Somehow it seemed wholly appropriate when, at an English club listening party for the Queens' new record, Songs for the Deaf, a befuddled group of more than 30 hearing-impaired folks showed up expecting a program of lyrics set to sign language. They may not have appreciated the twisted irony, but core QOTSA conspirators, ex-Kyuss bandmates and childhood friends Josh Homme (guitar/vocals) and Nick Oliveri (bass/vocals), probably howled. After all, this is the band whose chorus of the take-the-title-literally "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" (off their Rated R record) was a bouncy shopping list of mind-altering substances. Pity that those clubgoers were unable to fully experience the band's third record, their hardest and best effort to date.
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With head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl on drums and ex-Screaming Trees screamer Mark Lanegan on selected tracks, the Queens' heady and appealing blend of hard rock, pop and psychedelia is pumped up this time with fat and fuzzy hooks. Equally at home blaring from a bong party, car stereo or existentialist discussion group, it's a solid combination of old-school FM rock (whither goest thou, Uriah Heep?) and modern mayhem without the mook factor. In fact, the record could have been called Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy if the Who hadn't snagged it first. From the dirty funk of "No One Knows" and the pop melodics of "Gonna Leave You" to the foreboding of "God Is in the Radio" and the cracklin' acidity of "...Millionaire," it is (despite Homme's protests) stoner rock for brainy stoners. The record's quartet plus guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen toured together earlier this year, but for the Houston show, Joe Castillo will take over Grohl's sweaty drum seat while the latter preps for the upcoming FF record and tour. But don't be surprised if he's back at some point -- Homme and Oliveri have a larger stable of revolving Queens than a Las Vegas Judy Garland tribute show.