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QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – Nottingham Rock City, November 25 2007

Posted: November 26th, 2007, by Chris S


You’re shitting me?

Seven years and a week in fact. That’s how long I have lived in Nottingham. I moved here on Saturday November 19 2000. I know it was this date because I moved all my boxes in, unpacked nothing and then sprinted down to Rock City in town to see Queens Of The Stone Age on the Rated R tour. They started with Feel Good Hit Of The Summer. It was like burying your head in a speaker cabinet.
I really and sincerely love QOTSA. The first 3 records are up there in my favourites. The first song I heard in the 21st Century was Regular John, played to me at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999 for the first time by a friend who couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard it. We listened to Rated R a lot in the bus on the first Gringo Records tour with Colin from Eska leading the air guitar activity too. Good times.
The only time I ever went on a “band outing” with the members of the first band I was in was Queens in Birmingham the day before we were due to go on tour to Holland. They were amazing. Goatsnake opened. King Adora played in the middle. The first thing Josh Homme said when he walked onstage was “The King is dead, long live the Queens”.
After enduring King Adora, I dug that muchly.

The reason I am reminiscing so much is not that I’m getting to that point in life where that’s all I do: though after 3 beers it’s a safe bet that this might happen. No; it’s that I’m trying to tell you I’m not a fair weather fan of this band. I genuinely love them. Really.
I am a sucker for a band thrust into the limelight who are happy to fuck with their position a little. Around Rated R and then through to Songs For The Deaf, that seemed to be their entire mission statement. If ever a band looked able to match the way Nirvana were successful but were still glorious fuck-ups then it was them. When other bands get known for ‘outrageous’ antics it’s usually as a giant polyfilla-type cover-up for a serious lack of anything that’s good when you get down to it. What made Queens different was that the songwriting was insanely good, creative and strange. Whereas most of their peers were still in debt to Kyuss and were interested in stretching their music in length and heaviness, Queens went the other way – compacting and editing their form into great songs and albums that sounded as fat as can be while simultaneously having no fat (filler) on them. Watching a band play a song as heavy and bizarre as Tension Head or something as basic and garage rock as If Only to huge crowds felt like the world was turning for the better.

I think if you don’t like this band you’ve probably stopped reading this review by now so I can assume if you’re still with me then you’re a fan of sorts at least and therefore you think you know where I am going with this. You think I’m going to bemoan the absence of Nick Oliveri and how the band sucks without him.

I’m not though. Not yet.

I love the first Queens record and Oliveri’s not on that (despite the photo on the sleeve). And to me Queens is as much about that monstrous guitar as anything. As someone who is sick of seeing ‘guitar’ bands where all you can hear is the fucking bass drum, seeing Queens play was always like some supreme relief. Josh Homme is one of the most creative guitarists I’ve ever seen/heard. Also, I saw one of Oliveri’s last shows with the band at the monstrous aircraft hangar that is the Horden Pavillion in Sydney, Australia. It was a good one, though I remember thinking then that maybe this ‘cult band with a big following’ had become something else. I guess playing to about a million people in a shed does that.

So, when I heard Oliveri had been sacked I figured it’d work out. I especially figured this when I heard Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top was playing on the next record (Lullabies To Paralyze). It looked good.
But then the record came out and it was…OK.

I wanted to love it because this guy is right in my book but there was something missing. I am not a musicologist so my best explanation is “the weird shit had gone”. Sorry, I said I am not a musicologist. That 60s garage rock feel, the randomness, the songs that sort of sound like the Kinks a bit, or Elvis Costello or The Sweet or just that sense of them coming from somewhere you’re not sure of. That lovely fresh feel that something like No One Knows had. The idea that every other band dealing in ‘heavy’ was just chasing this band’s heels. What you’re left with when you take the weird out of Queens is basically just alternative rock.
And those, “aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh” ghostly-moaning harmonised vocals. It suddenly got a bit Alice In Chains. A bit ‘angsty’. In other words, things I don’t relate to this band were suddenly part of it.

