For all its dark undertones, Josh Homme and co.'s eighth studio album might be their most welcoming
“The truth is just a piece of clay,” sings Josh Homme with one of his hearty bellows on ‘Paper Machette’, an early track on the new Queens Of The Stone Age album, In Times New Roman… “You sculpt, you change, you hide, then you erase.”
It’s been six years since Homme and his band – currently consisting of Troy Van Leeuwen, Jon Theodore, Dean Fertita and Michael Shuman – last released their last studio album, Villains. In that time, Homme has been cast, cut and thrown in a way that likely informs his metaphor: dealing with a high-profile divorce; the deaths of many close friends including Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, ex-QOTSA vocalist Mark Lanegan and culinary rock star Anthony Bourdain; and, most recently, being treated for cancer – “just the cherry on top of an interesting time period,” he told Revolver magazine.
It’s only natural, then, that In Times New Roman…, released 16 June on Matador records, should reflect such a heavy period. A press statement describes the band’s eighth album as “raw, at times brutal and not for the faint of heart.” Sure, Homme does paint a world of oblivion, human sacrifice, purging, preparing for war and other images of chaos – but musically In Times New Roman… might be one of Queens Of The Stone Age’s most accessible outputs.
That’s not to say it’s their cleanest or crispest album. Villains might take that one. But its balance of dark, quintessential stoner sludge and grizzle is balanced out far evenly here.
Take lead single ‘Emotion Sickness.’ In tone it captures the reckless and short-lived grasp of nihilism after the end of a relationship, yet its chorus circles the band’s sweetest melodies; all wailing and soft in 70’s classic rock nostalgia. ‘Obscenery’ also a chorus fit for a Bond film, while the measured pace of ‘Straight Jacket Fitting’ helps ease some of its rhythmic punches. Strings give the steamy ‘Sicily’ a lecherous lucidity, though watch out for its heady climax.
In Times New Roman… will inevitably slap with more heft and clout live. But on record, its sludgy chaos is present enough to appease the ol’ timers but never invasive enough to ward off new admirers.