Queens of the Stone Age : In Times New Roman…

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Queens of the Stone Age In Times New Roman... review

If the elevator pitch for Villainsthe second-most-recent offering from Josh Homme and company—is “Queens of the Stone Age play disco,” then their newest album, In Times New Roman… might fairly be described as “Queens of the Stone Age play rock music.” Which may sound a little redundant, seeing as a hard, persistent, classically bellicose brand of rock is precisely what Queens of the Stone Age have spent the past 25 years building up a reputation for. But hear me out, because there is a purpose to this explanation that goes beyond simply pointing out the obvious.

When you take Queens of the Stone Age’s penchant for firm, hypnotically driving rhythms, and apply them to dance beats, you’ll end up with something that sounds a lot like “The Way You Used to Do.” But what In Times New Roman… does is take the band’s established formula and apply it back to its established formula, creating a recursive listening experience that ranks among the heaviest they’ve ever put out. And not simply in terms of the record’s overall intensity or power—the music has been crafted with rather more precision than that. By doubling up on the relentlessness, the bounce, and the attitude, the Queens seem to be consciously echoing the forthright, insistent sound of a particular brand of ‘70s rock—the sort featuring short, punchy, aggressive riffs, repeated with a kind of sleazy confidence that evokes the cock-rock championed by bands like AC/DC or Mötley Crüe (though the impression, mercifully, makes it only as far as the instrumentation, and drops off long before it gets anywhere close to the lyrics). The resulting style is one so brazen and so in-your-face that it suggests something close to self-parody—like the band is an actor playing himself.

Which, to be clear, is absolutely no bad thing. Because when the Queens of the Stone Age amp up their more flamboyant instincts, and consciously feed into their sense of hard-rock braggadocio, what we get is an album that is simply overflowing with fun. From “Made to Parade,” with its glitchy, nonchalant, swagger of a riff that struts throughout the song like it owns the place, to the jerky grooves and suave vocals of “Time & Place,” there are very few moments on the album that don’t feel maximized for a good time. Opener “Obscenery” retains a few dance influences reminiscent of the band’s last effort, while “What the Peephole Say” gets the closest to those aforementioned hair metal affectations the album appears to be orbiting, with its upbeat, bluesy guitar lines and devil-may-care lyricism (“Tonight is the night / Setting fires, breaking rules”).

Despite all this, the album is far from one-note, thanks to the frequent use of a comprehensive string section. It makes up (among much else) the beautifully, hauntingly sinister refrain on “Sicily,” and is combined with gloriously thunderous percussive glitching on the outro to “Carnavoyeur,” creating a delicate contrast to the song’s harsh, mechanical forward march. The strings foster an element of surrealism that connects the album back to the band’s roots—a kind of sonic approximation of how it might feel to grow woozy from the sun’s unyielding heat in a featureless desert in the middle of nowhere.

Beyond perhaps one or two filler tracks, In Times New Roman…’s embrace of a more traditional rock sound never makes Queens of the Stone Age feel like a band on autopilot. Instead, they sound like a band writing with a great deal of wit and sophistication, zeroing in on a few specific parts of their oeuvre, and then wringing them out with an infectious amount of enthusiasm.

Label: Matador

Year: 2023

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