Music review: Them Crooked Vultures

Posted: December 13, 2009 in Album Reviews

While I was away in Europe, one of the most anticipated releases of 2009 (in my mind anyway) came out, and it was rough having to wait until I got back to hear it.
Them Crooked Vultures, the “supergroup” featuring members of Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and Queens of the Stone Age, unleashed their self-titled debut to a rock world in need of a jolt.
Lead guitarist/lead vocalist Josh Homme joined forces with bassist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and drummer Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) to deliver a delight to those of us who enjoy sleazy hard rock with big riffs, killer hooks and a titanic rhythm section.
Although Homme is the band’s leader and primary songwriter, it’s Grohl and Jones who elevate the project from a mere Queens of the Stone Age soundalike.
Grohl, a gifted songwriter in his own right, went back behind the drum kit, and his thunderous playing is found every where. From the opening beat of lead single “New Fang”, you’re reminded just how good a drummer Grohl really is.
The first three tracks – “No One Loves Me and Neither Do I,” “Mind Eraser, No Chaser,” and “New Fang” kick the proceedings off with a bang. “No One Loves Me and Neither Do I” undergoes a series of time changes, starting as a slinky number with smooth Homme vocals and ending with a monster riff worthy of Jimmy Page. “Mind Eraser” contains one of the few instances where Grohl is noticeably heard on vocals, as he and Homme trade vocal lines throughout to great effect. “New Fang” is one of the tracks most resembling Queens of the Stone Age, only with the best rhythm section money could buy.
Around track five, the band starts to flex its muscle with longer, more adventurous tunes. “Elephants” starts off with a fury, with riffs straight out of “Physical Graffitti”, but at the two minute mark, the pace slows down and a completely different song seems to take hold. The track ends just as it began, with the fast-paced Zeppelin riffs. Great stuff. “Scumbag Blues” sounds like a bastard son of Zeppelin and Cream, as Homme’s vocals resemble Jack Bruce’s a la “I Feel Free”. Jones adds a funky clavinet break that sounds fairly similar to “Trampled Under Foot.” Track 8 “Reptiles” is one of my many favorites, with its helter-skelter rhythm and almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics from Homme. What he’s talking about, lord only knows, but it sounds so damn good. “Interlude With Ludes” is just what it sounds like, a drug-hazed spaceout, with music that sounds like it was recorded in the next room and Homme’s vocals sounding somewhat reminscent of Ray Davies of the Kinks.
My favorite song title on the album “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up” is another long tune with a menacing stomp and swirling guitars.
Another one of my favorites is the penultimate tune “Gunman”, which could be best described as dance-funk with metal guitars. It’s easiest the funkiest and most danceable track here, showing this band is capable of playing so many different styles of music.
The final track is the heavy “Spinning in Daffodils”, with hard-to-decipher vocals from Homme due the metallic guitar crunch throughout the song. In typical Vultures fashion, the song ends with a surprising shift, decomposing into a little acoustic shuffle that fades out just as you want some more.
I’ve had this album in my car stereo since I got it, I just can’t get enough of it. Easily the best album I’ve bought this year and the finest rock album I’ve heard in quite some time. There are already reports the band will cut a second album, which is great news to me since I thought they might just be a one-off side project. If you haven’t done so already, listen to this album. If you want a starting point, listen to the first three tracks. They’ll get you hooked instantly, while the rest of the album takes two or three spins before you truly appreciate how great it is.

The Sod rating: *****
Ratings scale:
***** Hall of Fame album
**** Perennial All-star
*** Solid starter
** Bench warmer
* Guy that cleans up all the peanut shells after the game

  1. Simply put, I have to agree with your assessment sir, that this album is AWWEESOME!!

    Thundering rock’n’roll that doesn’t care about hit singles or gaining a mass audience. This is desperately what this genre needs right now. Too bad we’re lucky to get 1-2 albums a year of this quality nowadays, when at one time it used to be commonplace.

  2. Frank Lima says:

    Gimme a break, dont compare anyone to Ray Davies especially this guy, to even mention Ray in the same breath or statement is a sin! Davies is a freaking genius an there are only very few who even only come even close to him let alone equal him in anyway shape or form! God save Ray Davies, he’s not like everybody else!

  3. Atouk Alunda Lana says:

    Lighten up, dude. It’s just one man’s opinion.

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