Eagles of Death Metal

Heart On

Rating: 3.0

Label: Downtown

It’s a shame that Josh Homme can’t have fun in his own band anymore. The last two Queens of the Stone Age records, Lullabies to Paralyze and Era Vulgaris, were alternately bleak or bitter affairs, compared to the ironic smirk the songs tended to wear when his material was at his finest (and most fun). So it’s a good thing he can get his jollies producing and drumming for Eagles of Death Metal, with longtime buddy Jesse Hughes on guitar and vocals. The danger of this, however, is that EODM has sometimes sounded like too much of an inside joke for anyone else but the two main goofballs involved. “The Ballad of Queen Bee and Baby Duck” from 2006’s Death By Sexy… was cringingly self-referential and the myriad false starts and studio noise littering 2004’s Peace, Love, and Death Metal gave all but the most adoring fan-girl the impression that this was an exclusive party that you may or may not have been invited to.

Think of the iconic Coppertone girl: innocently walking the beach with a puppy pulling down her shorts to reveal her pasty, white butt, causing her to cast a surprised glance over her shoulder. This is the shtick or persona of EODM: Jesse “Boots Electric” Hughes’ pants are being yanked down by rock ‘n’ roll to reveal his sexuality, only he shows no surprise. His facial expression is a wink and sly smile. He makes music that lampoons the kind of aggressive male sexuality embraced in an actual Los Angeles by Lemmy Kilmister in an era when such an attitude in rock music would often get branded as chauvinistic. Even Homme sounded like an asshole on his own “Broken Box” a few years back. All the while, a glorious, round, tan-lined ass graces the inside of their new record, Heart On.

That’s not to say the “funny” consumes EODM to the degree that the appeal ends there. When the duo brings good songs to the table, they’re ripped into with vigor and one is able to believe in the liberating powers of boogie rock for a hot three-minute track. “Miss Alyssa,” “Speaking in Tongues” and “I Only Want You,” stood out on the first record and “Cherry Cola,” “I Want You So Hard” and “I Gotta Feeling,” drove the last one. Heart On is no different in this respect; “Wannabe in L.A.,” “Cheap Thrills,” and the title track are the well-written tunes here, with the rest of the record fleshed out with fun, if not exceedingly inspired three chord stompers.

Homme produced Heart On with a more straight-forward approach than the last two records, which boasted a trebly guitar attack that could grow fatiguing. Here, the amps take on a more traditional dirty garage rock tone. On “Wannabe,” the band sets the burn on low, eschewing guitars for fuzz bass and “Solo Flights” gets some horns. Homme and Hughes are due credit here; it would’ve been very easy to release another record without any sonic flourishes or differentiation. In fact, Hughes seems to have largely abandoned his Canned Heat sexy-man falsetto for his natural voice and thankfully, Homme has moved away from the broken-mic drum sound that plagued most of his recordings over the past two years. Here’s to hoping that making this record has brought some fresh-eared focus to QOTSA’s future work.

Regardless of the pose and regardless of the in-jokes, someone seeking to spice their iPod with a little bit of offbeat L.A. scuzz would be satisfied here. The record may not be one for the ages, but when Heart On is good, you believe that the world really would be sexier and just a little more fun if folks gave themselves over to the four on the floor and sleazy riffs. In other words, Hughes may not be Mr. Right but he is Mr. Right Now.

by Chris Middleman

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