Thursday, 21 July 2011

Era Vulgaris-Queens Of The Stone Age

When I think about misunderstood albums, this is the one I always think of. Perhaps that’s because of what QOTSA where when the recorded this album; Songs for the Deaf is one of the all-time best straight rock albums, I’d recommend it but chances are you already have it.
Era Vulgaris is not a straight rock album at all. Era Vulgaris is offbeat, ugly and clunky. Era Vulgaris is also a record that I adore to pieces. This album however needs a fair bit of explaining. The title means “common age” and refers to the decadent, self-absorbed culture of today. Josh  Homme is rarely his charming rocker self, instead taking the role of a spoilt, modern brat and sarcastically ripping them with their own tongue. If you will, this album is a satire of the YouTube generation. The lyrics have a very Tom Sawyer-ish feel about them. “I’m Designer” is a blast if you get this concept. The drums are clunky on this track, the guitar screeches repeatedly while the lyrics efferminately declare “We all have our own style and bag-age, why hump it yourself?”. In the chorus Homme’s true voice comes out, calling the verses “lies” and bemoaning his plastic existence.
The sound is appropriately off-beat; the chords sound like they were devised with random rolls of dice. This isn’t a metal album at all, but the sound is robotic and mechanical melody certainly wasn’t one of the priorities, focusing on repeating weird noises until they have dug so far into your brain they work. QOTSA have always been a hypnotic band too, I mean c’mon, they named an album “Lullabies to Paralyze”. Era sees a lot of this, the opening track “Turning on the Screw” has on odd solo (?) where Homme declares “you sound like this” before all the instruments repeat the same sustained sound over and over. It’s witty and odd stuff, the kind of thing I can see people really hating if they aren’t into some good old fashioned sound lashing. On “Battery Acid” the drums just pound the same beat over and over, the only difference is they get louder and louder as the band ramp up the intensity. Also “Robots! Robots! Brain Washed Babies!” Is the greatest hook ever.
Era is an eclectic mix too. Track 7 drastically changes gear to a straight blues song, in text slang of course, “Make It Wit Chu”.  Josh is back on his charming sexy self and is a welcome return. Overall though QOTSA tongue is firmly in their cheek, I fear I have made this sound too arty when infact it is big, dumb noisy fun with a brainy twist.
This album is a divisive choice; I know people who despise it and people who love it. You won’t know which one you are until you try it yourself. Worse comes to the worse, it’s a cool bit of album art to have on you iPod.

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