Looking Back On Queens Of The Stone Age's Songs For The Deaf
This past week one of the most beloved rock disc in the decade turned 10 years old. It was August 27, 2002 that the world met Queens Of The Stone Age's third LP, Songs For The Deaf, a blistering, swaggery, pummeling kick-in-the-nuts of a rock album.
The band, lead by towering Ginger Elvis Joshua Homme (rhymes with "mommy"), had two records already under their belt, a self-titled 1998 debut, 2000's Rated X, plus a handful of EPs. At this point in the band's career they were still unknown to everyone except beardos, a few adventuresome Ozzfest fans, and your tattoo artist.
The album came into my life right as I signed papers to leave for the United States Marine Corps. Right after I signed my military contract, I walked around the corner to a record store at Baybrook Mall and bought SFTD and promptly lost my shit on the way home, and not just because I had also just signed away the next few years of my life to the government, on the brink of war in the Middle East.
I distinctly remember taking one spin through the album and thinking to myself "I fucking signed papers to leave a civilian world where this album, just like, exists?" I mean I knew that music existed in the military, but I wanted to roam free and graze with this disc.
The whole USMC thing didn't work out -- stupid bones -- but SFTD has been in a constant in my life ever since.
A recent SPIN blog on the album and the band's process at the time brought back a lot of feelings I had upon the release of SFTD.
David Marchese had this to say:
Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Hives, the Flaming Lips, Wilco, and the White Stripes were making more thornier, artier, attitudinally "cooler" albums. In between these two camps, the rock gods and the cool kids, were Queens of the Stone Age and Songs for the Deaf. What other band from that year made music so radio-friendly and idiosyncratic that it could, organically, encompass contributions from Dean Ween, who added guitar to three tracks, and Dave Grohl, who spanked the shit out of the drums on the whole thing?
I cannot think of another release that came into my life this past decade that meant more to me at the exact and perfect time in my life. I would even end up getting the album's "pitchfork" logo tattooed on the back of my left arm. You can barely see it now through all the other inky mess on my bicep.
Former QOTSA bassist Nick Oliveri gave it a thumbs up when I showed it to him, but he was probably just being nice.
From the first ten seconds in, when you hear the car door slam and the engine start up, I was hooked and booked. QOTSA has released two other studio albums since SFTD, but none have moved me in the way that this sexy bitch still does. It's not heavy metal, grunge, or anything else. It's like an element. A gas, a metal, a substance.
SFTD was the first album I owned that made me feel like an adult with adult desires and problems. It was snaky and disturbing, and compared the screamo (Thursday) and punk shit (Dropkick Murphys) that I was petting my brain with, I felt like I had just made a giant leap in my musical growth by merely owning it.
It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Kyuss after this either, Homme's previous group, titans in their own right. The little Queens side projects would come later. I was one of the forty grossos at that last Jesse "The Devil" Hughes show at Fitz.
Somehow SFTD has also reappeared at the best and worst times in my life like none of the other album in QOTSA's canon has been able to. It understands me, like a friend offering you a cold one without saying a word. These past few days, the album has been hanging out with me at the gym.
I could go track-by-track here and give you specific moments that each cut remind me of -- like doing bad nose drugs with "Go With The Flow" blaring in my tiny Chevy truck or driving to Austin to visit friends and attempt to erase my brain while I played "Gonna Leave You" on repeat -- but that would bore you to tears.
You don't need to know that in the throes of a addiction to speed in late 2002 that I cried while listening to "Mosquito Song" in the bed of my truck alone at the beach. Or that I have been trying to dress and move like Homme for the past decade and failing. I'm not seven feet tall and redheaded.
Not all of my memories of SFTD are bad or connected to illicit things, but most of them are, which I am not proud to admit, but that's the truth. There was the time when I was at a Plea For Peace gig at the International Ballroom watching Thursday and Poison The Well and they were playing SFTD in between the bands and I wished that they would just let the whole thing play instead of the next band.
Should I bring up the buttery guitar tones and the fact that guest star Dave Grohl's drumming on the album surpasses any other work he will ever do behind a drum kit? Or that guest vocalist Mark Lanegan's lines were ready-made suicide not templates?
How about the fact that "No One Knows" is the greatest rock single of the past ten years? Anytime I hear it on modern-rock radio, it makes everything else surrounding it sound like the Archies in comparison. No offense to the Archies.
The band is now in the midst of recording a follow-up to 2007's Era Vulgaris, so there will be no grand anniversary party or tour. They toured all-too briefly early last year for the reissue of their debut album, playing that one in it's entirety. I don't even know how they could present SFTD live up to the expectations of rabid fans like me.
Right now I am listening to the album for what is probably the 2,124th time since August 27, 2002, and I couldn't be happier.