Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (Deluxe Edition)

By on Tuesday, 20th July 2010 at 12:00 pm

It’s been a whopping 10 years since the release of Queens of the Stone Ages’ breakthrough record, Rated R. The millennium dawned as the Queens signed to a major label, and with their second record, proved to the world that this controversial move doesn’t mean you have to compromise your sound. Hailed one of the greatest albums of the decade by the likes of Rolling Stone magazine, Rated R also sits quite comfortably amid by ‘Favourite Records of All Time’ list. The album is a, dare I say it, rock masterpiece – 45 flowing minutes of sultry sounds sending you off in all sorts of directions – and still remaining as fresh and as edgy as it was back in 2000. Alas, I was pretty freekin’ happy when I heard Homme and co were to release a deluxe edition of the album next month to celebrate the big tenth anniversary of Rated R. Along with the original record, the special edition is packed with a second disc containing a live performance from Reading Festival in 2000, and some B sides to boot. Aka, party time for a Queens of the Stone Age fan girl/boy like myself (ahem, I don‘t have posters of Josh Homme on my wall really, promise).

Okay so let’s get down to looking at the important stuff, those eleven incredible tracks that compromise the demigod album that is Rated R. The record kicks off with ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’, a song about life’s excesses. Not that you wouldn’t have worked this out yourself as Homme spits the lyrics of “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ectasy and Alcohol. C-C-C-COCAINNNEE” into your speaker. Drugs are bad, kids, bad, but boy said list of illegal substances sounds incredible when set to crunky riffs which march towards the listener like angry troops. And then a transition as smooth as Sean Connery rolls in song two, ‘Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’, an endlessly sexy, smoky track led by growling distorted riffs, and a devious Homme, who practically bites your earlobes as he coos “Whatever you do…don’t tell anyone”.

Track four, ‘Auto Pilot’ – one of favourite songs on the album – is a haze of psychedelic musical smoke rising. Bassist Nick Oliveri’s vocals take on an placid tone, adding to the dreamy atmosphere of this track’s waterfall licks and wispy military drums which make you as high as the trip it’s telling of – “I wanna fly, I wanna ride with you.”. The trip continues with ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ which ultimately lands in a crescendo of mesmerizing harmonies, sounding wholly ambient despite the ferocity of guitars and drums slapping away in the distance.

Before we take it too easy, Oliveri is quick to shimmy back into the driver’s seat, taking the wheel of the automobile that is Rated R and steering it into a further, notably more hectic direction. Cranking up the volume with ‘Quick and to the Pointless’, the track is a monstrous recipe of screeching vocals, cheerleader chants and chunky instrumentation, it’s fast, hard power reflecting the reality of the one quick and sweaty take it was recorded in. The hardcore punk continues with ‘Tension Head’. Nick’s screams of “I’m feeling so sick!” amid insane guitars make it a shot of passionate musical rage that gets your heart pumping and head banging, perfectly counterbalancing Homme’s more melodic waves amongst the album.

A suave instrumental, ‘Lightning Song’, takes the BPM down again as the album slowly draws to a close, concluding on ‘I Think I Lost My Headache’, an epic 8 minute song said to be Homme’s favourite track on the whole album. Flying irrationally between spiky, irregular time signatures, the distorted rhythm perfectly reflects the disturbing lyrics of paranoia sung by Joshua in his humid falsetto, “It’s all my head I know, so they tell me so, until my head explodes, into my head it goes”. The track finishes up with tumbling riffs that give way to a brass section repeating the same monotonous tune, concluding Rated R on an aptly unpredictable, genius note.

And that’s just CD 1. Don’t forget the reissue of Rated R will also treat you to an epic performance from Reading Festival in 2000, which perfectly captures the Queens’ ferocious live attitude. On top of that you have a selection of B Sides to revel in, including wonderful covers of new wave band Romeo Void’s track, ‘Never Say Never’ and The Kinks’ ‘Who’ll Be the Next in Line?’.

But alas, while these extras are incredible (and a notably nifty incentive to make all current Rated R owners to go out and buy the deluxe version), it is important to remember the pinnacle part of this package is disc one, Rated R, the album that flung Queens of the Stone Age into both the ears, and hearts, of listeners around the world. The record is a simply amazing piece of work which brought Grammy nominations and gold plates. A raw, wild journey through psychedelic, rock, hardcore and more – Queens of the Stone Age may have reached the status of royalty in rock in 2010, but this record is proof they were just that 10 years ago. Buy this album. Happy birthday, Rated R. I raise my glass to you

You can pre-order the duluxe edition from Amazon now. It’s out on 9th August.

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