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Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

on November 18, 2009, 3:15am

In this day and age, few things come around that make us stir from head to toe with glee and anticipation. One of these things was the announcement of the new rock super ensemble that is Them Crooked Vultures, a tripod of giants with the force of three generations of rock ‘n’ roll. I’m going to assume a number of people know by now, but all the same, the Vultures are: badass Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age on guitar, the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl going back to his drum set, and none other than John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin to tie it all down on the bass front. Their debut album, Them Crooked Vultures, has hit our timpani, and the shelves on the way.

What can you expect from a lineup such as this? Well, at times they sound like Zeppelin, and at times they sound like Zeppelin mixed with Queens of the Stone Age. Pretty simple, no? It’s needless to say that there’s a considerable amount of thunder on this record, powered by Grohl’s confident beating and Homme’s shameless way of channeling Jimmy Page while simultaneously sprinkling some of his very own cold-blooded strum on top. Yes, the song is “Reptiles”, and it is but one of the many instances when the Vultures “summon the spirit of Zep”, as Rolling Stone puts it.

It’s not like they set out to recreate all Zeppelin masterpieces, though. Them Crooked Vultures is an entirely new, unprecedented project, not to be confused nor dangerously associated with any of the members’ high-profile musical histories.

…Nah, it’s Dave Grohl and Josh Homme jamming with John Paul Jones!

And that’s really the best way to sum it all up. I mean, just because they too hold their own celebrity statuses and accomplishments does not mean they were not psyched to make a record with Jones, who brought us “Kashmir” and “No Quarter” and “Black Dog”, to cut the list short.

Celebrity status aside, however, the trio cooks up a blend of demonically sly licks, heavy-pedal forward trudging drums, and bass lines that exude calm mastery. “Nobody Loves Me And Neither Do I” kicks off the titanic hard rock mega-jam with Grohl’s precise, determined beats leading into Homme’s seductive vocals—coupled with his teasingly strange lyrics, a key instrument of this album’s appeal. The elemental pieces of this sound are their uniformly arranged hooks, which produce a full, wholesome energy; and their musical attitude, screaming unrefined hard rockin’ outlaw (see: “New Fang”). After a few good listens, it’s evident that Grohl carries the torch of power for the group, setting down some hard, strong crashes and rides like the great drummer that he is. I couldn’t help but wonder just how tired he would be after playing all 13 tracks back to back.

On “Dead End Friends”, they probably sound their most original, introducing the song with ghoul-like guitars and following with some pretty alarming solos. The best off this one, though, is in “Elephants”. It starts out with, you guessed it, a Zeppelin sound, but quickly grows into a spinning-mad jumble with a few stops on the psychedelic riff express. “Scumbag Blues” gives room for Jones to bring forward his keyboard skills and superimpose them onto his cool bass, while Grohl keeps the pace for Homme’s well-deserved guitar-sturbation. The aptly-named “Interlude With Ludes” comes flowing in at just the right time, since 45 minutes of hard-stomping mammoth-led rock ‘n’ roll can get a bit exhausting. This track unleashes a more freaky side of the Vultures, and caters to the need of almost all experienced rock musicians to go a little Eastern in sound. The pace then picks up again with “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up”, which for a split-second, oddly reminded me of Portugal. The Man live, but it was just that split-second that is now lost in all the reverberating riffs and pummeling bass pedal kicks that followed.

The band is unlikely to be permanent, but it’s really an outstanding collaboration, and definitely one to be remembered. The only problem is that, from the get-go, you knew this stuff was going to be good. That allows for plenty of bias in expectation, and you wouldn’t want to like a record before you hear it just because it carries some impressive names, would you? Just kidding. After all, it is Dave Grohl and Josh Homme jamming with John Paul Jones.

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