Queens of the Stone Age’s music has never been short on bad vibes and lacerating observations, so the significant bile quotient of In Times New Roman…, the band’s eighth studio full-length, comes as no real surprise — especially when you consider what QOTSA leader Josh Homme has experienced in the years since the band’s last album, 2017’s Villains. His divorce from singer Brody Dalle led to a rough public custody child battle, and he recently revealed that he has cancer. Homme has never been one to deny his emotions, and he doesn’t exactly restrain himself here. “Paper Machete,” the album’s third single, offers, “Now I know you’d use anything, anyone/To make yourself look clean/In sickness, no vows mean anything.”
Similar sentiments abound throughout In Times New Roman…, yet the album never veers too far into a divorce-rock gripe-fest or a dark night of the soul confessional, chiefly because the music itself is so cathartic. After the dance-rock experimentation of Villains, the band has returned to the clockwork riffage that has characterized the best of their work going back to their self-titled 1998 debut. Listening to hooky, hard-pounding cuts like “Obscenery,” “Negative Space” and “Emotion Sickness,” it sounds almost like the band is closing ranks around its leader, helping him work through darkness and chaos with interlocking guitar blasts and concussive drum grooves.
Which is not to say that In Times New Roman…doesn’t also throw a few QOTSA curveballs. Several of the album’s tracks feature bursts of Middle Eastern-tinged strings that recall Led Zeppelin’s “Kasmir,” while the way that “Emotion Sickness” suddenly shifts from the woozy swagger of its verses to the Steely Dan-like melody and harmonies of its chorus is a thing of beauty. And then there’s the nine-minute closer “Straight Jacket Fitting,” which finds Homme doing his best Jim Morrison, ranting about the oblivious state of humanity in the face of our impending doom. “The world, yeah, she don’t need saving,” he wails, “’cept from you and me and our misbehaving.” After nearly seven minutes of venting and stomping, the song suddenly morphs into a lovely-yet-ominous acoustic instrumental, which feels both like a sigh of relief and an elegy for his collapsed life. It’s a convincingly intense end to what may well be the strongest QOTSA album since 2005’s Lullabyes to Paralyze.
From Rolling Stone US