It’s been a year since Queens of the Stone Age’s Era Vulgaris came out, but I just got around to really listening to it this summer. It’s not fair how underrated it is.
To start, just look at the cover. The title is Latin for “The Common Era” and the art features a smoking cartoon lightbulb and a pirate cartoon lightbulb. Genius. The rest of the album’s art campaign- spanning 7’’ sleeves and posters- has more crazy cartoon characters and artwork along that retro-sleazy Grindhouse vein (check out the artists, Morning Breath). The “You Have Mono” phony-monophonic label makes it for me, though.
But what’s important is what’s inside- the music. I will admit that the first time I heard the songs nothing stood out, but repeated listens reveal by far the sexiest Queens of the Stone Age album in recent years. It is a much closer match to the band’s manifesto of making rock “heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls”, unlike the macho Songs for the Deaf and the snoozy Lullabies to Paralyze. A lot of the vocals are softer and falsetto, and every single song on Era Vulgaris is danceable as far as heavy rock goes and sounds perfect at 70 mph. And within those parameters, there’s a surprising diversity of sounds: it’s got southern-flavored psychedelic (“Turnin’ On The Screw”), heavy irony (“I’m Designer”), rhythm n’ blues (“Make It Wit Chu”), really spastic ("Sick Sick Sick") somber introspection (“Suture Up Your Future”), and what can only be described as car-chase ("3's and 7's"). I’m going to say that this is my favorite album so far, but I admit I haven't listened to the first two in a while. Any of the ones I mentioned are highly recommended, but everything is good. And while you're at it, check out the fantastically titled b-side "The Fun Machine Took A Shit And Died".