Classic Review: Queens of the Stone Age – ‘Songs for the Deaf’ (2002)

Joe Conry, Reporter

From the opening jingle of car keys and the engine starting up, it’s clear Songs for the Deaf is ready to take the listener on a journey.

Billed as the “new Nirvana,” Queens of the Stone Age, led by Josh Homme of the legendary desert rock band Kyuss, are an alternative and hard rock band with Homme as the only permanent member. A concept album based on driving through the Mojave Desert, Songs for the Deaf is abrasive, yet fun to listen to. With a lineup featuring Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees, madman bassist Nick Oliveri, and drumming legend Dave Grohl, Songs for the Deaf feels harder and heavier than any other Queens album prior.

Taking roots in alternative rock, grunge, and stoner rock, Songs for the Deaf treats every song individually, connected only by the skits (featuring radio stations based off of what the band would hear driving through the desert) in between each song. Tracks like “No One Knows” and “Go With the Flow” feature the almost operatic vocals of Homme accompanied with his iconic dirty guitar tone while tracks like “Songs for the Deaf” and “Hanging Tree” showcase psychedelic-esque guitar work and Lanegan’s crooning vocals. And mixed in between the both of these, are the wild banshee screams and furious bass lines of Nick Oliveri on tracks like “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire” and “Six Shooter.”

While the majority of this album is made up of the hard rock/desert rock jams that Queens is best known for, it’s the songs where they go offbeat from their normal style that really stand out. The best example of this being the closing track “Mosquito Song”, an eerie folk ballad featuring a multitude of instruments including accordion, brass and string sections, piano, and of course acoustic guitar. Clashing symbols, quivering vocals, and a false ending give “Mosquito Song” an epic feeling unlike any other track on the album.

Songs for the Deaf has managed to absorb all the fun, catchy riffs of mainstream rock and plug it into their stoner rock formula, all the while making it seem effortless. It does what many albums strive to do, which is to create a fun, energetic release, while at the same time allow Queens to experiment and play around with different genres. Songs for the Deaf is by far one of the best examples of an album that can be loved by both music snobs and the general public alike.