The Emergence Of Eagles Of Death Metal

Sunday, 13 September 2009

What a difference a few months can make in the development and growth of an entity. Nine months ago, Eagles Of Death Metal singer Jesse Hughes could (and was) quoted as saying, “Eagles Of Death Metal is a success story of the way it should be. Josh [Eagles Of Death Metal accomplice and Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme –ed] has been there for me every step of the way… He is the captain of our gang and as the captain of our ship you could ask for no finer man. This is an armada now baby – the special forces of rock – and I’ve got my own fuckin’ ship. And how lucky am I that I get to have the captain of the gang play drums?”

At the time, Eagles Of Death Metal was certainly Hughes' ship – there's no arguing that – but there's also no doubt that Josh Homme's name and fame were attached and were at least partially responsible for both the drive and chart positioning of the group and no one was arguing that either in spite of the fact that Homme has relinquished drumming duties for tours. Even with that absence, the band's performances and the stream of kudos continued to flow toward the band to the point that, now, as the band and Hughes continue to cut a celebrated swath across Canada, Hughes can safely say that Eagles Of Death Metal is running under his power and, while he still offers great thanks to Homme for the push and assistance, the singer is charting his own course now. “To be perfectly honest, a lot of things have been deliberately skewed and distorted since Joshua and I launched this band years ago,” explains Hughes while sitting comfortably on his tour bus at the band's tour stop in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario. “From the very beginning, the whole thing was intended to be sourced with me but it also has a bit to do with the way that Josh is amused by it. A lot of the time I'm just doing stuff that he couldn't even possibly want to get away with; Queens Of The Stone Age is about as far as he can take the joke. 'Old Fags?' That's about as far as it goes. But me? It's a different trip; I'm the dude that never should have made it but, I have – in a 'just perfect' sense. I'm the one that should be doing this right now and, thanks to a little help and coattail riding, I am.”

Coattail riding or not, it's difficult to argue with the results of Hughes' capture of creative control over Eagles Of Death Metal. It happened late last year with the release of EoDM's third release, Heart On when, in a seemingly spontaneous gesture, the focus shifts on that album from Desert Session sketchiness to glossier, Motor City-inspired rock. The first thing Hughes does in the opening seconds of “Anything ‘Cept The Truth” is draw a line in the sand that separates Eagles Of Death Metal from Queens Of The Stone Age and, from there, the colors of Seventies Detroit guitar rock royalty including Ted Nugent, Glen Buxton and the Asheton brothers are splattered on every wall with a touch of glitter rock (a la T. Rex) mixed in for that little dash of sparkle. The neo-classic rock vibes continue as the kabuki-flavored intro of “Wannabe In L.A” gives way to speedy indie guitar greatness replete with tongue in cheek wordplay (Hughes slurs the choral refrain to sound like “I wanna be in Hell-A”) and “(I Used To Couldn’t Dance) Tight Pants” stomps into the Motor City to show both the old school dinosaurs as well as the aesthetically-aware new breed (is Jack White listening?) how to get kids to shake their fists in the air and say ‘Yeah!’ There is no rocket science involved or consideration for taste making accounted for here; Hughes makes the greatest effort to compensate for being largely on his own and paints his own impression of what the band should be right down to the last detail. In that way, what listeners get is a new take on classic rock that is (of course) big and bombastic, but also incorporates an equal amount of needs-first, DIY indie quirkiness. The record is gratifying too because it ignores all fashion (including the one that the band tried to establish themselves with Death By Sexy) and revives the idea that sometimes rocking out can be its’ own best reward.

…And if ever one needed proof to see that rocking out can indeed be its' own best reward, the proof lies in how Hughes, guitarist Dave Catching, bassist Brian O'Connor and drummer Joey Castillo light up a stage. There is something undeniably retro in what happens as the band starts to break a sweat, railing out songs like "Anything 'Cept The Truth," "Wanna Be In L.A." and "High Voltage," and it all boils down to a core joy in finding the classic rock aesthetic continues to endure. Hughes does not hold still as he channels the spirits of Jagger in the Sixties as well as Thunders and Nugent in the Seventies. It's a hypnotizing thing to watch and, really, reassuring to know that the sex appeal of rock n' roll still holds sway; even by halfway though a show on any given night, there isn't a dry pair of pants in the house.

Needless to say, people have responded beautifully to the show that Eagles of Death Metal is peddling and Hughes has been nothing but emboldened by the influx of accolades and and attention afforded to the band and has already charted out the next few moves that the band will make: after Canada, the band will be doing some high-profile US shows before going back across the ocean (for the second time in the last twelve months) to soak up some more European adulation. Following that, the envisioned course will lead Hughes back into the studio to record a solo album by his alter ego, Boots Electric. Such an iron man's workload would be imposing for most but, according to Jesse Hughes, he's determined to get his kicks in before the whole shit-house goes up in flames and that actually requires a faster pace than he feels he has set for himself. “I've tried to pace myself on it to be honest with you, because there's only so many phases that any band has in them – you know,” asks Hughes with pensive modesty. “Right now, I'm half a step between the 'Oh my gawd, this is awesome!' phase where you regularly hear stuff like, 'We're still having a riot!' and, 'Dude! We're in Europe!' and, 'Dude! We're making rock n' roll AND these chicks want to have sex with me! On purpose! This is totally different from when I was in high school!' and Phase Three, also known as the 'They're still believing that I'm making this shit up' phase. A lot of the time lately, I've been writing songs and making little demos in my bedroom and playing around with them on the road. I'm actually getting pretty good at it and then I hand them to Josh so he can check them out. I do it just to see him say, 'Aw dude, I can't believe you did this' They're really coming together though and we may have the Boots Electric album finished within the next twelve months. It's already written, actually. I tend to write everything but initially it all sounds similar because it's all the same artist – you know? They're written, but they need a little more time and polish to really make them happen.

“My whole journey with music has always been to reach a Parliament-Funkadelic level but Joshua Shanghai-ed me at the transfer station and we ended up in Eagles Of Death Metal land,” continues the singer as he sums up where his final destination will be as well as what he's working toward now that he's the one at the wheel. “I still want to get to P-Funk; they are the quintessential essence of everything we're trying to accomplish. They were the synthesis and the proof that rock n' roll is an attitude and that's the spirit we're trying to reclaim.”


Heart On is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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