QUEENS OF THE STONEAGE
'NICOTINE, VALIUM, VIDOCAN, MARIJUANA, ECSTACY AND ALCOHOL. C-C-C-C-C-COCAINE!’ No, not Keith Richards’ shopping list, these are the lyrics to a pop song. In this age when your average chart topper is a thinly-veiled orgy of humping, snorting and sweating — witness Ricky Martin’s ‘She Bangs’ and Broccoli Spears’ ‘Baby, Hit Me One More Time’ - there’s a perverse joy to be had from a song whose lyrics are a list of recreational drugs. Look for the tongue, you’ll ﬁnd it ﬁrmly in a cheek. It’s called ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’. Sit back ,and immerse yourself in the irony.
What kind of low-lifes could be responsible for such debauchery? Narcotic- addled wasters? Drop-out subversives? Not at all. Say hello to Queens Of The Stoneage.
For now, the only thing making Nick Oliveri a less than lucid interviewee is sleep. It is noon in California and the Queens’ bearded, baldy, arch-hedonist bassist yawns as he answers the phone. ‘I was in the studio with another band yesterday [US scuzzpunks Dwarves to be exact] and we recorded thirteen songs,’ he says to explain his fatigue. ‘I’m going in to do another eleven today.’
Hardly the work ethic you’d expect from a bunch of mush-brained chemical fanciers. Well, that’s the point, you see. Queens Of The Stoneage aren’t. Well, not mush-brained anyway. They have the sharpness of the Stooges, the wit of Wilde and an eclecticism
that is all their own. Even so, the tales of hedonism on their second spectacular album Rated R are completely true. ‘We talk the talk and walk the walk,’ he laughs. ‘We wouldn’t sing about anything we couldn’t back up.’ Essentially a duo, Joshua Homme (vocals, guitars, tasty one-liners, tasty quiff) and Nick Oliveri (vocals, bass, bald/beard, propensity for impromptu on-stage nudity) are the centrifugal force to which numerous players are drawn. Both embody the rock ’n’ roll party spirit, Homme’s dry wit and laid-back demeanour complementing Oliveri’s excitable Tasmanian-Devil-at-a-New-Year-party antics. They may be sons of the slacker generation, but they are no strangers to the rock work ethic. As part of Kyuss, who were formed in 1991 in Palm Springs where Homme was brought up, they toured the world for several years. After Kyuss split in 1995, bands such as Metallica and Soundgarden began singing their praises and citing them as an inﬂuence.
The final output of Kyuss was a compilation entitled Queens Of The Stoneage, a sly dig at the homophobic rednecks who’d frequent their gigs.
While the genius of Kyuss remains virtually undiscovered, Queens Of The Stoneage are about to blow up. One reason is the accessibility of their new sound. The full album title is Rated R: Restricted to Everyone, Everywhere, All Of The Time. It’s no idle boast. There’s more than enough to hold anyone’s attention. Think of Blur at their most perverse, Jon Spencer at his most strung out, Captain Beefheart at his most wiry and They Might Be Giants at their most exploratory. Throw in plenty of stomping guitar riffs, sundry oddball instruments (steel drums, baritone sax, lap steel) and you can see why NME is hyping them as ‘the biggest US rock threat since Nirvana’.
But what of the critics who’ve pigeon- holed them into a corner labelled ‘stoner rock’? Nick Oliveri is quick to retort. ‘We have been placed in a very small room called stoner rock, that room is in a very big house called rock ‘n’ roll and we just want to roam around that house and take in the decor.’ This is very much how the Queens work. They are more than just a musical Cheech and Chong. They are the best new rock band around. Smart, but not smug, loud but not noisy, relaxed but not unfocused, the Queens are the real deal.
'We're in a big house called rock 'n' roll and we just want to roam around that house and take in the decor.’
While heavy rock has enjoyed a renaissance over the last year (Motorhead T- shirts in Top Shop indeed), it’s still seen as the curly-cornered nudie mag stashed under the pubescent divan of popular music. The Queens are proof that there’s always been an innovative side to the genre, inheriting the adventurousness of Led Zeppelin and the pop sensibility of Nirvana.
The band’s shows at this year’s European festivals included jaunts round Leeds and Reading where their popularity bumped them up the bill. ‘We always go down really well in Europe,’ Oliveri explains. ‘England, Scotland and Germany especially.’ For their live date at the Barrowland they will enrol those other big- assed rock beasts, Monster Magnet to support. ‘They like to party real hard too, those guys, so we’ll definitely have a good time with them. With everyone.’
And you will too. Take a chance, go with the Queens.
They walk the walk and talk the talk, but don't write off QUEENS OF THE Stoneage as dumb metal-heads. They're here to give rock a good name.
Words: Mark Robertson
Smart but not smug
'We wouldn't sing about anything we couldn’t back up.‘
Queens Of The Stoneage play Barrowland, Glasgow, Thu 16 Nov. Rated R is out now on Interscope.
To Be This Good Takes Ages
22 THE HST 2—16 Nov 2000