So, anyway, this year the new record comes out. I was hugely impressed by the collaborations with PJ Harvey on the Desert Sessions record. If Lullabies lacked something startling then a song like Make It Wit Chu and it’s Marvin Gaye-isms brought that back. I could handle and relate to that. Everything back on track.
Guess what? It’s the best thing on the new record by a mile. Everything else seems like a great intro but the song never happens. It’s like Homme’s natural ability to just shit riffs out of his ass is still present but no one has thought to shape them into anything that is exceptional.
I think I get what’s meant to be happening, that minimal motorik groove that the band are famous for seems to be the basis for the record with simple riffs pounded on and made huge. It’s a formula that seems to be the basis for the last Bjork record and the 2 are strangely similar. But whereas with Bjork she just records things in such a strange way that you’re thrust out of understanding the process and all you have is the song to digest, the Queens record just seems like a band trying to force a round peg in a square hole. As a rock band, if you fuck about with sounds and get a bit techno on your audience the potential for doing something genuinely new is heightened. Simultaneous to this, unfortunately, is the likelihood that what you end up with sounds like Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson and I don’t give a fuck how nice those guys are and how cool it is to mince around in the desert with them, if you want a record to be good you keep any sign of them away from it. Don’t even mention their names as a joke in the studio or you hex the whole thing.

Still, at least the Bulby character adverts are funny as fuck. “Check my shoes, I think I just stepped in HIT!”.
But despite this, I still love this band. I am on their side.

So, Rock City, Sunday night, 3 albums and 7 years later.
80’s Matchbox B Line Disaster opened, taking full advantage of the age of the fanbase in the venue not being old enough to remember Livewire by Motley Crue. Both guitarists may as well have gone home. In fact they could have saved on van hire and just brought the bass drum, a bass with one low string on it and the vocalist for all I could hear out of the PA.
Rock City isn’t the nicest place to see a band though. It’s horribly designed, almost impossible to go for a slash or get a drink if it’s busy, the beer pumps never work (or if they do they figure the profit margins and time benefits of selling cans is better) and it often sounds crazy in there. All these regular problems were multiplied by about 50 by it being so oversold that every set of steps or walkway was rammed with people meaning any movement on your part was pretty much guaranteed to end in a fight. As a recent recipient of a new knee ligament, it was all a bit Bambi On Ice for me. It was like an obstacle course.
Also, it seemed like a more mainstream rock crowd. Queens in the past used to be a good place to meet your friends, my friend is strictly punk rock in the best sense but yet loves Queens and in fact emotionally refers to Homme as “The Ginger Elvis”. He wasn’t here. Instead it seemed like a lot of regular johns. Excuse the pun.

I saw the first 5 songs before my middle aged man-bladder got my attention and that was it. It took me 10 mins to go for a piss and then I couldn’t get anywhere where I could see. Not that I seem to have missed much. The sound was good but it didn’t sound like Queens anymore, the guitars sounded regular. It was all very normal sounding. No songs off the first record – and when the intro to a song like Misfit Love lasts longer than the whole of If Only then that’s a tragedy – and any older songs seemed to get fucked with until any feeling that they ever rocked had been sapped out of them.
Homme had a Discharge shirt on and the bass drum had a Black Flag logo on it but this was about as far from a punk rock show as you could imagine, it was a band running through the stuff they need to sell to a bunch of people who had paid so much money to get in that any feeling of objectivity had to have been removed. If I hadn’t been stuck next to the bar after having a wizz allowing me to at least get drunk, I think this gig might have just broken my heart.

I had to admit, after years of saying the opposite, that Queens without Nick Oliveri just isn’t as good. Maybe his role in the band was to stop Homme from doing anything that was bullshit, it certainly seems that way. I don’t miss the nudity, the (alleged) spousal battery and wackiness (I guess he was a member of The Dwarves, probably the shittiest band to ever get mileage out of playing with their cocks out) but I think what I miss is the feeling that it isn’t just another gig or just another album or that I’m a consumer. I miss that feeling of making things special and this being a band I would stand by no matter what.
Bang goes the job playing second guitar I suppose.

Chris S

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.


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