CD: Queens of the Stone Age - Villains The kings of stoner-rock are back and now they want to dance

From The Arts Desk

Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme recently declared that, while recording Villains, his intention had been to redefine the band's old sound. His recent work with Iggy Pop, he said, had recharged his imagination and now he wanted to make some changes. Two objectives seem to have been uppermost in Homme's mind - to keep things fresh and to make people dance. To achieve these he hired none other than producer Mark "Uptown Funk" Ronson.

On paper, the combination sounds pretty mind-boggling. But on record, the results are less radical. Certainly, there are no disco-rock tracks like the Killers' recent single, "The Man". Instead, Villains sticks with the same basic set-up Queens have used for the past two decades and strategically turns up certain instruments. In other words, it's still fundamentally stoner-ish, but now with a lot more rhythm.

This new pulse makes for some epic tracks. "Feet Don't Fail", for instance, is brooding to start with then explodes into massive Shamanic rhythms. Similarly, "The Way You Used to Do" begins with a riff that could be from The Black Keys and then gets progressively more badass. Equally intriguing are those songs that play around with fragments of old classic rock. "Un-Reborn Again" sees the melody of T-Rex's "Telegram Sam" recast as swampy space-rock. A cleaner sound comes from "The Evil Has Landed" which bursts out of the speakers full of the spirit of Led Zeppelin. Sandwiched between is "Hideaway", evoking Bowie's Eno years.

But it's not all entirely good news. The album's middle portion, in particular, finds the boys lacking the same degree of inspiration: "Fortress" sounds too much like their old material whilst "Head Like A Haunted House" feels thrashy for the sake of it. Still, even if these longueurs stop Villains from being classic material, most of it is pretty damn good to listen to. It's flawed, but wonderfully so.

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