The Desert Sessions

Vol. 11 & 12: Arrivederci Despair/ Tightwads & Nitwits & Critics & Heels

For the 11th and 12th instalment of The Desert Sessions, Josh Homme is joined by Billy Gibbons, Stella Mozgawa, Jake Shears, Mike Kerr, Carla Azar, Les Claypool, Matt Sweeney, Matt Berry, Libby Grace and mystery contributor Töôrnst Hülpft for some epic jams

You could be forgiven for thinking it was Josh Homme on vocals for the opening track on Desert Sessions 11 & 12 (Arrivederci Despair/ Tightwads & Nitwits & Critics & Heels). But it’s actually Billy Gibbons. From ZZ Top. And if you’ve been following Homme’s work for a while, you’d know that Gibbons played on QOTSA’s 2005 Lullabies to Paralyse. And so, it comes as no surprise that Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters also appears on the record, heading up the slightly melancholic ‘Something You Can’t See’ made even more awesome by Matt Sweeney conjuring the sweet, easy sound of the 70s and early Fleetwood Mac. You might remember that Shears dipped his toe in the swamp of Homme with …Like Clockwork back in 2013.

Old friends and new seems to be the theme for any and all Desert Sessions recordings since they began back in 1997 – just before QOTSA’s eponymous debut in 1998 – with David Catching’s desert studio Rancho De La Luna acting as genius loci both then and now. It’s been sixteen years since Homme last wrangled together a crew of misfits in the mood for a jam, and you can certainly hear the echoes of QOTSA’s last few albums in the shadows of Desert Sessions 11 and 12.

Once ‘Move Together’ kicks in after a restrained 2-minute intro, the dirty crunch and mechanical grind of the Era Vulgaris years can be heard, with ‘Noses for Roses’ playing out like an orphaned track from the 2007 album. But this is no bad thing, because it all adds to the mystical legacy and playful charm of the sessions. With the instrumental ‘Far East for the Trees’ sounding like a psychedelic wander in the desert, ‘If you Run’ follows suit in terms of the stripped back embrace of a more acoustic sound, only then to get blasted away with the brief but beefy ‘Crucifire’ with Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr on vocals.

The bright and curious artwork plays a huge role in defining the character for this eight track release. It was conceived by Homme’s old friend and ‘road brother’ Hutch, who has been making art for the band and on walls in hotel rooms since way back, and executed by Jason Noto of Morning Breath Inc., who did the artwork for Era Vulgaris. The latest iteration of Homme’s continuous project has come a long way since the epic jams of the late 90s, having evolved into more refined, and fully realised series of releases, never failing to inhabit the spirit of risk and adventure.

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