“It’s songs for the deaf, you can’t even hear it”.
‘Songs For The Deaf’, is QOTSA third album. Released in 2002, I didn’t hear it in it’s entirety until 2008, which is crazy. It’s a loose concept album built around the story of someone taking a drive from LA to Joshua Tree. They tune in and out of radio stations along the way, picking up QOTSA songs. I love the idea and it works really well, it’s kind of funny and the skits work well as introductions for the songs. The record also features Dave Grohl on drums for the first time with QOTSA.
QOTSA had been building towards a record like this as they tried to pull away from the Kyuss tag. The previous record, ‘Rated R‘ had given them a greater reach and a lot of new fans, and ‘Songs For The Deaf’ kind of built on that progress. This is probably their best and most famous record (hard to argue) and there are some best in class hard rock tracks here. ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar..’ introduces the idea of the commute before turning into a frenzy of rock and screaming. I know Nick Oliveri is a bit of a dick, but fair play to him for his contribution on this record. ‘No One Knows’ follows and this is one of the stand out tracks and rightly so. A song written about drugs and their effects, its a perfect mix of hard rock and radio friendly rhythm, and the song isn’t just a blaze through but more of a masterpiece in controlled chaos. One of my favourite QOTSA tracks without doubt, but it’s challenged by several other tracks on this record. ‘Hangin’ Tree’, ‘God Is In The Radio’, ‘A Song For The Dead’, ‘First It Giveth’ and ‘Go With The Flow’ are all unbelievable tracks. ‘First It Giveth’ is a blend of hard hard rock and soft vocals, as well as a catchy as hell chorus. The shredding guitar and speedy drums do make this one of their finest. ‘A Song For The Dead’ is another belter and another one of the best with some of the best drums you’ll ever hear. The expertise of Grohl and also Mark Lanegan come through as the track is pushed to its limits.
‘Go With The Flow’ should be well know to anyone who has ears and it’s another example of QOTSA melodic side. I’m sure that Josh Homme had radio play in mind when the band put together some of these tracks as they were edging that way with the previous record. The important thing is that while doing it they retained their core sound, so it’s cool. Bands like Coldplay who ditch that core sound quickly fall into a dark abyss. The tone of the record is obviously dark, and the theme of drug use running through it adds to that. The record is highly regarded because of it’s sound but also its consistency. Straight through we get bigger, more expansive, quicker songs that hold their own despite QOFSA operating within the hard/stoner rock and death metal genres.
I guess what really works with this record is that it’s accessible to fans of different types of music. As in, you don’t have to be a hard rock or death metal fan to take something away from it. It’s not an earful of screaming and it’s not an attack of noise, it’s structured in sound and well put together. Now, I wouldn’t stick it on at a kids tenth birthday party, but it might get played when everyone’s gone to bed. Oh, and if you want to see a crazy live performance, check out this performance of ‘No One Knows’ from the Reading Festival in 2005. I’m out.