, ma per l'enorme e abnorme elettricita` dell'esecuzione, che riporta ai climi infuocati dei concerti di Blue Cheer e MC5.
Quello dei Kyuss e` un massacro continuo, senza pieta`: la cadenza tempestosa e irriducibile di Brant Bjork, le ondate di feedback d'acciaio rovente sprigionate da Josh Homme, le scosse subsoniche del basso di Nick Oliveri, il canto vibrante e cannibalesco di John Garcia compongono uno degli agglomerati sonori piu` minacciosi di sempre. Nonostante il baccano elefantiaco, i ritornelli sono sempre nitidamente sospesi sopra gli strumenti.

Blues For The Red Sun (Dali, 1992) e` ancor piu` trascinante e catastrofico, uno dei capolavori del rock del rumore. All'ascoltatore si para davanti una muraglia impenetrabile di suoni sgradevoli: la cadenza "cingolata" di Thumb (forse il primo grande assolo di Homme), una specie di scossa d'alta tensione continuata, da` un po' il tempo e la carica all'assalto a rotta di collo di Alien's Wrench (sorta di loro Communication Breakdown) e all'incursione travolgente di Green Machine (la piu` melodica ed heavymetal del lotto). Sono brani dotati di una forza di sfondamento terribile.
I capolavori sono ancor piu` feroci: le rincorse supersoniche e i tribalismi vertiginosi di 50 Million Year Trip (in apocalittico crescendo fino ad affondare in spasimi da Whole Lotta Love), le torrenziali scariche di hardrock e la lugubre atmosfera da voodoo-blues di palude dello strumentale Apothecaries' Weight, le armonie asfissianti alla Chrome (pregne di urla filtrate, di riff in cascata e di ritmo martellante) di Mondo Generator compongono uno dei piu` grandi disastri sonori della storia del rock. I Kyuss esplorano abissi senza fondo, indulgendo in quell'hard psichedelico (Hawkwind, Pink Fairies, ma soprattutto Hendrix) che trionfa negli otto minuti di lava incandescente e di tetri rimbombi di Freedom Run.
Tutto l'album e` poi cosparso di brevi saggi astratti, che servono a preparare il terreno con incursioni guerrigliere e per prendere dimestichezza con quella sintassi iper-bellica: i riff ipnoticamente incalzanti di Caterpillar March, il lento incedere da bulldozer dello strumentale Molten Universe, le atmosfere sinistre da rituali neri di 800. In questi claustrofobici aforismi si cela la quintessenza e la paranoia dell'hardrock gotico. Il tutto e` corredato da jam estese che non potrebbero suonare piu` fuori posto, come oasi nel deserto, e addirittura da blues sonnambuli come Thong Song.
Il rock dei Kyuss e` un suono che, con quello di Half Lip Machine e Kick Out The jams, si propone come il piu` mostruoso di tutti i tempi.

Il terzo album, Welcome To Sky Valley (Elektra, 1994), presenta Scott Reeder (ex Obsessed) al posto di Oliveri. A parte la trivella sfinente di riff di Gardenia e il terrificante attacco di Odyssey (i Black Sabbath a doppia velocita`), il disco rinuncia a sfoderare la stessa grinta omicida e si perde in qualche vezzo "acido" (il flamenco acustico di Space Cadet). Questa volta i Kyuss propendono semmai per brani sensazionalisti, melodie ipnotiche, enfasi heavymetal e sonorita` grunge alla moda. L'apice e` forse Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop, con cavalcate sfrenate alla Led Zeppelin e una coda strumentale di nevrastenie alla Jimi Hendrix, che fa concorrenza al singolo Sky Valley Part III, lunga suite di improvvisazione "torrida" alla In A Gadda Da Vida con la chitarra al posto dell'organo.

A suggellare l'album e` l'EP Demon Cleaner, una litania ipnotica in cui il riff di chitarra e' ormai un puro riempitivo.

And The Circus Leaves Town (Elektra, 1995) ha ormai perso l'irruenza primordiale del primo disco: i Kyuss si propongono adesso nelle vesti di interpreti magistrale del verbo dei Deep Purple di Highway Star (in Hurricane) e dei Led Zeppelin di How Many More Times (in One Inch Man), e su quelle fondamenta a costruire un poderoso edificio armonico, dentro il quale risuonano a perdifiato sonorita' Blue Cheer e Cream. Il salmodiare psichedelico di John Garcia e le lunghe aperture/code strumentali sono state equilibrate e oliate al punto giusto, dando l'impressione di una compostezza (o scompostezza, a seconda delle prospettive) classica. I riff titanici della jam strumentale The Old Boozerooney, il blues viscerale di Gloria Lewis e il finale quasi prog-rock di Spaceship Landing sono li' a dimostrarlo. Come sempre, i Kyuss amano scombinare le carte con qualche brano piu' lisergicamente stupefatto. La melodia infiltra allora il grunge turbolento di Tangy Zizzle, e Catamaran si affloscia in una soffice cantilena.

