“Villains” is a reliable effort from veteran alternative rock group Queens of the Stone Age. QOTSA know their sound and any average listener knows what to expect. With the exception of minor tweaking, “electronic music in a rock format” evolves into a harder, more surreal rock and so on, the band has focused on skill and technique. This is on display in “Villains,” as it is one of their most technically precise albums to date.
On “Villains,” QOTSA collaborates with Mark Ronson, who was a major producer on songs like “Uptown Funk.” The music moves and it’s fast, but this is not a pop album by any means. Still, Ronson does terrific production work. Ronson’s involvement inspired some backlash from fans, who were not enamored with his work in the mainstream. However, Ronson has earned a great deal of praise from the band who have shown nothing but confidence in him.
The stories told in their songs are just as grimy as Queens of the Stone Age is known to be. The best track of the album, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” follows an individual as they go to seek success in a big city. Things don’t turn out quite as expected, but the speaker opts to continue because they can’t help themselves. The song has an easy groove and borrows from the “electronica as rock” formula of the early Queens, while diverging into funk territory. It has style, and it encapsulates what’s so much fun about the album.
“The Evil Has Landed” is another terrific single, described by lead singer Josh Homme as “being like a merry-go-round.” He describes the song when talking to NPR: “And for me, this needed to be very or-bital, where every time you hear a part, you hear a verse come around and it’s only 40 percent the same. It’s been altered each time, and the chorus as well. That way, it’s more like getting on a bus at a bus stop: You get on one place, you get off somewhere else, and you don’t understand what’s going to happen at all times, but you feel comfortable; hopefully, you feel comfortable.”
Like other work from Queens, lyrics are mesmerizing and open to interpretation. An example is “Domesti-cated Animals.” The lyrics seem to be about a riot, but it doesn’t follow a specific side. There is a griminess to it and a promise of violence. Verse three hints at a relationship QOTSA released their album “Villains” on August 25.in all of this. Homme says the song is about groupthink and championing the individual mind, but it’s not hard to diverge from that.
“Villains” is one of Queens of the Stone Age’s most polished efforts, but while still maintaining the dirt of their previous work. There’s a certain technical mastery here, representing an evolution in technique for Homme and others. It is what a grind-house movie might look like molded into a rock album.
“Villains” is out now. Queens of the Stone Age will be touring across the world throughout the end of October with Royal Blood. One venue they will be playing includes The Crossroads in Kansas City.