The pairing of Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Ronson—a hip-hop-minded DJ and producer who helmed chart-dominating successes for Bruno Mars and Amy Winehouse—doesn’t exactly jive on paper. On record, it’s a different matter. Any worries about Ronson overturning the band’s harder-edged approach in favor of mainstream R&B sheen fall away seconds into the album-opening “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” a funky summons to dance that persuades via thundering percussion and thick tank-treaded grooves. The refined looseness and funky vibes only grow from there.
With Ronson accentuating eerie atmospherics and enhancing the psychedelic factor, the group surrounds Josh Homme’s exotic velvet-fogged vocals with an array of handclap-igniting riffs, gauze-wrapped rhythms, and disco-borne swing. The irresistibly catchy “The Way You Used to Do” struts to pulsating guitars. Moog-like swirls and space-opera keyboards dot “Un-Reborn Again,” complete with an amusing nod to the Georgia Satellite’s trashy 1986 hit “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” “Domesticated Animals” unpredictably ascends and descends, its slinky bass lines and ready-to-topple architecture the equivalent of experiencing air turbulence while your plane circles a runway thousands of feet below. Keep your seatbelts fastened. “Dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, we all fall down,” Homme sings, adding to the uneasy sensation.
A funhouse mirror of a record, Villains aims to disorient, with Homme’s bewilderment-oriented lyrics and the record’s hazy textures placing the songs in a bizarro world. Not for nothing does a devil/beast perch on Homme’s shoulder on the album cover. Pressed at Pallas and etched on side four, Matador’s Deluxe Edition 2LP edition gorgeously expands on such visual aspects by way of 14 high-quality prints/lyric cards created by U.K.-based illustrator Boneface. No mere throwaways, the graphic inserts illuminate the imagination and conform to the mindset of a bandleader preoccupied with monsters, trickery, bewilderment, and a “head like a haunted house.”
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