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Queens of the Stone Age play ... a library?

Scrapping all the trimmings, Homme streamlined his leviathan rock to make "Era Vulgaris."

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A bookish bunch: Queens of the Stone Age
  • A bookish bunch: Queens of the Stone Age
Some lab coats conducted studies and found that years of prolonged head-banging can lead to severe physical trauma and brain damage amongst young adults. Next time, those eggheads should really consider adding Josh Homme to the control group.

Via Queens of the Stone Age and his earlier groundbreaking stoner-metal band, Kyuss, Homme has managed to make heads spin to his brain damage. For a man once regarded as the "Kurt Cobain of the desert rockers," Homme has built an impressive body of work, including his ongoing "Desert Sessions" project.

When Kyuss split up in 1995, Homme played backup guitar for Screaming Trees, where he plotted future collaborations with its singer, Mark Lanegan, and tasted the whip of life on the high road. After two years, Homme high-tailed it back to the studio to record Queens of the Stone Age. This sinister, sexy debut unfolds like a brain-frying day-mare, plying sinewy guitars and hop-along bass licks into a thick, sonic coil of trouble, and proved the foundation for what's become five albums' worth of catchy, conceptual art rock.

Former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri (among other dudes from the dunes) soon joined to help concoct QOTSA's extraordinary follow-up, Rated R; 2001's Songs for the Deaf broke the band into broader orbit, albeit with the help and hype of Dave Grohl (and Lanegan's underrated contributions). Two singles charted, but this "success" only obscured an otherwise bloated concept album, and the band soon went to shit amidst grueling support tours. Oliveri got ejected and, in the absence of the bearded, often naked bassist, Homme hit the studio to create Lullabies to Paralyze.

Scrapping all the trimmings, Homme streamlined his leviathan rock to make Era Vulgaris, heavy on riffs and light on the unnecessary, an album that should leave heads bobbing, not banging, to his heavy mettle. Steadily buzzing with bad attitude and beatitude, the album doesn't try hiding behind its own shadow, like Songs, or hypnotizing your ears a la Lullabies. Rather, it throws sharp, insouciant rock in your face and lets it bleed.

Homme winds the second hand counter-clockwise with his mellifluous falsettos as he nooses undertones with strings of steel. The album's opener, "Turnin' on the Screw" -- a fiendish twist on the Henry James story -- teases with a hopscotch rhythm before it opens the trap door, dropping reverb into vacuum tubes. Gut-check metaphors fuel the unrelenting momentum of songs like "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "Battery Acid," while watery harmonics conjure up the spooky on "Into the Hollow."

Now, what started out with a few power boxes and a bunch of paraphernalia in the desert hits Homestead. But to really make heads spin, Queens of the Stone Age is playing the Carnegie Library, where heads are typically buried too deep in books to bang up and down.

Queens of the Stone Age with Howlin' Rain and Dax Riggs. 8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 28. Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead, 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. $25 ($27 day of show). 412-323-1919

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