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Josh Homme, the genius behind Kyuss, formed Queens Of The Stone Age on the ashes of the old line-up (recruiting prodigal son Nick Oliveri on bass and retaining Alfredo Hernandez on drums). Homme has friends, as proven by the Desert Sessions (Man's Ruin, 1999) improvised in the desert with a multitude of rock celebrities. The early line-up for the new band (originally named Gamma Ray) was a who's who of grunge. These uninspired jams/demos would continue and reach a tenth volume in 2003.

Refining and normalizing the psychedelic hard-rock coined with Kyuss, Homme found the way to success. Queens Of The Stone Age (Roadrunner, 1998) is stoner-rock for the masses. The album pivots on If Only Everything, the archetype of Homme's melodic conversion. His acid riffs are nonetheless titanic compared with the competition of Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu.

If the debut album was even too homogeneous and monolitic, Rated R (Interscope, 2000) does the opposite and finds Homme's combo differentiating in too many style. Homme's vision may have lost something to the band's sound (a band augmented by guitarist and keyboardist Dave Catching, and with former Kyuss drummer Gene Trautmann replacing former Kyuss Hernandez). Feel Good Hit Of The Summer displays the sonic power of the first album, the melodic exorcism submerged in Hendrix-grade bursts of guitars and panzer riffs, and Tension Head is even fiercer. But several tracks redraw the map: Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret, possibly the catchiest refrain, employs a classy arrangement of vibraphone, piano and sax; Auto Pilot is a mellow shuffle with a guitar riffs that homage Neil Young; Better Living Through Chemistry is trascendental raga-metal. However, the band never forgets to appeal to a broad audience. In fact, Monsters In The Parasol could be a ditty by the Hollies, with a hard-rock guitarist filling in for Graham Nash. The 8-minute I Think I Lost My Headache, with its anthemic riff, its Indian-infected psalm, its instrumental interlude, and its horns-based coda, is a their modest Stairway To Heaven. The focus of the album is, nonetheless, melody.

Brant Bjork's solo Jalamanta (Man's Ruin, 1999) is a surprise, as it shares little or nothing with Kyuss' stoner sound. Bjork harks back to the 1960s and to the 1970s for some loose psychedelic blues jamming, occasionally propelled by a killer riff (Automatic Fantastic).

After a brief stint with Slo Burn, that released the EP Amusing The Amazing (Malicious, 1997), John Garcia formed Unida, that debuted with the EP The Best Of Wayne Gro. Their full-length album Coping With The Urban Coyote (Man's Ruin, 1999) is the ultimate hard-rock album, a scientific catalog of the genre's cliches. Garcia's stunning vocal delivery enhances the band's inspired and rousing imitations of Free (Thorn), Mountain (Human Tornado), Motorhead, Granf Funk Railroad, and many more (bordering on punk-rock in Dwarf It). Emphatic, thundering and melodramatic, the songs turn cliches into weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the turbulent and incendiary nine-minute You Wish reinvents the power-ballad in the age of stoner-rock. Occasionally outstanding (the epyleptic and booming rock and roll Black Woman, a master performance by guitarist Arthur Seay), Unida's first album is an epic tribute to Garcia's roots the way Spielberg's films are tributes to his own childhood. Unfortunately, their second album, The Great Divide (2001), will be canceled due to contractual problems.

Mondo Generator is Nick Oliveri (on vocals and bass), helped out by Josh Homme, Brant Bjork, and others, playing music that is a punk-rock version of stoner-rock. The band's name harks back to Blues For The Red Sun, but Cocaine Rodeo (Southern Lord, 2000) sounds more like Henry Rollins, Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, and even Big Black. Exploding Man is a tour de force of evil sounds. Mondo Generator's second album, A Drug Problem that Never Existed (Ipecac, 2003), was a major disappointment, a set of bland songs performed in a shallow manner.

Brant Bjork also recorded with the Operators (Music Cartel, 2002) an album with which he continued the eclectic experiments of his solo album (Electric Lalli Land, HInda65, Ghettoblasters). Local Agent (Duna, 2004) was rather uneventful, but the colossal Saved By Magic (Duna, 2005) marked a detour into roots-music. The mediocre Somera Sol (2007) was credited to Brant & The Bros.

