Eagles Of Death Metal
Rating: 8 out of 10
It’s not as if Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes or Joshua “Baby Duck” Homme have relented on simplified rock n’ roll. That ain’t the case. Hughes is always primed for attack, throwing his pick across those strings with a Keith Richards sense of commitment and ballsy dominance, his voice a high-pitched homage to 50s doo-wop.
And Homme, a records-only presence and creative super force, is there to aid and assist as drummer or bassist. Maybe his trademark vocals make an appearance or two.
As Eagles Of Death Metal progresses, Homme’s mark seems to permeate what was once an unembellished, unadulterated but super-sweet rock unit, hell bent on shimmering hooks and “Yeah, baby” sentimentality. Heart On is the most Queens Of The Stone Age Eagles Of Death Metal album yet, showing a noticeable growth in songwriting and experimentation, but somehow extracting Hughes’ real gift: his ability to bring on the good times.
As a heavy and explorative addition to the Eagles canon, Heart On is fascinating. Hughes, though true to his guitar sound and essential role, is soulful and almost unrecognizably impassioned:
“I’ll tell you anythin,’ bay-bay, eck-cept the trooh-ooth.”
There’s a statement being made, Hughes’ ever-smiling visage buried underneath that pronounced ‘stash, trying to become someone music needs to take seriously. Like, Homme. Even the more familiar EODM construct of single, “Wannabe In LA,” takes some unexpected turns, layers some interesting sounds and plays around with vocal harmonies. In some instances, the musical growth is subtle. Other times? Obvious.
Still, the energy remains. “(I Used To Couldn't Dance) Tight Pants” mostly keeps to type with EODM mechanics, leading into the sexually charged and static-heavy rhythm section of “High Voltage.” “Secret Plans,” also a straggler from earlier EODM albums, hits with “Speaking In Tongues” tempo and a sectional jolt of heightened guitar.
Following the enveloping and romantic groove of “Now I’m A Fool,” “Heart On,” (whose obvious innuendo is amusingly contorted into an actual love song), remains groove heavy, beginning nicely enough only to erupt into an amplified duel of guitar interplay. The slow hard rocker “Cheap Thrills,” the sullen female-spoken hook catching the attention, has Hughes singing through a veritable tunnel of distortion as the song takes some epic turns with a couple thickly conceived jam sections. Southern-fried licks immerse “How Can A Man With So Many Friends Feel So Alone” which is incidentally, and brilliantly, followed by “Solo Flights,” an interesting juxtaposition of feeling lonely as opposed to being alone:
“No one gonna hold my hand/It’s gotta full-time occ-you-payshun…
Close my eyes and pick-sher you/And cut out all the agg-ravayshun…”
According to Hughes: “You don’t get it, no/You don’t get it, no…”
“Prissy Prancin’” is a Rolling Stone-gleaned bit of Jagger-swagger heading into, “I’m Your Torpedo,” which leads the album into an industrially chug-heavy climax. “I’m Your Torpedo,” (“Scratch like a cat and bark like a bitch/To let me know you’re mine, you’re mine…”), has Homme’s hands all over it, reveling in his sort of repetitive and lengthy (“I Think I Lost My Headache,” “Misfit Love,” anyone?) assemblage. Even vocally, it feels like pure Queens and essentially “I’m Your Torpdeo” exemplifies the sort of direction EODM goes once Homme steps away from the drum kit. Not to squeeze any value out of the track, because it is pretty cool, but it feels out of place and seemingly defeats Hughes’ purpose.
Heart On, at times, is more interesting as a progression than an album. As Hughes continues to expand as an artist, it’ll be interesting to see where he takes EODM in future releases. As much as I love experimentation and artistic growth, I hope Hughes can keep his music’s smile intact. Without the smile, the purpose seems to fade. Nothin' left but cheap thrills.
Letters From A Tapehead