The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures Derrick Koo , December 2nd, 2009 05:24

Poor John Paul Jones. After nineteen years, dozens of collaborations and an ongoing solo career as multi-instrumentalist and producer extraordinaire, he'll still always be known as the unassuming bassist from Led Zeppelin. But maybe now, having dabbled in film scoring, orchestral composition, electro ambience, bluegrass mandolin jams and seemingly everything in between, he's ready to embrace that title as he picks up his four-string once again for Them Crooked Vultures.

When this long-anticipated trio preempted leakers by leaking their own debut a week before its release, they accompanied the announcement with a message: "Fuck patience, let's dance." This actually describes the album quite well - fast, dirty, infectious, euphoric. It features some of the grooviest, meatiest riffs Jones has committed to record since 1978's In Through the Out Door. Some of them rumble along with that loping, off-kilter funk he pioneered on songs like 'Black Dog' or 'Trampled Under Foot', and their appearance - as in the sudden changeup midway through the opener 'Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I'- is like coming home after a long hiatus.

Josh Homme (of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age) and Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters) are eager cohorts. The first thing you notice about Homme's contributions as guitarist and frontman is that he's jettisoned the creamy sludge tones of his earlier days in favor of a more classic crunch - one that wouldn't feel out of place on a Zeppelin album. The second thing you notice is that he's been taking voice lessons, or something. His vocals dip and soar, slither and sustain, changing character from verse to chorus and back. He might half-whisper a delicate falsetto and follow it up with a bluesy snarl. I finally stopped missing Kyuss' John Garcia for most of the album.

Of Grohl, it should be mentioned that his true home is behind the kit. Though his playing is more discreet here than on other projects (like the masturbatory Probot or QOTSA's pinnacle, Songs for the Deaf), Them Crooked Vulture's bouncy backbone is all him. He mostly lets Homme hog the spotlight, but occasionally, as on the album's standout track, 'Elephants', he takes charge, kicking things into overdrive.

It's on this track that it all comes together. The song starts out with an ambling riff that could have been salvaged from the Houses of the Holy sessions, then suddenly hits the accelerator. It then settles into a syncopated, Kyuss-esque groove before blossoming into a melancholic chorus. It ends where it begins: in a frenzy of electrified riffage. This is cathartic stuff, like dancehall freakout for the stoner rock set.

Them Crooked Vultures ain't jamming for the ages. Everything from the big-room reverb of the production to the forehead-slapping witticisms of the song titles ('Interlude with Ludes', 'Caligulove') is an echo from some member's storied past. But they're good echoes, largely--especially when you compare them to examples like Era Vulgaris. And considering that this is the most toe-tapping stuff we've heard from Homme sans Oliveri & Lanegan and Jones sans Page & Plant, maybe we should just accept the gift, thank you very much. Fuck complaints, let's dance.