Alfredo Hernandez started a new supergroup, Orquestra del Desierto (Meteorcity, 2002) with Fatso Jetson's guitarist Mario Lalli and Goatsnake's vocalist Peter Stahl, a project continued on Dos (2004). Songs For The Deaf (Interscope, 2002), the third album by the Queens Of The Stone Age, is their most refined. Not a note/riff is wasted. The Queens return to the super-heavy sound of their debut but with a much improved melodic edge; which may or may not be due to the addition of the Foo Fighters's drummer Dave Grohl and the Screaming Trees' vocalist Mark Lanegan to the line-up of founding members Oliveri (bass) and Homme (guitar). Now a supergroup, the Queens take advantage of Nirvana's patented cliche` (gentle vocal melody and crushing guitar-driven explosion) in songs such as The Sky Is Fallin', but they lack the hysteria of the masters. Despite the Free-like vocal and guitar histrionics of No One Knows and the Cream-like blues gymnastics of A Song For The Dead, they lean towards the melodic side of the equation (shamelessly in Do It Again and the swirling Another Love Song, ditties that seem to hark back from the era of bubblegum pop). It is not a coincidence that Gonna Leave You echoes I've Got A Line On You by an old band that specialized in similar melodic hard-rock, Spirit. In this vein, Go With the Flow is perhaps the most original vehicle: boogie piano, catchy refrain and romantic mellotron. The quartet can hypnotize with the primal, bluesy God Is on the Radio (Lanegan on vocals and another Homme super-solo), and sculpt the haunting atmosphere of the brooding Song for the Deaf, but mostly their instrumental skills seem to be wasted. Their stoner-rock credentials are only a memory: this sounds more like the return of the Foo Fighters.

Homme also worked on a side project, the Eagles of Death Metal, meant to be some kind of joke on death metal, as the title of their debut album implied: Peace, Love and Death Metal (2004). It was followed by Death By Sexy (2006) and Heart On (2008).

With the leader perhaps galvanized by the sales of the third album, the Queens Of The Stone Age came to represent mainly Josh Homme's ego on Lullabies To Paralyze (Interscope, 2005), the first album without Oliveri. His cohorts (A Perfect Circle's guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, and drummer Joey Castillo) mattered less and less. Medication, Little Sister (with another heroic fuzzed solo by Homme), Someone's In The Wolf and You've Got a Killer Scene There Man were typical of self-indulgent pop stars, recycling the sound of the hits while trying to slip in bits and pieces of frustrated ego. The stories were explicitly sinister, dealing with the whole spectrum of atrocities (murder, suicide, torture, madness, black magic). Era Vulgaris (2007), that does not include Era Vulgaris (a collaboration with Nine Inch Nails, continued the drift towards a stream of consciousness that was both carefully crafted and privately emotional (Misfit Love, Sick Sick Sick, Turning On The Screw). This album marked an important milestone for Homme: throughout his career, from Kyuss to Queens Of The Stone Age, there had been an underlining blues motif. Lullabies To Paralyze and now Era Vulgaris largely dispensed with vestiges of blues music. The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Queens Of The Stone Age's Josh Homme and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones formed the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures (2009) that sounded like a Led Zeppelin tribute band.

Homme fronted a new version of Queens Of The Stone Age on Like Clockwork (2013), without Joey Castillo and with Dave Grohl on drums and returning bassist Nick Oliveri. This edition of the band opted for a melodic and mellow sound (I Sat By The Ocean, but not the hysterical single My God Is the Sun) and the album is a concentrate of derivative riffs (If I Had a Tail sounds like the Rolling Stones performing a cover of Phil Spector's Da Doo Ron Ron), bordering on parody (the martial David Bowie-esque piano ballad The Vampyre Of Time And Memory, the Elton John collaboration Fairweather Friends which actually sounds like vintage Cream).

Queens Of The Stone Age's Villains (Matador, 2017), produced by Mark Ronson of Uptown Funk fame, marked a return to old-fashioned swagger. A couple of songs land above mediocrity (the ZZ Top-ian boogie The Way You Used to Do and the Cramps-ian psychobilly Head Like a Haunted House) but the material is mostly inferior. The Evil Has Landed throws in a few Led Zeppelin cliches but can't figure out what to do with them. It would have been a leftover on even the weakest Led Zeppelin album. The syncopated and jagged Feet Don't Fail Me tries to prove its reason to exist with a few synth lines. Un-Reborn Again and Villains of Circumstance employ similar (inept) detours to keep the listener from falling asleep. Homme’s desperate attempts to sound melodic don't help. To be fair, the prog-rock mini-suite Villains of Circumstance does find a memorable refrain worthy of Sixties pop, but it's too little too late.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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