Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures by Michael Emer
The expression ‘supergroup’ has always been thrown around in very loose terms in the music industry. However, no band has ever been able to comprise themselves of a more prodigious gathering than Them Crooked Vultures. However, with Josh Homme on vocals and guitar, Dave Grohl returning on drums, and the legendary John Paul Jones on bass, Them Crooked Vultures tries to redefine the term ‘supergroup,’ but struggles in doing so.
After years of rumors, Them Crooked Vultures played their first show in August of 2009 and have been touring ever since then in support for their self-titled debut. The album is comprised of classic Grohl drum beats and iconic John Paul Jones bass lines. However, the conflict of Them Crooked Vultures lies within both superstars trying to find themselves over the domineering Josh Homme and his Queens of the Stone Age-influenced sound.
The album is introduced by the return of Dave Grohl on drums and usual Homme whines in “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I.” A mid-tempo song with simple guitars is interjected by a thunderous “ugh!” by Homme, transitioning into a deafening stadium-anthem riff that represents the monstrosity of Them Crooked Vultures as a band. The song is preceded by two radio-friendly songs, “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” and “New Fang.” “New Fang” is a composition that brings out the best of each musician. Homme’s quick, slide guitar, Grohl’s upbeat drumming, and Jones’s funky bass formulates this catchy tune. Though after the album’s introduction of these three songs, Them Crooked Vultures takes a lackluster turn to diversity, experimenting with different sounds that had been previously foreign to Jones and Grohl.
The core of the album tries too heavily to focus on the band’s level of ‘cool.’ “…Slick back my hair/You know the devil’s in there,” Homme exclaims in “Elephants” over foreboding guitar riffs. However, the song lacks in its chorus and cannot revive itself until restoring the verses. Grohl and Jones then reinstate themselves in “Scumbag Blues;” as Homme’s falsetto submits to Grohl’s relentless pounding, as Jones breaks away and returns on the keytar to give the song a proggy solo. The album then loses itself over the imperial Homme, but escapes the abyss in “Caligulove;” a delightful tune with watered-down vocals by Homme, but a very forthcoming chorus in which he boasts “I don’t need a reason baby/Put your arms around me/Hold me real close/Clap me in irons” and is topped off with war-like drumming by Grohl. The song is followed by the biggest surprise of the album, “Gunman.” The song features a liquid-funk bass line that personifies psychedelic. Grohl drills his drumming into your head like a wind-up toy monkey banging cymbals, and has been wound up too much.
“Following a lead/You’re leading the same/That’s why you went for refrain” Homme boasts in “Gunman” as it seems as if he’s talking of his fellow band mates. Them Crooked Vultures possesses the ability to be something great, especially with such a prodigal lineup. However, Josh Homme acts as ‘big brother’ watching over Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones and does not allow them to display their signature sounds. When Grohl and Jones try to break away from the tyrannical rule of Homme, they are just pulled right back in. Sure, there are a handful of songs that bring back Grohl’s puncturing drumbeats from the early Nirvana days as well as Jones re-establishing his funk-rock roots in Led Zeppelin, but Them Crooked Vultures is too heavily influenced by the over-bearing progressive rock-influenced guitars and vocals of Josh Homme. Them Crooked Vultures is a band that will undoubtedly turn heads, but needs some more diversity in their music to back them.