Villains, (2017) is the most recent album from alternative/hard rock band, Queens of the Stone Age. Their album prior to this, …Like Clockwork (2013) I was actually a huge fan of. I got it recommended to me by someone in high school right after it came out, and that sort of got me into the band originally. Then I looked back at their older stuff, and loved that a lot. Certain albums like Era Vulgaris (2007) and Rated R (2000) really impressed me with their harsher sound, and great playful sense of humor. I don’t listen to them as much now, but I do every once in a while whenever I am in the mood for it. I didn’t keep up with them and missed the release of Villains, but hearing about it recently, I decided to take a look back on it and see where their sound would go.
This album takes a large step away from their last album in my opinion. The harsh, dark energy I felt in a lot of …Like Clockwork kind of flew the coop on this latest release. Instead it’s replaced with a much brighter, funkier style and tone throughout most of the album. There are some “darker” moments on this album, but they’re very few and far between it seems, and I don’t necessarily buy into the moment either. The production quality on a lot of the guitar seems too high and the music seems too clean and tight to have that hint of darkness really shine through. The few songs which feature more filtered, rough guitar chords like “The Evil Has Landed” end up being way too upbeat and cheerful to have any of these rough edges show.
The quieter, more somber moments are also kind of ruined on this EP. They lack the energy and power to hit hard, making it seem more lazy and laid back than emotional. It actually reminds me of what my former music teacher would say when we tried to play quieter: there’s a difference between having a quiet sound and a weak sound. I thought they sounded much weaker than quiet, and that often takes away the powerful impression that a song would otherwise have.
The track “The Way You Used To Do” actually made me crack up laughing the second or third time I heard it, because after a couple listens I figured out what it reminded me of. The intro to the track is incredibly similar to an old Selena Gomez and the Scene song, “Kiss and Tell,” which is really just a great way to describe what it’s like: very lively and poppy, with a bit of funkiness to it.
Lyrically, most songs are unimpressive as well. Songs like “The Evil Has Landed” lack many lyrics altogether, and other songs like “The Way You Used To Do,” and “Fortress” feature lyrics that are just a little kitschy and predictable. I’m normally not too harsh on lyrical missteps, but after an album I thought was full of wonderful imagery and storytelling in …Like Clockwork, I was very disappointed at what they gave me here.
“Villains of Circumstance” is probably the track that reminded me the most of the last QotSA album, but both it and “Un-Reborn Again” just don’t seem to fit well with the aesthetic of the album. The jump from “The Evil Has Landed” to “Villains of Circumstance” feels a bit awkward with its large shift of tone, and while “Un-Reborn Again” is this creative, progressive, really epic song (featuring an orchestra in the back, as well as some saxophone) it seems thrown in there. Nothing is really close to it in tone, instrumentals, or ambition so it sticks out like a sore thumb. I think it’s an interesting track that has a lot of depth to it, but I don’t know if it belongs here.
Overall, the album was a big disappointment to me after their work right before it. I think I’m particularly harsh because of that, when it’s not necessarily as bad as it seems. There’s a few catchy tracks, and interesting tunes, but overall I thought most of the music was pretty predictable. The tone is inconsistent, and often shifts from having this funky edge, to attempting a more somber approach. The individual tracks are all over the place in that regard, and the album doesn’t flow well as a whole. There were some creative juices flowing on the track “Un-Reborn Again,” but those sentiments didn’t stay consistent elsewhere. The tracks could be a lot worse but I don’t think that any of them are as memorable as anything on their other records. I’m thinking this is a 5/10. Most of the comments I have are incredibly negative, but in the whole scheme of things, it’s just a very mediocre record with not a lot to show. It’s not objectively too bad, but it’s a huge downgrade in my opinion from their previous work.
Favorite Track(s): “The Evil Has Landed”
Least Favorite Tracks(s): “Fortress”