When Josh Homme signed up as Screaming Trees touring guitarist following the dissolution of his cult ‘desert rock’ band Kyuss in 1995, no-one could have foreseen that he was quietly incubating plans to form what would become one of the most influential and powerful rock bands of the new century. Queens Of The Stone Age’s original mission statement was to make rock music “heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls”, and two decades and six studio albums on, his band’s ‘trance robot music’ still sounds like the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Here are QOTSA’s ten finest songs.
10. If Only
That greasy I Wanna Be Your Dog re-write If Only (in its original form as If Only Everything) appeared on Josh Homme’s 1996 Gamma Ray EP, then again on the Kyuss/Queens Of The Stone Age split EP in 1997, before being re-recorded – in a tighter, superior form - for QOTSA’s self-titled debut album in 1998, shows just how important the song was to its creator’s vision of life post-Kyuss.
9. “You Got A Killer Scene There, Man…”
With guest spots from, among others, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, Jesse Hughes, Jack Black and here, on ‘sultry vocals’, Garbage’s Shirley Manson and The Distillers Brody Dalle, 2005’s Lullabies To Paralyse album channelled some of the loose, woozy, lysergic vibe of Homme’s infamous Desert Sessions jams. “You Got A Killer Scene…” sounds like the precise point where a group of friends begin to recover consciousness after a tequila and hallucinogen-fuelled 72 hour orgy and realise bad, bad things have occurred.
8. Make It Wit Chu
First recorded, with PJ Harvey on backing vocals, as I Wanna Make It Wit Chu on Volume 9 of the Desert Sessions series, then re-recorded for QOTSA’s 2007 album Era Vulgaris, the slinky Make It Wit Chu was inspired by Homme’s initial lust for then girlfriend, now wife, Brody Dalle. “I was a bit of a slut to be honest… always here today, gone tomorrow,” Homme admitted. “But when I met Brody I was like ‘I’m here today, and I’m coming back tomorrow’.”
7. Little Sister
Partially inspired by the 1961 Elvis Presley single of the same name, Lullabies To Paralyse’s snappy first single – allegedly recorded in just one take - is charged with sizzling sexual energy thanks to the Ginger Elvis’ leeringly suggestive lyrics, such as ‘Hey little sister, can I come inside, dear?’ and ‘It’s such a sweet thing when you open up, baby.’
6. Go With The Flow
Speaking of his time in QOTSA, Dave Grohl once said “If you can say that you were a member of Queens Of The Stone Age that’s like wearing a patch on your chest that says ‘I Am A Badass’ for the rest of your life.” The band’s last-gang-in-town outlaw swagger is perhaps best illustrated by Songs For The Deaf’s killer second single, a deathless ode to squeezing every last drop of pleasure out of our one shot at life.
5. Feel Good Hit Of The Summer
QOTSA’s second album, 2000’s Rated R, carries faux ‘parental advisory’ warnings, with its riotous opening track promising ‘Adult Situations’, ‘Consumption’ and ‘Illegal Substances’. Even so, the gleeful (Rob Halford-assisted) chant of ‘Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol!’ topped off by Homme’s stuttering roar of ‘C-c-c-c-c-cocaine!’ was a startling, striking introduction to their major label debut.
4. The Vampyre Of Time And Memory
During what should have been routine knee surgery in 2010, Josh Homme’s heart stopped on a LA hospital operating table: “It was not the greatest and funnest [sic] thing ever,” he noted afterwards with a hint of understatement. This near death experience understandably leant QOTSA’S next album, 2013’s …Like Clockwork, a more sober, sombre and meditative air, not least on the beautiful, wistful piano-led Vampyre… which begins with the memorable lyric ‘I want God to come and take me home.’
3. The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret
Queens’ first UK Top 40 single was regularly introduced onstage by Josh Homme as “a song about fucking”, its themes of lies, lust, betrayal and violence marking it out as a peculiarly sinister and menacing pop hit. Josh Homme once claimed that “making people uncomfortable” was one of his favourite hobbies, and he accomplishes that here, while still making joining him in the darkness sound dangerously seductive.
2. Regular John
In 2011, Josh Homme stated that it was “quite possible” that Regular John, the opening song on QOTSA’s self-titled 1998 debut album, is the best song he’s ever written. Certainly it’s a wonderful introduction to his band, with a thrillingly insistent, fuzzed-up ‘robot rock’ riff and an intense motorik groove. “The vocals and the guitar are out … but it has a thing to it,” Homme later mused. “It has its own wicked way.”
1. No-One Knows
Co-written with former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan, the lead-off single from 2002’s wonderful Songs For The Deaf album is inarguably QOTSA’s best-known and best-loved song. Introduced by a twitching, shuddering Homme riff, the track really explodes into life with the ferocious rhythmic interplay between guest drummer Dave Grohl, bassist Nick Oliveri and Homme around the three minute mark, which recalls nothing less than Led Zeppelin at their most telepathically locked-in. What’s it about? “It’s a mystery,” Josh Homme told MTV in 2002. “No-one knows.” Cheers fella.