Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age
Rekords Rekords/Domino

In the mid-90s, by the time the rest of the world had caught up with the monolithic, low-end grooves being created out in the Coachella Valley by stoner rock’s ground zero, Kyuss, the band had already splintered. Even still, when guitarist Josh Homme and drummer Alfredo Hernandez reconvened as Queens of the Stone Age, there wasn’t an audience waiting for them with baited breath. Rock was supposedly on its death bed, or at least had been run out of town by so-called post-rock and electronica, when the pair released their self-titled debut on Stone Gossard’s Loosegrove label.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but as later albums like Rated R would further prove, the Queens should have been hard to ignore. As much as they reveled in extreme volume and rugged guitar textures, this wasn’t a band that could be easily quarantened as metal, grunge, or sludgy revisionism. In one fell swoop, Homme, who played both guitar and bass on the record, showed himself to be a rock epicurean capable of meshing pop hooks with heavy metal thunder (“How to Handle a Rope”), injecting glam pomp with stoner rumble (“If Only”), and sometimes combining all of the above at once.

Remastered and reissued for Homme’s own Rekords Rekords label, the album is back in circulation to be given the respect it deserves. (And with the Queens not having put out a new album since 2007, it affords them the opportunity to do the “classic album” tour.) Added to the mix are three rarities: “The Bronze” and “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For” from a 1998 EP split with Beaver and “Spiders and Vinegaroon” from another EP also featuring a posthumous Kyuss cut. “Droids,” a bass-heavy prog instrumental, is probably the weirdest of the bunch, but though it thwarts the album’s momentum, it nonetheless assimilates easily amongst the album’s grungy hodgepodge.

But it is the record’s meaty core that remains QOTSA’s attraction. From the onset of “Regular John” to “You Would Know,” the album’s first six songs, Homme and Hernandez create a headspace claustrophobic with hooks. Here the record has a quaaludic affect, a fuzzy sonic vision that seems to constantly shift. On the surface, there’s nothing particularly complicated at work here, but all the little touches add up to a seismic sound. More impressive still is that it continues to sound this way 13 years later, its power undiminished and perhaps even more rare these days. Now if someone would just reissue those Kyuss records...
Stephen Slaybaugh