You, my friend, are as common as a dumpster rat. You’re forgotten like a peanut shell beneath a bar stool. Or, maybe you’re just information, ripped out like a yellow page from a phone-booth book hanging from a chain. The end times sound like a thrill compared to this, the common times. The Era Vulgaris. At least you’re not lonely, ‘cause we’re all in it. And at least it sounds good, ‘cause Queens of the Stone Age are playing it.
“It’s actually a reaction to what we think is the era vulgaris. You don’t have time. I already know that. And, so, here we go: Pow, pow, pow, pow, pow. In a world of short bursts, it’s like trying to reach down someone’s throat in two seconds.”
That, my friend, was Josh Homme speaking, the singer, guitarist, mind of Queens of the Stone Age. He’s also common. As is Troy Van Leeuwen, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, member of the band…common folk. He’d like to add the following about the new album:
“Lean is a great word for it. ‘Cause we don’t have that many songs on the record. And it’s like who’s got the fucking time? Not us. We want to get the point out there. Slam, bang.”
Have Queens of the Stone Age given up? Is this when we see behind the curtain, the gears all rusted and stripped, a broken machine, the end of an era? No. Listen closely to lead single “Sick, Sick, Sick,” featuring the Casio keyboard-guitar and vocal stylings of one Julian Casablancas, leader of the Strokes, complicit in QOTSA’s determination to cut through the static. “Don’t resist,” so the song suggests. I dare you to, my friend.
Have a go at “I’m Designer” and try not to see yourself in that one. It’s a carnival crystal ball tapped by long black fingernails, a murky view into the close future where your own name means less than the labels on your shirts and devices. “The thing that’s real for us is fortune and fame/All the rest seems like work/It’s just like diamonds… in shit.” If ever there were, my friend, an anthem for an era with no anthems, this is it. Raise your fist in the air to this one. (The fist without the phone, please.)
There’s the sliding lap-steel metallic chirp of some pre-historic bird perched inside “3’s and 7’s,” a roundtable song of poker, the sport of lying, where money can be made from a straight flush or a straight face. “Into the Hollows” beckons with a rubber-band bass line, while it wonders about hiding in a place that’s deep and dark, asking if you’ll be swallowed or safe or both. “Battery Acid” buzzes like a hundred houseflies, marching and chanting exactly like something you’d be hard pressed to rinse from your skin.
These eleven new songs by Queens of the Stone Age are specifically designed to interrupt your programming. Joey Castillo’s drumming is clean as a bone, complex like a skeleton. Troy sounds like he’s trying to summon something out of his own body that he’s never even seen. Mark Lanegan’s voice is here, like a crackling fire made from stolen scrolls. Chris Goss acts as anchor, like a catcher with as many RBIs as thrown-out runners. Mr. Joshua Homme shows that you can clear six-feet-four inches and sing falsetto, you can sneer and sing harmony, you can work and you can play. He also proves, by willpower alone, that you can find a small space in this common, vulgar era to do something uncommon. There is hope, my friend. It is Era Vulgaris.
“In an age that’s fast like this, how do you fall in love with somebody? How do you become a master painter? Who sacrifices the time and effort to wait?” asks Mr. Homme. “But I love facing insurmountable odds, because someone’s gotta make it. It’s like being in the Civil War where they just stand in front of each other. You run at a line of people and they are dropping on your left and right. You can get down on the ground and cry or turn around. Or, you keep going. Someone has to make it. Why shouldn’t it be you?”