Queens Of The Stone Age: In Times New Roman…[Album Review]

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Queens Of The Stone Age
In Times New Roman…
Matador Records [2023]

To say that Josh Homme has been an influential presence in rock music since the mid-’80s is an undeniable truth. Placed somewhere between a V8 Hemi and the undead Elvis, Homme has stumbled, fuzzed, buzzed, strutted, and grooved through all of his endeavors, gaining notoriety through stoned fuzz lords Kyuss. From there, numerous rock and roll doors opened. On the tail end of the ’90s, Queens of the Stone Age was born out of an EP that featured leftover Kyuss songs and Homme’s aforementioned new full-time project. With a self-titled album and a few more under their belt, we arrive here in 2023 with their eighth studio album, In Times New Roman.

Now, if there’s one thing I never thought I’d get, it was Homme’s dirty laundry. Homme has dealt with addiction to snorting crystal meth, a near-death experience during leg surgery, a battle with cancer that was successfully removed through surgery, and an intense and nasty custody battle with his ex-wife Brody Dalle over their three kids, resulting in a judge granting a restraining order against Dalle. Some of that turmoil fueled the creation of the 2013 classic Like Clockwork. However, it was the experiences with cancer, the pandemic, the loss of close friends, depression, and the marital battle that shaped what Homme refers to as the “sonic brutality” of In Times New Roman.

This album was written for cathartic reasons, as greatness can emerge from strife, tragedy, and exposing oneself. Unfortunately, we witnessed one of the best Foo Fighters’ records, But Here We Are, after the death of their longtime drummer Taylor Hawkins and Grohl’s mother, Virginia. In Times New Roman… feels somewhat akin to that. “Obscenery” struts out on the catwalk first, emanating a demented, sickening sexiness that only the Queens can pull off. “Paper Machete” feels like a direct aim at Dalle, presenting one of their strongest songs of this decade. With a vibe reminiscent of “3’s & 7’s” (one of my favorite QOTSA songs), it cruises down the road, setting everything ablaze in its wake. “Negative Space” is a fun little romp that borrows some notes from “Long Slow Goodbye,” while Homme sneaks in a bit of a “Wolf at the Door” croon. “Time & Place” plinks down the fretboard with spooky wails, accompanied by another mesmerizing guitar line.

Some of my favorite moments from Queens of the Stone Age are when they reference themselves or other music projects that Homme has been involved in. What makes “Made to Parade” so appealing is that it could easily pass as a Them Crooked Vultures B-side. Homme and his un-merry crew feel like they’re leading the true black parade by the end of the song. “What the Peephole Say” is not only a great song by Queens, but also one of the smartest they have written. The chorus twirls with the lyrics, “And the wolf’s on the creep with the sheep on the merry-go-round.” It’s an anthem of “fuck it all/who cares” that I bet felt as good to sing as it was to hear. On the other hand, “Sicily” slinks across the floor but unfortunately stands as one of the weakest tracks on the album. Its spooky trudge slows down the momentum of the album, and the guitars bend and warp while the vocals seem to get lost in the mix. The album concludes with something new for Queens: a nine-minute album ender called “Straight Jacket Fitting.” In this song, Homme realizes that you will never truly be healed and free until you let go of your demons.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of Queens of the Stone Age, I have to recommend that you watch The Block with Neal Brennan. He recently interviewed Josh, and it was one of the most honest and raw conversations I’ve ever witnessed. In the interview, Josh describes the album as a “sonic photograph,” once again emphasizing its cathartic nature and the need for its creation in Homme’s life. Everything was falling apart, which led Queens to produce their most intelligent album in years. The only challenge of being Queens of the Stone Age is that you are constantly compared to Queens of the Stone Age. Yes, I gave their 2017 playful album, Villains, a 4, which it really didn’t deserve. Similarly, Like Clockwork… was also given a 4, but it turned out to be a masterclass in rock and style. In Times New Roman demonstrates that the band hasn’t lost their spark and wit. In the interview, Homme mentioned that he didn’t aspire to be in the biggest rock band in the world, but that’s not something that happens by accident!

“Paper Machete” / “Time & Place” / “What The Peephole Say”

Them Crooked Vultures / All Them Witches / Kingswood

Villains (2017) / …Like Clockwork (2013)

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Christopher Tahy

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