QOTSA's frontman Josh Homme has been tested in his health and relationshipsMarkus Maier / Wikimedia Commons

With characteristic bluntness, it takes just one verse of Queens of the Stone Age’s new album In Times New Roman… for lead vocalist Josh Homme to say it’s all “fucking useless”. If he’s talking about the album, however, he’d be wrong. Not only is In Times New Roman… funny, but it does not shy away from feelings of pain and confusion. Homme’s struggles and mistakes are not lost in the pithy phrasings and riffs of his songs but are instead made to feel raw and real.

“Homme’s struggles and mistakes are not lost in the pithy phrasings and riffs of his songs”

Despite everything, Josh Homme has survived. Since QOTSA’s last album, 2017’s Villains, Homme has been tested in his health and relationships. Recently, he revealed having been diagnosed with cancer in 2022. However, even before that, Homme was no stranger to trauma. 2013’s …Like Clockwork looked retrospectively at his near-death experience in surgery with candour and lyrical sophistication. Songs like ‘I Appear Missing’ are devastating. More than desert rock, the song is unflinching in its introspection. When Homme sings: “It’s only falling in love because you hit the ground,” it’s clear that humour is integral to his experience of pain. What makes the new record intoxicating is not just its darker tone, but how Homme still finds beauty in holding nothing back.

'I Appear Missing' is one of the most devastating songs off QOTSA's 2013 record, ...Like ClockworkYouTube (Queens of the Stone Age)

The first wash of synthesisers on opening track ‘Obscenery’ is swiftly answered by stabs of Homme’s guitar. This is not Villains’ blend of danceable drumbeats and ethereal keyboards. Jon Theodore’s bass drum kicks root each song “back to Earth”, as Homme pleads on ‘Negative Space’. The opener is quickly followed by ‘Paper Machete’, a classic QOTSA blast. Here, the lead guitar and rhythm section are so tightly intertwined that each break in the song seems as natural as breath. I have to wonder if Michael Shuman’s bass playing abilities were learned or granted in a satanic ritual like the one on the album’s artwork.

Despite this furious accompaniment, Homme never loses his gift for finding a strong vocal melody. Driven, sharp and sardonic, his vocals on ‘Emotion Sickness’ do not float above its thrash; they cut through the instrumental mix. Homme easily transitions between the inconsolable anger of the song’s verses to the dreamy vocals of the chorus. Every vocal styling he adopts manages to fit the specific tone of each song without detracting from the overall atmosphere of the album.

“I have to wonder if Michael Shuman’s bass playing abilities were learned or granted in a satanic ritual”

Lyrically, this is an album of humorous bitterness. Almost every song title is a twisted pun that elicits a pained grin rather than a belly laugh. Humour in its darkest form seems to be Homme’s survival method, his vocal delivery often evoking sarcasm as well as scorn.

Even at the album’s most desperate moments, sentiment is balanced with black humour. Take the opening track, ‘Obscenery’. Here, Homme tells us: “I do not give up, I give in.” Our expectations subverted, we don’t know whether to smirk or give in ourselves. This isn’t a new strain of lyricism – Elvis Costello may be a blueprint for Homme – but the lyrics do seem intent on exploring landscapes the band has never previously confronted. Overall, Homme highlights an unfortunate fact of life: the way it can shift so rapidly between immense joy and emptiness. However, this experience doesn’t normally sound so catchy.


Mountain View

Review: Foo Fighters' But Here We Are

QOTSA have always been there when I needed them. …Like Clockwork pulled me back down to Earth when all I wished to do was “appear missing” myself. In Times New Roman… is no different. I listen to Homme’s pain, his blunt wish to die, and hear it transform into something so life-affirming. Wherever I am in life, whether lovelorn or even “facing oblivion”, Homme still sings and I still smile.