Customer Reviews: Era Vulgaris
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VINE VOICEon August 17, 2007
This album is beginning to end a sonic work of art. I don't think I would call it a concept album, but it certainly has a cohesive feel that makes listening to it end too soon. Maybe it's a hint of classic progressive rock attitude. At the conclusion of this CD...I hit play again. I have liked QOTSA albums before, but I don't remember being as addicted to anything they have done like this album. There are great guitar parts, soulful singing by Josh Homme and Mark Lannegan, searing six string solos, layered sound textures, rock solid rhythm/percussion, burning bluesy roots, quirky thoughtful lyrics and melodic growling bass. They threw everything in but the kitchen sink into this amazing sonic it and put it on repeat!
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on June 20, 2007
An excellent new Queens of the Stone age album every two-and-a-half years or so has become something of a tradition, so while the high quality of their most recent release is no surprise, it's certainly no less pleasant for it. QOTSA have always been able to maintain a balance between rock's opposite poles--arty without being pretentious, technically proficient without being mechanical, heavy without being angry--and Era Vulgaris does nothing to interrupt that streak, delivering more of the narcotizing, classic-minded hard rock that Josh Homme has been delivering since he formed the band out of the ashes of the even-greater Kyuss. Building on the sounds of the band's previous four albums without cannibalizing them, Era Vulgaris is yet another excellent album in the QOTSA tradition--loosely constructed, wide-ranging, and determinedly rocking, with none of the woe-is-me drivel that weighs down so much of what passes for rock music these days. And as usual, it's littered with the muscular, surging guitars and smart melodies that have become Josh's stock in trade, making this yet another classic album for blasting in your car with the windows open. Despite their well-documented history of heavy turnover, the band actually sounds as tight as ever here, taking about ten seconds of the opening Turnin' On the Screw to lock into a killer groove that never quite lets up until the album ends. The following Sick, Sick, Sick is even better, bringing a manic, rapid-fire energy to the proceedings, with vocals that are less sung than declaimed over a backup of speedy metallic riffage. Some might proclaim Make it Wit Chu too mellow and playful to fit on a QOTSA album, but I actually found its bouncy, piano-tinged arrangements and insinuating crooned refrain to be perfectly in keeping with the band's traditional good time-oriented approach. Of course, just in case anyone does find that track overly lightweight, Josh & Co. follow it up the with the memorably intense riff-rock of 3's and 7's before skidding into the laid-back, trippy haze of Suture up Your Future. And while many QOTSA albums have petered out on the final few tracks, Era Vulgaris is not one of them--Run, Pig, Run fires out of the blocks with a wall of thick, hard-pounding riffs and harsh noises backing a winding, ominous vocal. It's certainly not the first song to highlight a darker, more visceral aspect to the Queens' sound, but with the possible exception of the last album's Someone's in the Wolf it may be best, and it brings a suitable conclusion to yet another top-notch album in Josh Homme's ever-expanding catalogue.
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Queens of the Stone Age smash and roar through some of the best, most influential hard rock out there, even with a lineup that never seems to be the same twice.

And while their latest, "Era Vulgaris," starts off with a whimper, it quickly works itself up into a bang that can be heard right through the end. Their music here is grimy, rough and raw, but it tries out some new sounds and quirkier edges, without losing the grimy, brooding feeling.

It opens rather limply -- "Turning on the Screw," a jumbled tangle of clashing cymbals, drums and almost mute basslines, which just sort of meanders around in circles. Josh Homme sings mournfully that "You got a question?/Please don't ask it/It puts the lotion in the basket."

Fortunately things perk up in the next song -- dark, rapid riffs and twisting melodies are all over "Sick Sick Sick," a creepily rapid song that gets more tantalizing as it continues. And it leads in to more good music of various types -- the sinuous desert-rock, "Misfit Love's" weirdly plaintive lament, creepy industral grinds, tightly-woven rock'n'roll with a catchy edge, fuzzy blasts of muscular metal, and finally the shifting, layered finale "Run Pig Run."

"Era Vulgaris" is something of a contradiction -- it's a very polished album, but it also has grime, sweat and rough edges. That is to say, the band is expert at spinning some really tight songs with few weaknesses, but it's got the raw power you usually associate with young bands. Bless their dark little hearts.

