Desert rock superstars Queens Of The Stone Age have returned to retain their crown

Queens Of The Stone Age explore the more experimental corners of their psyche on eighth album In Times New Roman

Queens Of The Stone Age: In Times New Roman album art
(Image: © Matador Records)

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There's a real sense of digging deep into the Californian desert sands to rediscover the roots of Queens Of The Stone Age on In Times New Roman; a desire to reclaim the magic that made them so special and so insanely cool when they broke through with the timeless Rated R at the turn of the century. 

It's six years since their last album, Villains, which was produced by pop-funk superstar Mark Ronson. With their new album they've left the celebrity schoolyard behind - it's just the band, producing their own work from frontman Josh Homme's own studio.

Getting into the bunker and away from outside influences was absolutely the right thing to do, because this is the most vital Queens Of The Stone Age have sounded in years, effortlessly exuding that singular switchblade cool of theirs. They've always excelled at creating a sense of danger, of something violent about to kick off in the dead of night, and that is heightened to electrifying heights here. 

Lead single Emotion Sickness is the most straight-ahead song on the album, an instantly recognisable QOTSA peacock strut with a dreamy chorus to counterbalance the knuckleduster rhythm and howling riffs, but it's the album's other tracks that hold the real mystique.

The titles may be punny, but the songs are deadly serious. Glam harmonies and Beatles-inspired strings cut through the motorcycle grease and bourbon, cigarette smoke and body fluids of the sleazy, spaced opener Obscenery, guitar tracks stacked high to the ceiling and swirling like a room at 4am after an evening of bad decisions. 

Malice seethes through Negative Space, Homme's singular falsetto ghostly and full of bitterness. The artful Made For Parade comes across like Talking Heads after a stint in prison being corrupted by Vegas Strip gangsters, while Sicily is a desert-rock Bond theme from the underworld.

Even more intriguing are the moments when Homme channels his inner Bowie, that slightly halting delivery draped over jagged synths and queasy bass on Carnavoyeur before it ends on a spaghetti- western high. 

Bowie and Iggy also haunt Straight Jacket Fitting, a nine-minute panic attack in which Homme's harmonies sound like the voices in his head tormenting him. With chains rattling and visions of a manacled, wretched creature scratching at the walls, it's dark, until suddenly we're out, blinking into the light under a soothing gentle acoustic outro.

The classic stoner rock we know from QOTSA is alive and well, but on this record they've pushed themselves into the more experimental corners of their psyche.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.