Queens of the Stone Age – In Times New Roman… – Review
Josh Homme has faced a tumultuous few years. However, unlike most people, the frontman of Queens of the Stone Age has had his struggles widely documented in the music press. From a bitter custody battle with ex-wife Brody Dalle, to filing restraining orders against each other, to battling cancer and grieving the loss of close friends like Mark Lanegan, Homme has been through a dark period. In a recent interview with Revolver, he candidly admitted that these past four years have been the darkest of his life, revealing a vulnerable side that contrasts with his previous villainous personas in music.
Making music to deal with his personal struggles
During a period, Homme found himself unable to create music at all. However, he eventually channeled his grief into his art, finding solace and therapy in the process. The outcome is the band’s latest album, In Times New Roman…, which stands as their heaviest and angriest work since the underrated Era Vulgaris in 2007. The album kicks off with the seething indictments of “Paper Machete,” where Homme directs his anger towards an unnamed antagonist over grinding power chords that embody the essence of a classic Queens song. Yet, the song feels somewhat incomplete and lacks a memorable hook that matches its vitriolic lyrics.
Being entirely self-produced and devoid of high-profile guests, In Times New Roman… possesses a more insular quality. Homme, as the band’s only permanent member, sheds the polished dance-rock sound of their previous Mark Ronson-produced album, Villains, and strives to return to a bluesy primitiveness. The scent of overheating tube amps permeates tracks like “Time & Place.”
Best Times New Roman… tracks
The most compelling tracks on In Times New Roman… blend anger with moments of humor and introspection. Lead single “Emotion Sickness” seamlessly transitions between high-energy bursts of distorted guitar and a chorus that showcases the band’s melodic prowess. The deceptively sun-kissed refrain “Baby don’t care for me” alludes to Homme’s divorce (“See the sights/Holy Braille”), but there’s a playful dynamic and an exhilarating interplay between melody and aggression reminiscent of the band’s older QOTSA albums.
The album’s strongest songs are tucked away in its latter half. With track six, “Carnavoyeur,” an atmospheric lament with a slippery, soulful edge. It is the first song on the album that introduces a detached, almost Zen-like sentiment toward personal tragedy. Homme evokes a sense of letting go and finding liberation from torment, singing
“Every living thing will die
From the king of the jungle to butterfly
Only sin is waiting too long.”
This sentiment is conveyed over a groove that channels The Doors more than the Desert Sessions. The song fades away in a hazy blur of strings, foreshadowing the intriguing post-“Kashmir” orchestral stomp of “Sicily.” This seductive track, unlike anything in QOTSA’s catalog, evokes a yearning for romantic degradation.
While Queens of the Stone Age haven’t undergone drastic changes since their debut album, there is still something different about them. After a prolonged period of inactivity and personal turmoil, it is heartening to hear them continue to make such a gloriously noisy racket. Apocalyptic imagery permeates “Straight Jacket Fitting,” a dense and formidable final track. Homme lists various evildoers (“the old guard, avant guard, technolojesus!”) and concludes with the assertion that “The world/She don’t need saving.”
During QOTSA’s heyday in the early 2000s, their slow-burning songs possessed an explosive quality that made it seem like the world was truly ending. On In Times New Roman…, QOTSA captures the inescapable grief of watching your own world crumble, and in their most potent moments, they convey both the devastation and the arduous journey back from the depths of hell.