Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures (DGC/Interscope)
God love Joshua Homme, but nothing he’s done with either Queens of the Stone Age or the sidelight Eagles of Death Metal has quite equaled the incandescent majesty of his work with Kyuss, the archetypal ’90s desert/stoner rock band. Maybe it’s because in QOTSA, he lacks a strong collaborating influence like former Kyuss vocalist John Garcia, whose subsequent projects Unida and Hermano come closer to reaching that lofty stoner-rock Valhalla. Even with the sometime participation of former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan and Foo Fighters svengali Dave Grohl, QOTSA still had the feel of being one man’s hermetic industry.
But now the singer/guitarist finds himself in a world not of his making—the impetus for Them Crooked Vultures reportedly came from Grohl—backed in close quarters by the drummer who gave Nirvana its propulsive thrashing energy, and flanked by the venerated Led Zeppelin bassman/producer/songwriter John Paul Jones. The result is an album full of riffs stronger than any Homme has been associated with since Kyuss, and Homme’s most confident and versatile vocal performance ever. The opening track, “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I,” manifests the difference with bold strokes, bridging from its QOTSA-ish main riff into powerhouse Sabbathian stomp. The whole record has a comfortably warm analog feel and features a grab-bag of name-that-influence Classic Rawk-isms (Cream, Zep, and the Kinks, for a few) that keeps the project exhilarating. Credit Grohl for pounding the skins like the spirit of Bonham incarnate. But most of all, credit elder statesman Jones, whose steadying hand seems to have kept his exuberant, but occasionally errant younger proteges from straying off the path.