The thing that caught my attention about Villains, the 7th studio record in the career of Queens Of The Stone Age, was that Josh Homme decided to rely on the services of the afamed producer Mark Ronson (responsible for hits like Rehab by Amy Winehouse and Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars). After hearing the first single, The Way You Used to Do, there was a bit of a controversy, the guitars sounded softer than usual, that clapping in the background is pure Ronson, and many thought that band had got too comfortable. That’s not the case, Villains still sounds dangerous on all fronts, and Homme stays true to himself. Maybe this time, besides looking for a fight he also wants to hit the dance floor, something that looks to reconnect with the roots of rock and roll, from Elvis to Little Richard, from Jerry Lee Lewis to Chuck Berry.
Villains still has great riffs and a real sense of danger, just on the beginning of the record, Feet Don’t Fail Me (another wink at dancing) with those hazy guitars that increase their intensity, enhanced by synthesisers, foretelling something is about to go down, until the drums come in like a hurricane together with a playful riff. It’s the musical equivalent to a kick in the door. Homme and his boys, with faithful Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita accompanying him on guitar, made their appearance and are looking to have some fun. As on previous occasions, the songs contain a certain wink and nod to other artists, on Fortress, after the 5th minute they slide in the riff from Hey, Hey, My, My, by Neil Young, on Un-Reborn Again they quote a part of the lyrics of Keep Your Hands to Yourself by the Georgia Satellites with a clear tribute in his intonation and Head Like a Haunted House is pure Little Richard, Tutti Frutti included. The Evil Has Landed is another of the fine moments on the record, built of various riffs worthy of Black Sabbath, played in a lighter hue to please Homme’s falsetta, one of the few songs that allows the luxury of a few good guitar solos, to finish up with a rocking splash of raw energy in the best style of their beloved Iggy & The Stooges. Homme and the boys claim the dancefloor as their own, but not doing it by surrendering to new fashions, but by connecting to the primeval spirit of rock and roll.
Besides, the change in the sound of the guitars (on this record they used plenty of them such as Homme’s special Echopark Esperanto Z custom 9-string, Van Leeuwen’s Signature Jazzmaster and various Echopark models, customised for them by Gabe Currie) is more due to Homme than Ronson as, on this record, he wanted to change his approach and experiment recording many of the guitar parts directly on the mixing table, which is known as ‘Direct Input’ (DI). But beyond the new sound, Villains is an invitation from Homme to be able to dance to rock and roll, that attitude of “I don’t give a shit what you think”. Perhaps it’s not at the same level as Songs for the Deaf or Like Clockwork but it is a remarkable addition to the band’s catalogue.