Fifteen years since its release, QOTSA’s critically acclaimed third remains one of the best rock albums of the millennium. With the release of the band’s Ronson-produced seventh Villains fast approaching, I thought I’d revisit the album that put them on the map. I also really like this album and wanted to talk about it.
A mixture of stoner-rock and alternative metal (and apparently prog-folk in the case of Mosquito Song), the album’s 14 tracks are segmented with fictional radio broadcasts from various DJ’s in California which technically allow it to be labelled as a “concept” album. However, compared to something like King Gizzard’s Nonagon Infinity it’s understandable why this term is used relatively loosely. While the album was the brainchild of many collaborators, the main three were QOTSA founder Josh Homme, the tattooed nightmare that is Nick Oliveri, and the man you wish was your dad, Dave Grohl. Homme is the only remaining member of the band since its formation and has been dubbed the “ginger Elvis” or “ginger Johnny Cash”, but these could extend to pretty much the ginger version of any American musical icon. Because imagine that, someone with red hair being a good musician. How unorthodox! I always assumed that being ginger doomed the musician to a lifetime of lacklustre top 20 hits, seriously lacking in artistic creativity or originality. Although to be fair, the arrival of Ed Sheeran hasn’t exactly debunked this stereotype. Zing! At least Homme has proved it wrong. He’s a bloody good vocalist/guitarist/songwriter/bassist/drummer/pianist. Next, I thought I’d go through some of the tracks on SFTD in more detail, and obviously it’ll be a much more enjoyable read if you know what the album sounds like, so if you haven’t heard the album 1) why on earth are you reading this, you must have no idea what’s going on, and 2) go listen to it. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I feel Like A Millionaire
The start of this song is infuriating, so skip to about 2:00 if you want to save two minutes of your life. It’s also one of those rare songs with a comma in its title, which is neat if you’re incredibly boring. When the music eventually begins, we’re greeted by Grohl pounding the low tom and snare like some sort of tribal warrior. I can just imagine Grohl: topless, glistening with sweat, donning his signature drumming gloves and grimacing so emphatically that his teeth threaten to explode from his face. There’s also some guitars and stuff that combine to make a pretty decent opener to the album.
No One Knows
This is the one QOTSA song that non-fans may have heard of, so if you ignored my earlier advice then at least you have a chance at understanding this bit. Although I hope you don’t understand any of it, in a cruel dose of karma. This is the best song on the album, it’s incredibly fun to play to and has one of the best openings, in my opinion, of any song ever (rivalled by 3’s and 7’s, another Queens’ behemoth). Great drums, great bass, great guitar, great vocals.
Songs For The Dead
I always get this one mixed up with Song for the Deaf. Fake fan! Yeah, we’ve all done it mate, don’t lie. The star of the show on this track is Grohl. His drumming basically says, “yeah, I used to drum in Nirvana, but you think I’ve lost my touch since forming the Foos. Well how do you like some of this?” Bang! Double bass-drum triplet groove. Ouch! Half-time transition to the crash. Legend has it that once recording finished for this song, Grohl had to be forcibly removed by Homme from the kit after his left leg became temporarily possessed by the ghost of Steve White, refusing to cease from stamping the hi-hat pedal. What makes this more interesting is that Steve White isn’t dead, but that doesn’t matter because you don’t know who he is, do you? Read a book.
Does anyone like this song?
God Is On The Radio
I actually really like this one. It’s quite laid back. Loosey-goosey baby! The chorus is a fun one to belt out, but for god’s sake make sure you’re alone. If you’re anything like me you definitely can’t sing. I also like the occasional fake outs between choruses, they keep you on your toes and people who don’t know the song look daft when they come into a chorus too early.
Song For The Deaf
Do you get it? ‘Cause deaf people can’t hear! Ex-Screaming Tree and Mr Sandpaper himself Mark Lanegan guests on this track. Some say Lanegan’s gruff voice is the result of years of cigarette and alcohol abuse, others say he was involved in a horrific windpipe accident many years ago that he will never talk about. This song could be described as scary, except not scary in a scary way because that would be stupid, but rather scary in a what-you-expect-a-scary-song-to-sound-like kind of way.
To this day it still baffles me how this song ended up on the album. It’s so out of place it hurts. It’s like Led Zeppelin trying to do Reggae. I reckon I skip this one almost as much as I skip Fitter Happier (honestly Thom, what were you thinking?)
I could talk about this album for ages, which is why I believe it is truly influential. Unfortunately, I’ve already exceeded the word count by over 400 words. Ironically, that last sentence also contributed to the word count. And this one. In conclusion, this album is really great and I’d urge more people to listen to QOTSA. Lullabies to Paralyse is another excellent album. If this gets published there will be more Queens from me in November when I review their gig in Manchester. If it doesn’t get published then I’ve just wasted four hours of my life that I’ll never get back.
By Luke Binstead