WinterFest bands rock the house

    Not many bands come out of Coachella Valley, Calif.; I mean, how many can you name that call Palm Desert home? The summers are blisteringly hot, and the relentless sun bakes the ground so long that even the nights are miserable. Yet something interesting must take place there, for it was the source of the seminal stoner rock band Kyuss, which broke up in 1995. However, out of its ashes came several solid rock bands, including the now immensely popular Queens of the Stone Age, a band with an odd approach to rock.

    Courtesy of Interscope Records

    Despite the revolving door of all the members except guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme and bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri, Queens of the Stone Age has been creeping up on the rock scene with an indirect and quirky sense of accomplishment. Their 2000 major label release, “”Rated R,”” (which for some reason everyone feels the need to say “”as in the movie rating””) spawned the single “”The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret,”” which seems to have largely faded from popular memory. Yet the group keeps pushing forward. The things they do and get away with would at least trip up any other band.

    Queens of the Stone Age reels in musicians, labels them as members and then allows them to disperse, which has befuddled fans, especially with former Nirvana drummer and singer/guitarist for the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl. On each album, Homme and Oliveri remain constant, but the rest of the group comes and goes with little explanation or change in the band’s direction.

    Grohl had been well-documented as praising Queens of the Stone Age in interviews, and when it came time to record again, he was offered a drumming slot. He was given recording credits in the liner notes and appeared in photos on the CD. Furthering fans’ expectations of his permanence, he was even in the video for “”No One Knows.”” Alas, for Grohl fans, after a few tour dates with the band, he has returned to his main focus, the Foo Fighters. In his stead has been Joey Castillo, who used to drum for Danzig, among others. One can only guess at how long Castillo will be retained or, for that matter, former Screaming Trees’ guitarist Mark Lanegan, who does vocal work on the album.

    Along with so many members coming and going, Oliveri and Homme maintain a dizzying array of other projects and formal connections. Both were previously in Kyuss, and they have a policy of doing other things to make coming back to Queens Of The Stone Age enjoyable.

    Homme is working on his Dessert Sessions, for which he brings along Oliveri, but is also working on a track for trip-hop group U.N.C.L.E. Oliveri has an off-again, on-again place in the punk band The Dwarves, in which he calls himself Rex Everything (there is no accounting for rockers who give themselves names). Also, Oliveri is working with another former Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork (who now heads another stoner/so-cal surf rock band, Fu Manchu) and Homme on Mondo Generator, for which Oliveri wants to put out a second album.

    To fully grasp how much band members cross over, and how many different pots Homme and Oliveri get their fingers in, check out the “”family tree”” on the Queens of the Stone Age Web site, http://www.queensofthestonage.com. Just try not to get lost in the quagmire that comes out of Kyuss: It’s murky and flows on to more groups then one might expect.

    Fret not, though; these projects are not signs of Queens of the Stone Age splitting or losing interest, they just make the reunions sweeter. Queens Of The Stone Age has been on an extensive touring schedule, and several of those dates include some big-name festivals, including Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the restart of the late-era Grunge tradition, Lollapalooza 2003, which lists San Diego as a stop.

    With “”Songs For The Deaf,”” Queens of the Stone Age’s third release, they have been finding increased radio play and critical success. The first single, “”No One Knows,”” has been on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart for 21 weeks and is resting at the No. 1 position. Queens of the Stone Age also received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance, but lost out to Grohl and the other Foo Fighters for their single, “”All My Life”” (but when you’re involved with two of the five groups nominated, you can’t really go wrong).

    Queens of the Stone Age is set to release a second single, “”Go With The Flow,”” and there will be a video to accompany the track, which will be partially animated and involve playing chicken with a cow and seeing members of the band die, again.

    Some have been critical of “”Songs For The Deaf”” in its production, saying it’s too similar, too one-sided and hits the ear without much change. Admittedly, the sound isn’t as dynamic as some groups, but then again, Queens of the Stone Age isn’t the classical all-around rock band. They are focused on one side — a crunchier, harder version of rock, sans-ballads and acoustic-derived folk of, say, early U2. In all fairness, many of the rock critics who say this are trying to place their desires for a different scene on a band that is doing something on its own.

    Ironically, even those who attack the album, often wary of the hype it received early on (being touted as “”the second coming of rock”” or “”the return of rock,”” whatever either of those statements is supposed to mean), still have to admit how good “”Songs For The Deaf”” is, despite their grievances. It is a great album, though it does have its setbacks: namely, radio DJ skits in between songs that will bug the hell out of you after a few listens. They are intended to mimic the useless banter that radio DJ’s fill the air with, but that is exactly why most people hate radio DJs.

    With a career path that is anything but straight ahead and a sound that stands up and demands attention, Queens of the Stone Age is doing things its own way and reaping the rewards.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal