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4.0 out of 5 stars
Era Vulgaris
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
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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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2007
Josh has put out another good album. I like it a lot more than the last two. The first Queens was classic material. The second Queens was very good as well, but the last couple of albums wasn't my personal favorite. Yeah, yeah, I understand why the artist has to change, and develope, and grow, and progress. Yata yata yata, this album is fun but I miss what Queens sounded like when they had just arose out of Kyuss. If you don't know Kyuss then do yourself a favor and find some.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I often wonder why record labels are constantly using market differentiation strategies depending on where and how the product is sold. Believe it or not, the Brazilian version for the download of "Era Vulgaris" contains three more songs than the CD and two more than the iTunes versions. These songs are named "Running Joke" (available on iTunes), "Era Vulgaris" (also available on the British CD) and "The Fun Machine Took a S**t and Died" (also available on the French CD). It's a common practice that, while makes some people happier to own just a few more songs than the others, makes these others to feel like fools. People who choose to buy the CD do so because they like the physical product, to carry and play it everywhere without any DRM restriction, just the old way. I am sorry to say that not everyone gets the same product for the same amount of money. That's a shame. It is interesting to note that the full 14-track version runs for about 62 minutes, which fits perfectly onto an audio CD. So absolutely no excuses that anybody could give us for such differences are reasonable.

Now let's focus on the "common" and "less privileged" version, which is the CD. Less privileged for sure, but cool enough to provide us some moments of delight. It's hard rock, but not that hard (I mean annoying here) in the general sense. My personal picks are "Sick, Sick, Sick", "Into the Hollow" and "3's & 7's". In some songs, while hearing Josh Homme on vocals, it often reminds me of Chris Cornell's voice (specially on "Battery Acid" and "3's & 7's"). I think they both own a very similar singing style.

"Make it Wit Chu" is a serious mistake. Sucks a lot! If for some reason they didn't want to gather all of the 14 songs in the CD version, "Era Vulgaris" or "The Fun Machine..." would have been better choices to put in place of this one. For this reason, and only for this reason, I give this record a 4-star rating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Now that hard rock seems to be in its death throes, even a minor effort from a good hard rocker can seem exceptional simply because of the gaping dearth of quality releases. As a result, the new album by Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris (which doesn't mean what you probably think it means), may well go down as the best hard rock album of the year even if it falls short of the standard set by this still relatively young band. Frontman Josh Homme has been in the game long enough by now to have learned a few things, but that doesn't make his output any more streamlined or ponderous. He still cranks out all the vicious riffs and sleaze he can manage, but the band's more playful, winking side takes a hit this time around. Homme and crew are like depraved hedonists baked under the sun, nursing recently acquired STDs and recovering from a week-long hangover.

Performance-wise, they're still having plenty of fun, but by slowing things down, darkening the mood, and pushing the grooves to hard extremes found somewhere in the basement of whatever studio-of-the-damned they shambled together before recording, they don't always show it. By drifting from the good times, they seem to be seeking a smaller, more hardcore audience, but the album's tracklist plays mostly like really good B-sides that couldn't fit into earlier releases. True, there's a mostly consistent sound, but its bottom-feeding abandon smells like leftovers dressed up as first run main courses. For the first time ever, it actually requires a patient effort to wade through this mire. Lucky for us that along the way they manage more moments battling with swamp things and spotting naked chicks floating by in a bong-shaped canoe than time spent in venomous sludge and being sucked down to the bottom of the bog.

Despite being one of the album's best bets, "Make It Wit Chu" is like a fragmented amalgam of Motown and the Stones, and not really much like the rest of the record (fans will probably recognize it from a few years back when its fetal form was done by Desert Sessions, Homme's side project). The stuttering beat of "I'm Designer" is searching for a strong hook, but plods on as a good song that nevertheless fails to ever really grab hold and become great. "Battery Acid" is (naturally) corrosive, and an unsuccessful plunge into a grinding, metallic sound (contrast it with album highlight, "Misfit Love," to see how this approach can work well).

It's the band's most difficult record to date, a grim and grimy spectacle that rarely strikes right away, but it's easy to commit yourself to repeated listens where the good parts grow. At times, it seems to be borrowing from pages too close to Homme, though--there's a piece of a guitar riff in "Sick, Sick, Sick" that sounds a lot like a section of Songs-session drummer Dave Grohl's "All My Life"; he performs an obvious former-Grohl gig Nirvana lift on "3s & 7s"; when he says "run" in "Run Pig Run," it's delivered exactly the same as the chorus in Mastodon's "Colony of Birchmen" (Homme is a big fan of that group). These failings, as well as the second half filler ("River in the Road") that also marred Lullabies, make Era their least impressive effort since their debut. But just like when other all-time great bands like Zeppelin (Presence), Pearl Jam (Binaural), the Who (The Who By Numbers), and Nine Inch Nails (With Teeth) follow up a string of stellar albums with one that's merely very good instead of great, it just feels worse by comparison. Is Era in the same league as the last three Queens albums? No. Is it worth seeking out, especially by fans? Definitely.

Best cuts: "Misift Love," "Make It Wit Chu," "Turning on the Screw," "Sick, Sick, Sick," "Into the Hollow," "Suture Up Your Future," "3s & 7s," "I'm Designer," "Run Pig Run"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Queens of the Stone Age is not the easiest band to get into. They are one of the most original bands around, and they constantly are pushing musical boundaries with odd arrangements, guest musicians, and a variety of song tempos.

QOTSA's ERA VULGARIS is not as immediately catchy as their previous albums. It has a raw, slightly more laid back sound than Lullabies, and many of the songs need to be listened to without interuptions in order to fully appreciate the layers of musical talent that has gone into each song. I heard "Sick Sick Sick" on Syrius Radio, and I didn't think much of it at first, because the chorus is kind of weird. But when I bought the cd and listened to it a dozen times or so, that song became a highlight. It has frantic riffage going on, and I like the vocal patterns on it. It's not what you sing, it's how you sing it. Josh does an awesome job of writing great vocal patterns, making each song full of hooks. He has one of the best voices in rock music. I like this album as much now as their previous ones, but what it lacks is one simply amazing song. They are all really good, but I was waiting for the track that would blow me away completely.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Queens of the Stone Age is nothing if not consistent when it comes to their musical style (their lineup is a different story all together). From the minute that "Era Vulgaris" kicks in, you know what you're in for, and you get it in spades. Incredibly catchy, somewhat gritty quality, and a just plain groovy mood that gets orchestrated throughout the album's eleven tracks. Witness opener "Turnin' on the Screw" which bleeds into rip-roarers like "Sick, Sick, Sick", "Misfit Love", "Make It Wit Chu", "3's & 7's", the instantly memorable and catchy "Suture Up Your Future", and the excellent closer "Run, Pig, Run". There's not really anything here on "Era Vulgaris" that you haven't heard before from Josh Homme and co., but if you're a longtime fan of the band, this isn't a bad thing one bit. As far as providing more than solid and inventive rock, "Era Vulgaris" delivers in all departments, and is yet again another wonderful entry in what is a very impressive and underrated discography. All in all, whether you're a Queens of the Stone Age fan new or old, "Era Vulgaris" won't disappoint.
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