Homme's rapid, nimble guitar goes overtime with fast, sharp riffs. And that guitar is woven with some dark murky bass, rapid drums, darkly curling keyboard and occasionally some samples (a rattlesnake?), all played with rapid-fire energy. The music twists itself either into a hard-rock rope, or a thunderstorm of brooding, shifting musical layers. And they're not afraid to throw in something quirky and weird, like "Misfit Love."

Homme's jagged lyrics all center on his life near Hollywood -- selling out ("How many times must I sell myself before my pieces are gone?"), sex, taking risks and leaving the past behind all come into play. Homme sings them in a rough, enthusiastic voice, although he also gets to roar and groan some spoken lines -- and even gets accompanied by the smooth-voiced Mark Lanegan and mournful Julian Casablancas.

Hollywood never seemed so alarming and enticing as in "Era Vulgaris," which starts rather weakly, but soon blossoms into a dark, dirty little gem. Vibrant.
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on July 10, 2007
At least now it can be said that Josh Homme and Queens can make a five star record without Nick Oliveri. Following Nick's departure from the band, Queens released Lullabies to Paralyze, a great record that, unfortunately, seemed only to emphasize that Oliveri was not there, from the not so subtle lyrical jabs in "Everybody Knows That You're Insane" to increased prevalence of slowed down grooves and blues, with often exceedingly slick production. Sure, the drawn out psychedelic riffs had been a QOTSA trademark from day one, but the lack of ANY punk/speed metal counterpoint was a constant, sad reminder that we were never going to hear "Millionaire" live again. Lullabies was a great record with unavoidable, bittersweet timing.

Years later many of us have gotten used to Queens without Nick, and appropriately Josh and company have unleashed a perfect record for this particular place in their career. Enough to remind of us of the good old days, and enough new stuff to remind us why this is one of the most inventive groups in rock. The production is rawer and more lo-fi than everything since their debut. The riffs are harder and the music is faster than on Lullabies. Everything we used to love. On the other hand, there's great stuff we haven't heard. Spidery guitar lines weaving in and out on songs like I'm Designer and Turning on the Screw, and a composition (3's and 7's) which throws everything Queens has done well in their career into one incredibly catchy riff rock buffet for your repeated consumption. Elsewhere, the album's two most powerful cuts, the murky "Suture up Your Future" and "Into the Hollow" show Josh having perfected his falsetto wail, and remind the listener of the difference between hard and heavy. The combination of haunting grooves and emotional vocals on these 2 cuts are worth the price of admission alone. And "Make it Wit Chu," another Desert Sessions redux, is no-frills classic rock that is as simple and honest as the original seventies soul and funk it is imitating. Lyrically, Josh continues to make strides. He's come along way since the days when "marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol" was known as his most legendary turn of phrase. In "I'm Designer" he toes the fine line between comedy and commentary ever so well, all while singing the verses in a rhythmic pattern I can only describe as "crazy homeless bluesman meter" that reminds you everything he does is at least a little bit tongue in cheek.

With a few exceptions, almost of all this release is excellent, and it continues to reveal new layers to me each time I pop it in. And quite honestly this is probably the most rewarding aspect of Era Vulgaris. It lacks the irreplicable manic presence of Oliveri both musically and lyrically, but makes up for it with musical ingenuity Lullabies only hinted at. Whether you prefer Rated R or Songs for the Deaf as the definitive QOTSA statement, this is probably their second best album.
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on June 14, 2007
If the Queens do anything well it's evolving and progressing without completely changing there sound. Josh Homme and the boys have moved away from the darker tones of Lullabies to Paralyze and have crafted an album in Era Vulgaris that jerks its way through fuzzed out guitars and somewhat more upbeat vocal harmonies. That's not to say that other Queens of the Stone Age albums lacked harmony, it just seems to be more upfront on this album. There seems to be more a glam rock element to this album as opposed to the grittier sound of there previous work. There are still hard chunky guitar riffs here, but they seem much more danceable and less heart pounding. Even the album cover seems brighter, with pink and purple colors all over the place. The Queens haven't gone soft, they just appear to have returned to the hedonistic and celebratory rock of their second album Rated R.

The album opens with the best song on the album, Turnin on the Screw. Turnin on the Screw is unlike any other song in their catalogue. It's an easy rocker with reverb heavy guitars with Josh singing in a high register. It throws the listener a curve ball because most Queens fans are programmed to expect their albums to start off with a bang. The other high point is the Desert Sessions tune Make It Wit Chu. Make It With Chu is a sleazy lounge song that seems almost effortless. It's strange that I like the two slowest songs on the album best. Maybe the next album will be full of easy going dirty lounge songs.

