Queens of the Stone Age: In Times New Roman

Fucking perfect “EEER!!!…”

When the Designated Driver of Stoner Doom passes it your way, you can’t “just say no”!

Floating somewhere in the Shadow of Jupiter (shameless plug), our Designated Driver reached out to me for some assistance, and it may or may not have gone something like this:

Scott: “Hey man, uh, I think I need your help…”

Me: “Dude, are you okay?”

Scott: “I’ve taken too much, and I don’t think I can come back from it…”

Me: “Alright brother, you’re gonna be fine… we’ve all been there before. What are you on?”

Scott: “FUZZ”

Me: “Oh SHIT! Tonebender? Zonk? Hyperfuzz?”

Scott: “No… Big Muff…”

Me: “Fuck! Was it green?”

Scott: “Yep.”

Me: “Ugh… Green Big Muff is the worst! Captain Kirk fell for it. Starlord fell for it. Now you?!!! Ok… you’re just going to have to ride it out, brother. Everything is gonna be fine. Go lay down and throw some Elder on. If there’s anything else I can do for you, don’t hesitate to reach out.”

Scott: “Well, there IS something I need you to do for me…”

Me: “Anything for you, my brother!”

Scott: “I need you to review the new Queens of the Stone Age album, In Times New Roman for cleanandsoberstoner.com”

Me: “Dude, I’m a guitar player. I’m not a writer or reviewer. Additionally, I’m not a big fan of QOTSA…”

Scott: “You said, ‘anything’… EEER!!!”

Josh Homme: The Handsome Jerk

One of my best friends plays bass in a local cover band called, The Handsome Jerks. Their show flyers feature pictures of the 80’s pretty boy villains that we all loved to hate, including James Spader’s “Steff McKee” in Pretty in Pink, Ted McGinley’s “Stan Gabel” in Revenge of the Nerds, and my favorite, William Zabka’s “Johnny Lawrence” of Karate Kid and Cobra Kai fame.

When my love of drop C tuning and fuzz was reignited a few years back, I dove into the interwebz during my down time to absorb all things heavy underground. It didn’t take long for me to find the Desert Rock documentaries, Lo Sound Desert and Desert Age.

Within these docs, we are introduced to Joshua Homme; a young “All-American” looking lad that, by all appearances, throws no-hitters at your local baseball field on Saturdays during the summer, and 60-yard touchdown passes under the Friday night lights at your high school football field during the fall. He takes your girl; he trips band nerds and drama club dorks carrying their lunch trays… you get the drift.

Appearances are a funny thing. While watching these documentaries, the viewer is quickly sucked into the heat of the Sky Valley Desert. From my desk here in Northwest Indiana, I could smell the combination of weed, generator exhaust, gasoline fumes, spilled beer, and the sweat of hundreds of generator party attendees. Front and center, among all the talent that was happening at those parties, was a group of guys who went by the name of KYUSS. Three quarters of the band looked the part of burnout skater high school drop-out garage band member, while the guitarist looked like he swept Daniel LaRusso’s leg in the Sky Valley Karate Tournament earlier that afternoon.

I was very familiar with the talent that was wielding that old Ovation Ultra GP guitar while viewing these documentaries. Early Sabbathian tones with punk attitude that would quickly put Sky Valley on the map and Kyuss on the world stage. Homme would later leave Kyuss, move to Seattle, have a brief stint in Screaming Trees and eventually form Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures. All rock, no jock. My bad.

During the 90’s, Kyuss was in my orbit, but I was more of a Soundgarden and COC guy. Queens really didn’t show up on my radar until their third album.  In 2001-2002, the music scene and its ancillary fandom was all abuzz because Dave Grohl was announced as the drummer playing on the new Queens of the Stone Age album, Songs for the Deaf. The single, “No-One Knows” got some serious airplay. I dug the album, but it never really made it into my regular rotation.

Over the past few years, the internet hasn’t been very kind to Mr. Homme. Perhaps Mr. Homme hasn’t been a very kind person. Perhaps, it’s a little of both. We’ve all had some shit moments in our lives and I’m grateful that mine were not published by tabloids or posted on Twitter.

Social Media had cast our musical Johnny Lawrence as the handsome jerk…

Onward and Upward

A couple of months ago, I saw some buzz going around the heavy underground/doom/stoner pages with a screenshot showing a new QOTSA album titled, In Times New Roman. Die hard fans were losing their minds, others had written them off. I’ve never been a QOTSA fan boy, but I’ve never been a hater. I thought to myself, “Cool, glad to see Homme making new music, I hope it’s good. I hope he’s got his shit together”.  Fast forward about a week or so after the initial buzz, a video drops with a new song. I watch it, I enjoy it, I move on to other music.

