Queens of the Stone Age Return With Triumphant Dance-Rock Record ‘Villains’

There’s always been a sense of groove to Queens of the Stone Age. Perhaps it comes from the desert vibes they inject into their music, or lead singer Josh Homme’s slithering movements and soulful vocal ability. Since they stepped onto the scene with 2000’s “Rated R,” and 2002’s follow-up “Songs For The Deaf,” which spawned the Guitar Hero fan-favorite “No One Knows,” everything that Homme touches turns to gold. From his side projects Eagles of Death Metal to Them Crooked Vultures, Homme’s a true virtuoso, a king among rock’s underground scene. As the only consistent member of Queens, there tend to be a handful of years between releases as he rounds up a new set of bandmates. Four years separate 2013’s “…Like Clockwork” and the band’s latest release, “Villains,” a new record – and new sound — for Homme and his ever-evolving group.

This time around, well-known producer Mark Ronson was recruited to run production. A controversial pick in the minds of hardcore QOTSA fans who prayed to the rock gods that their beloved front man would maintain his edge. Fortunately, what Ronson brings to “Villains” is simply a sense of danceability. Will rock fans be able to trade head banging for ass shaking? Ronson and Homme are here to find out. The lead single “The Way You Used to Do” is a good example of this unlikely combination. Underpinned by an upbeat rhythm and topped with flashy guitar riffs, even featuring handclaps throughout, this tune has Ronson written all over it. That said, however, Homme’s mark is just as clear. Homme’s describes their new direction on “The Way You Used to Do” saying “I fully realize that may be a little more than some are open to…If some of the more close-minded are gently pruned, that just leaves more room on the dance floor for the open-minded ones to get loose.”

“Villains” barely makes LP status coming in at a modest nine tracks, but each one packs an equally pungent flavor. The second single, “The Evil Has Landed,” stretches to over six minutes and shows about the catchiest bit of guitar playing Homme has ever arranged. Drummer Jon Theodore is super tight over the semi-complex rhythm changes. The tune certainly is dance-rock worthy, but more importantly, it’s just fun. Homme has always been one for entertainment — the album announcement video featured a comedy skit with Liam Lynch who’s directed comedians like Sarah Silverman and comedy-prone rock bands like Tenacious D, No Doubt and Foo Fighters. Even the album title, which on the surface evokes a sense of our current political climate, is actually just a word that Homme thought “looks fantastic.”

Homme’s 44-year-old voice sounds as young, vibrant and unadulterated as ever. Ginger Elvis, as some fans have adoringly called him, still maintains his sense of youth and animation. “Un-Reborn Again” finds the singer goofily belting out lines like “Twizzy gon’ twitch / He said no huggy, no kissy / Until I get a wedding ring.” Theremin riffs and debauched lyrics take over the raucous “Head Like a Haunted House,” featuring such gems as “Xanadu’s and xanadon’ts / Edumacate me, copulate me” and “Screwacide / With posterior so superior.”

Though throughout the amusement found amongst most of “Villains,” it ends on a serious, albeit gorgeous, note. “Villains of Circumstance” has been in Homme’s repertoire since he first wrote it in 2014. The pace is slow, with bursts of light and life coming through the chorus. This song is part of his legacy as an artist. “Close your eyes and dream me home / Forever mine, I’ll be forever yours,” he sings of love torn apart by distance. In a rare occurrence, Homme said this song came to him all at once, naturally one of those moments where creative cognizance takes over the physical body. “I think that’s why I love the music so much because I can’t explain it all away for someone who doesn’t get it,” says the singer, “but I can play it and it seems so much more right.” It’s clear now after “Villains” that the legacy of Josh Homme isn’t yet finished.

Villains” is available Aug. 25 on Apple Music.