With the band re-entering the studio at the end of this year, it’s the perfect time to revisit their epic back catalogue.
6. Era Vulgaris, 2007
I just want to kick off this list, and defuse your angry responses, by saying that Queens of the Stone Age (or, if we’re being perfectly honest, Josh Homme and various pals) have yet to release a bad album. Rather, they’ve just released weaker albums which fail to hit the dizzying heights and incredible consistency of their early classics. It’s impossible to call Era Vulgaris a bad album, but it is possible to call it a disappointing one. It’s an album that sounds like wasted potential. It sees the band heading off in a variety of different musical directions on each of its 11 tracks without properly exploring any. It’s still got those explosive and downright dirty riffs which we love from the band, ‘3s and 7s’ and ‘Misfit Love’, and easily their sexiest slow-jam, ‘Make It Wit Chu’, but it’s also full of half-baked (pun intended?) ideas like ‘River in the Road’ and ‘Run Pig Run’.
Lead Single: ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’
Underrated Gem: ‘Misfit Love’
5. Queens of the Stone Age, 1998
It’s unfair to other bands to call this album a debut. Whilst it was the full-length album from Queens of the Stone Age, Homme had already cut his teeth working with bands like Kyuss and Screaming Trees, and the initial band was comprised of various members from these outfits who already had a proven chemistry. As such, the album knows exactly what it wants to be right from epic opener ‘Regular John’; loud, powerful riffs complemented by smooth vocals. Unfortunately the album is a little too focussed (which I understand sounds rich being that I just accused Era Vulgaris of the exact opposite) and even the most impressive cuts feel a bit ‘one-note’ by the end. They just aren’t treated to the dramatic and playful shakeups that make the bands next two albums (Rated R and Songs for the Deaf) so fucking good.
Lead Single: ‘If Only’
Underrated Gem: ‘Avon’
4. Lullabies to Paralyse, 2005
Following Songs for the Deaf was always going to be an impossible task, so you’ve got to hand it to Homme for still putting out a pretty decent album. Unfortunately, after the epic inventiveness of Songs and Rated R, this one just sounds a little bit bland. It’s still got that big, dirty riffage in standout tracks like ‘Little Sister’ and ‘Burn the Witch’ but much like the self-titled, it all gets a bit plodding and feels like too much of the same by the end. As much as you may love the band, you can’t deny that tracks like ‘Someone’s in the Wolf’ and ‘The Blood is Love’ start strong but entirely run out of steam about halfway through.
Lead Single: ‘Little Sister’
Underrated Gem: ‘Tangled Up In Plaid’
3. Songs for the Deaf, 2002
Until the end of time, debated will rage on as to whether Rated R or Songs for the Deaf is the quintessential QOTSA album. Whilst they’re both undeniably brilliant, Rated R pulls off the genre-hopping slightly more organically, with super-heavy Oliveri-led tracks like ‘Tension Head’ feeling more at home than ‘Six Shooter’. The road trip concept still makes for an incredible album which perfectly encapsulates the sense of speeding down a dusty desert road, manically flipping through channels. Technically speaking, the album is a musical masterclass, from the Black Flag inspired drum fills on ‘Song for the Dead’, to the bass-line which opens ‘First It Giveth’, to the constantly air-guitared solos of ‘No One Knows’.
Lead Single: ‘No One Knows’
Underrated Gem: ‘Song for the Dead’
2. …Like Clockwork, 2013
After two serviceable but somewhat lacking albums, the band exploded back onto the scene with their most recent work …Like Clockwork. The album is a curious blend, seeing the band return to the inventive take on hard rock which exemplified their second and third albums, whilst still taking their sound in uniquely grandiose directions, indebted as much to power-ballads (looking at you ‘I Appear Missing’) and funk rock (‘Smooth Sailing’) as typical heavy music (‘My God is the Sun’). The album also boasts one of the most incredible lineups in recent rock history, featuring the likes of Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Elton John, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta), Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) and James Lavelle (U.N.K.L.E.).
Lead Single: ‘My God is the Sun’
Underrated Gem: ‘I Appear Missing’
1. Rated R, 2000
“Perfect album” is a huge claim to throw around, and you run the risk of sounding like a blindsided fanboy, but Rated R comes pretty damn close. It’s one of those rare albums that just flows perfectly from start to finish (without the assistance of studio trickery like the interludes on Songs) and explores the core sounds and influences of the band’s musically diverse members. Compared with the more-or-less straightforward hard rock of their debut, Rated R twists and turns its way through alt, stoner (although the band themselves decry this term), heavy, groove-based and playful sounds without once sounding messy or disjointed like Era.
Lead Single: ‘The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret’
Underrated Gem: ‘Better Living Through The Chemistry’