In Times New Roman officially dropped June 16. I put it on as background music while working that day and, to my delight, I didn’t switch tabs to skip a song. It was good background music while I was working. I didn’t do the deep dive at that point. During breaks, I’d see some clickbait news/interviews with Homme which included him discussing his heated divorce, custody battle, and fight with cancer in 2022. According to him, he’s got the cancer beat. He was recently granted custody of his children. He now has a new album out. Onward and upward…

The Deep Dive

In all honesty, the “Deep Dive” probably wouldn’t have happened if our fearless leader hadn’t assigned me this task. We all know that amazing heavy underground music is dropping nearly every day and at this point in my life, QOTSA is way “too popular” for me. A bit pretentious, I know. However, it’s an honest statement.

I love discovering new music in the Stoner/Doom/Psych genre. I’m confident that this new album will find it’s way onto millions of digital playlists, turn some heads, and hopefully lead a new generation down the rabbit hole of Desert Rock the same way that Led Zeppelin grabbed my hand and led me to the blues, rockabilly, folk, and beyond.

The night of the official release, I streamed the album while my family and I enjoyed some card games. Hearing it through my home sound system was nice. What really stood out was the fact that my fiancé was grooving in her seat. The kids (13 Y/O daughter and 11 Y/O son) were ‘jamming’ along to it and I had the opportunity to keep my eyes on the cards while keeping my ears on what was coming out of the speakers.

The following morning, it happened. The peace. The quiet. The coffee. The headphones. The Deep Dive…

The Non-reviewer’s Review

REAL reviewers will break down every song and give you a second-by-second play by play of each track. I’m not a real reviewer. I’m a listener. I listened. I loved. More than that, I absorbed.

I’m old school. An album is a complete body of work created to be enjoyed and experienced as a whole. As a Zeppelin fanatic, I’m all in on the album vs single concept. Zep stood their ground and I’m a firm believer in enjoying the complete soundscape, not snapshots. In Times New Roman checked this box for me; to be more accurate, it’s more like a laser-guided missile that hit precisely where that little check box on the card is. This, friends, is an album. Top to bottom, front to back.

The production on this album is perfect. Absolute perfection. My pal, George Mohoi from Team Hoss and I recently drove together to see Conan in Chicago. On the way there, we discussed the recording process, our experiences, etc. and he used the word, “slick” several times when referring to recordings that are over-produced, over-engineered, and/or too polished. This term has stuck with me since, and I have been using it in my own personal listening and production experiences. The mixing and mastering of this album allow QOTSA to be QOTSA. Nothing gets in the way. Nothing too “slick”.

The Content

Unlike Homme, my divorce and child custody battle weren’t the subject of internet clickbait. Just like Homme, they were experiences that brought on the darkest of days. It was an incredible experience reading every lyric as the album played. In Times New Roman had me revisit that dark place. All the emotions and moments from my personal experiences were brought back. This time, however, there is a soundtrack. There is a tour guide in Josh Homme. He lets us know that it’s ok to feel how you feel. He let’s us know that everything is going to be ok, because it has to be ok.

Every song on the album has some clever wordplay. Every REAL reviewer will point out every instance and can be found elsewhere.

Every song on the album is brilliant. Seriously. No duds. No “meh” moments.

Every REAL reviewer will point out every moment in each song where it reminds them of another band. You can find those comparisons elsewhere.

The Performance

QOTSA have a unique sound. Homme is a unique songwriter and performer. His guitar tones and attack are signature. His slide guitar work. His use of effects. You just know it’s him. Nothing virtuosic, yet perfect for the song. His vocals and vocal presentation have a timbre and cadence that only he or a resurrected David Bowie can deliver.

There are shining moments for every musician on this album. For those of you who decide to give this album a spin, do a deep dive on this particular QOTSA lineup, you’ll find that every musician in this incarnation has a very impressive musical pedigree.

Troy Van Leeuwen is a brilliant guitarist and musician. He adds incredible soundscapes throughout the album and his octave fuzz solos are amazing.

Michal Shuman’s bass lines are solid, yet very creative. There are several moments where the fuzz-laden bass just drives the song and gives you the stank face.

Dean Fertita is pretty much the Swiss Army Knife of the band. He’s the player that goes where the coach tells him where to go; keyboards, guitars, percussion, backing vocals.

Drummer Jon Theodore delivers a great performance on this album.

The Verdict

Sonically beautiful, yet brutal.

Lyrically beautiful, yet brutal.

Spiritually beautiful, yet brutal.

I told you I’m not going to break the songs down and dissect them. You can find those elsewhere. I’m not going to say things like, “blah blah blah, VERY Bonham drums here and the turnaround at 2:33 is VERY Steely Dan…”

The last couple of minutes of the final song, “Straight Jacket Fitting” are otherworldly. The icing on the cake, really.

If QOTSA have been your jam since inception, you should be over the moon with this new release.

For me, I can’t thank Scott enough for “passing” this task on to me. I’d have ignored this album and missed out on an incredible personal experience. In Times New Roman; give it a listen. I think you’ll dig.

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