Most of the songs are good, but as a general complaint the rockers seem less interesting than on pervious albums. All of the buzzy guitars seem to melt together in to a stew of noise. Battery Acid is guilty of this as well as Misfit Love, I'm Designer, and Sick Sick Sick. Repeated listens allow these songs to open up a bit, but they are not as rewarding as you'd expect. The only true misstep is Into the Hollow. With the plinky guitar at the start, it sounds like a b-side from Lullabies. It never really clicks like some of there other slower songs, it just seems to stagnate.

This album is recommended for fans of the band and anyone who wants to add a little hedonistic rock to their diet. It's not as good as R, Songs for the Deaf, or Lullabies to Paralyze, but it's still a solid album that's easily on par with their self titled debut album.
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on June 12, 2007
I'm not going to do a play by play of the album because reviews in general are just opinions so that would be a waste of your time. I will say that this album is very cocky, indulgent, dark, and delicious.

You can go to their website and hear the whole album. If you like it, buy it. Simple as that.
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on May 21, 2013
I find that this is the album I listen to most; hand's down. Like so few other band's, they have managed to create an album that is not only thematically cohesive, but listenable beginning to end. One of those rare 'perfect' albums. I still can't stop listening to "Sick, sick, sick", because of it's hard driving guitar bridge. I find it pumps me up, gives me energy to get through the day. Same for the punk tinged "Battery Acid". Guitar riffs on "3's & 7's" always grab me, along with the bitter, biting lyrics. I never get tired of listening to this album because it pairs dark, deeply felt emotion with serious musicianship. My brain gets bored easily and I never get tired of counting out rhythm's for each instrument. Not one note is a throwaway. Everything is precise, except for Josh Homme's voice. Funny how the precision of the instrumentation is what makes the instrumentation fascinating, yet Homme's voice is deliberately blurred, stretched, muttered, altered. By making his voice hard to interpret, you listen closer. It even allows you to interpret what he's saying, since you might not be sure. Listen closely and you will find that Homme's insights and observations are perceptive and deeply felt. I still listen to it often because it speaks for me and yet it still challenges me. I find new things in it all the time. I guess you could say it engages me deeply on all emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and musical levels. One of the best albums ever made.
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on June 20, 2007
Crap on a crap cracker, this album just gets better and better when I listen to it. If this is the direction the Queens are taking themselves musically; then damn. This is what rock should sound like. From the robotic repetitiveness of the guitar riffs, to the face melting buttery smoothness of the solo's. The keyboard, drums, bass; everything is just clicking. Era Vulgaris is definitely one of my favorite albums. In my opinion this album solidifies that Queens of the Stone Age are sitting way up on the rock pedestal along with Floyd, Zep, and the Doors.
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on August 20, 2007
Stoner rock is typically heavy, sludgy and appeals to, well, those who indulge in mind altering activities. The Queens are the poster children of this volcanic miasma, but they, or more specifically, Josh Homme, reach more than just stoners. This tea totaller (for the last couple of decades anyway) digs the Queens as much as anybody.
Thick syrupy guitars and the delicate touch of a wrecking ball slamming into a warehouse full of blasting caps define all the Stone Ager's music, and "Era Vulgaris" is no exception.
That there isn't a whole lot of new territory musically here is a good thing because frankly, Homme's clever lyrics and help from his usual sidekicks like Mark Langevin or Chris Goss don't really need improved upon.
"I'm Designer", "Sick Sick Sick" and "The River In The Road" won't disappoint fans of "R", and the closer, "Run, Pig, Run" sounds like the munchkins on mescaline. "Era Vulgaris" is a solid effort that doesn't exactly blow their other work out of the water, but rather fits in quite nicely into an already impressive musical wardrobe.
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on August 29, 2007
At first I was with the people who gave this album 1 or 2 stars and thought "What in God's name is this?". In fact, my favorite song was "Era Vulgaris", a song featuring Trent Reznor of NIN fame which didn't even make the album. Look it up. However, being a monster Queens fan I couldn't give up that easily, and pretty much just played it whenever I was at work or doing other stuff which wouldn't require my attention much. After not long I was singing the entire album and fully rockin' out. "Turning on the Screw" has become a monster jam in my daily playlist. Check it.
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