Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures: The Supergroup Done RIGHT!

Rating: 4/5


*long sigh*

If “Supergroup” were a word in the dictionary, it would probably say something like “Supergroups are overhyped, dream collaborations, consisting of members of established, amazing bands, that inevitably amount to absolutely nothing special whatsoever and pale in comparison to said members’ previous bands.”

From Audioslave to Velvet Revolver, supergoups are usually like what happens when you take a bunch of really pretty watercolors and haphazardly mix them up, resulting in an ugly, shit-stain brown. You end up bored and disappointed, and the supergroup either gets bored as well (Audioslave), or their already too-big-to-fit-through-the-door egos clash and inevitably rip the band apart (Velvet Revolver). But every once in a while a Supergroup comes along that just sounds…right. Them Crooked Vultures is one such example of this; a supergroup that may not set the world on fire, but definitely will not suck. And how could it? You’ve got Dave Grohl on DRUMS(!) and Josh Homme handling guitar and vocals. The last time these guys collaborated on a full length, we wound up with “Songs for the Deaf”, the best hard rock album released this decade (according to this writer, at least), and a masterful homage to 70’s-inspired, Zeppelin-esque hard rock. So who better to handle bass than John Paul Jones himself, the legendary bassist for Led Zeppelin?

See what I mean? Them Crooked Vultures makes sense. But does the music?

Oh yes, the music makes sense alright; that badass, no frills, take-no-shit kind of sense. Them Crooked Vultures’ self-titled debut album is a complete success; quirky, heavy and fun as hell. Lead single “No Fang” is a pleasurable jam, and the infectious stomp of opening number “No One Loves Me and Neither Do I” gets things off to a great start. But midway through the album is where things start to kick into high gear, beginning with “Elephant,” most definitely the standout of the entire album. The band are obviously channeling Zeppelin throughout, but they do it with love and respect, and “Elephant” exemplifies this good-natured, we’re-just-having-a-good-time vibe of the record. The song is a beast, strutting along with confidence and vigor. You feel like this could have fit in great on Zeppelin II, but it doesn’t make you want to turn on “The Lemon Song” either. You’ll be totally into it, having a good time right along with them.

“Scumbag Blues” keeps the partying going, propelled by an airtight groove, courtesy of the band’s world-class rhythm section (We’re talking about Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones for god sakes!), and some pretty stellar guitar work from Josh Homme. Meanwhile, “Bandoliers” is probably the most Queens of the Stone Age-sounding song on the album, complete with a damn catchy main riff and amazing vocals from Homme. The albums is filled with highlights, and there’s quite a few surprises here too, especially a trippy, psychedelic tangent, lovingly entitled “Interlude with Ludes.”

Like I said, this album is a complete success. Sure, it sounds exactly the way you probably expected it to; but is that such a bad thing? We all thought a band with Rage Against The Machine’s fiery, funky hard rock as a backdrop for Chris Cornell’s jaw dropping, Robert Plant-styled vocals would be a perfect match. We knew how that was going to sound…and it sucked, big time.

At least these guys actually got it right.

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