Superbands are an interesting concept. Members from successful bands getting together and writing new songs, which would in theory sound like a mix of the styles of the bands involved. From a marketing standpoint, it’s great. Bringing the fans of the component members together, all buying one album. It’s probably a load of fun for the band members too, as they get to step out of the shadow of fan expectations and have a glorified jam with other great musicians doing the same.
When it comes to ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ and their self -titled debut, they do sound like they are having a hell of a lot of fun, and you can definitely hear each member’s influence. ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ comes out of the confluence of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. The root of the band’s sound comes from Homme’s gritty lead vocals and distorted guitar work, Grohl’s tight drumming and John Paul Jones’s melodic basslines. However, because of Josh Homme taking lead vocal duties, and the fact that both Grohl and himself have played on Queens of the Stone Age albums, “Them Crooked Vultures’ do have more than a hint of Homme’s influence in their sound. If you can imagine Queens of the Stone Age, filtered through bluesy classic rock and with a little sprinkle of playful avant-garde, then you’d be somewhere close to imagining the sound of ‘Them Crooked Vultures’
At first, I felt sorry for John Paul Jones, being the old classic rocker in with these 2 younger kings of alternative rock. Even more when I heard his bass being put through distortion effects on a few of the tracks. Then I realised that he probably had much more influence on the sound of the band that I had originally given him credit. After all, he’s the one in this group with nothing to lose. He was a part of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time! He wouldn’t have agreed to join if he didn’t like Homme’s dissonant leaning sound, and to add in those basslines underneath just give the songs an extra sparkle of classic rock energy.
For the Foo Fighters fans out there, don’t worry, you can hear Dave’s voice in there in places, harmonising with Homme and occasionally getting little moments to sing on his own. It’s incredibly likely that many of the guitars were recorded by him too, the multi-instrumentalist that he is. It does make me wonder though, what my impression of this album would be if it was Grohl taking lead vocal duties rather than Homme. On first listens, my dominant thought was “This is very QotSA”, but while the overall sound of the band is reminiscent of Josh Homme’s band, the fact that he is also the singer plays a big part in this impression. This said, the influence the other band members have on the sound make me prefer this album to Queens of the Stone Age’s last effort, ‘Era Vulgaris’.
This is quite a strange album, but a very good one. Sweeping pianos mix with out of time guitar distortion, some songs end with sound-a-likes of old movie soundtracks, and bluesy guitar riffs trade off with ones that border on the dissonant. What’s amazing is that it all works, and is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. For Queens of the Stone Age fans, this album should be an instant purchase, and Foo Fighters fans won’t have much to complain about either. If any Zeppelin fans are on the fence about it, by the time you hear the bass in Scumbag Blues, you won’t be, I promise.