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Them Crooked Vultures debut album may be the best of 2009

Them Crooked Vultures is the most recent super-group to hit the scene, and it might be the best super-group ever. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal), drummer Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and bassist John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Them Crooked Vultures (TCV) is a foot-to-the-floor mix of differing eras of rock-and-roll, tumbled together under the production of the entire band and spilled out in an album that cannot be overlooked.

Josh Homme has built a career around jam sessions and loosely-organized bands. Although Kyuss had a fairly solid line-up from start to finish, Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) has always been a “whoever is around come and jam” kind of project. And one only needs to look at his Desert Sessions series of recordings to understand his philosophy behind the creation and presentation of music. Although the songs on the eponymous disc are composed by the entire group, it is Homme’s unique style that defines TCV. This is not to offend the rhythm section by any stretch of the imagination, as they are amazing in their own right. But the feel and sound is definitely driven by Josh Homme’s vocals and guitar work, and that is a good thing. Homme is one of the more creative songwriters in rock and roll today, and he continues to put out music that is unlike anything the mass market currently contains. He also plays a six-string quite well (check out the off-kilter lead-in to “Mind Eraser, No Chaser”), and his vocals are a refreshing change from some of the “singers” one finds in modern rock.

Dave Grohl is no stranger to Homme’s way of making music. Grohl was the master behind the kit on the most accessible (and rocking) QOTSA record to date, the blazing and über-creative Songs for the Deaf. TCV serves to remind those that may have forgotten what a great drummer Grohl truly is. In the dust-bin of history, Grohl’s work as the drummer in Nirvana is largely overlooked due to his success as the lead singer and guitarist of the Foo Fighters. There is no excuse for this any longer. He shows his monster chops throughout the entire album, with rhythms that at times feel like they are teetering on the edge of a cliff, but he brings it around and pulls it together with tight, straight-forward timing. Every time Grohl gets behind a kit he displays his mastery, and TCV is another heaping helping of his best stuff.

Underlying the entire album is the soulful, bluesy bottom-end of one of the greatest bass players in the history of rock and roll. John Paul Jones has always kept himself on the cutting edge of rock, but with TCV he attains a relevance not seen since the halcyon days of Zeppelin. His bass playing is what really sets TCV apart from other Homme projects. His more classic approach to his instrument helps to shape the sound in a way that no other bass player could do. Effortless in his playing, the bass moves from precise staccato cadences to fuzzy, space-filling grunge, Jones makes his mark throughout the disc and flawlessly fills the space between the drums and the guitar.

The best bits of this album include:

  • The single, “New Fang”, a raucous romp from start to finish.
  • “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I”, as good a lead-off single as one can find.
  • The gleefully dark, quickly moving “Dead End Friends”.
  • “Caligulove”, a sultry smoker of a song. 
  • The rhythmic, and at times haunting, “Gunman”.

And this is only the best of the best. The rest of the album is just as good. Anyone who is a fan of rock and roll music, regardless of the era, needs to get this album. It is a disc that is a necessary addition to any collection.

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