Queens of the Stone Age lead singer Josh Homme is one huge guy. I just feel the need to point that out. He’s an intimidating 6′ 4″, and has the voice to go with it. Somehow the music of Queens of the Stone Age has even more impact when you picture Homme, with his commanding stage presence, singing the songs on stage with his guitar slung ’round his shoulders, rather than just hearing them sans imagery. (Which brings to mind the excellent performance by Homme’s Them Crooked Vultures on Austin City Limits — Homme, Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones made for great rock and some entertaining viewing.)
QotSA’s sound is as big as Homme himself, and they brought it in full force on their second album, 2000’s Rated R. It’s my pick as their best album, and for one of the best heavy rock bands of the past dozen years, that’s saying something. (I say “heavy rock” because they’re not quite “heavy metal,” at least in the way I think of it, and something a bit more than “hard rock” — but those are all just labels anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.) Rated R is somewhat infamous for its lead track, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” the entire lyrics of which are “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol” for the verse, and “C-c-c-c-c-cocaine” for the “chorus,” as it were. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but apparently that didn’t stop a lot of people from taking offense.
The high point of the album for me, though, is “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret.” It shuffles along on a distinctive Queens of the Stone Age guitar groove, and Homme’s unique combination of singing forcefully while at the same time sounding offhand and sleepy completes the picture, like he’s warning you that you’d better not tell the secret in question, but at the same time, if you do happen to tell, well, hey, that’s life, no biggie. The ability of QotSA to be heavy and yet very catchy gives them an edge over other bands who slog through heavy metal riffage without bringing home the goods with a memorable melody. Homme and company do that exceedingly well most of the time, and “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” is one of the prime examples of what makes them so great.