Eagles Of Death Metal – [Album]

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Unlike so many other bands that have released side project albums over the last few years (beginning with Fieldy’s god-awful hip hop record, Rock n’ Roll Gangster, in 2002, recently releases have surfaced by Albert Hammond Jr. from The Strokes and Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals) that really only amount to variations on the original, established theme of the larger band in question and are a cheap excuse for one member to put his/her name up front to be the center of attention (ah, vanity), Eagles Of Death Metal has, since first appearing in 2004, set themselves apart from the crowd by attempting to force Josh Homme’s name into the back seat and opting for Seventies-inspired, mega-riffing classicism. Truthfully, even that wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Homme though—his Desert Sessions let him do whatever he wanted anyway—and what makes Heart On so gratifying is that he loosened his grip a little, let other people play too, and inadvertently let Eagles co-conspirator Jesse Hughes run away with the show.

Left in his hands, 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.

Instantly noticeable in the opening power-riff warm-up of “Anything ‘Cept The Truth” is that 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. With a chorus of female vocal backing, Hughes floors listeners with surprisingly straight-faced classic rock vamps and gets it on (without banging a gong) because he knows he’s got something to prove; Josh Homme’s name made this band and with his presence here at a minimum, the star power is at an ebb, so the singer rises to the challenge and brings his best game in an effort to keep the whole thing from flopping miserably. It works too; with better songwriting and a more cocksure delivery than the band has been able to muster before, from the outset Heart On sets a precedent for what no one had a clue Eagles Of Death Metal was capable of.

The neo-classic rock vibes continue as the kabuki-flavored intro of “Wannabe In L.L” 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!’ In the early going particularly, there is no rocket science involved or consideration for taste making accounted for; 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. It’s a mixture that will make listeners scratch their heads, but only because so many bands now use classic rock sounds and influences to seem ironic while EODM is using them as songwriting tools here.

As Heart On rolls on, EODM runs a gauntlet of sounds and styles—from relaxed hippie hang-outs (“Now I’m A Fool”) to nervous, QOTSA-esque stiffy rock (the title track) and river-rollin’ bloated coke rock (“Cheap Thrills,” “How Can A Man With So Many Friends Feel So Alone”) that all successfully stretch away from the established early vibe and gives a little variety to keep the proceedings from feeling like a sham or two-dimensional mock-up and, in the process, establishes Eagles Of Death Metal as a band all its own for the first time. Heart On is a defining record for EODM because it doesn’t try to crutch on any famous names or past successes or rest on any laurels. 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.


Heart On is out October 28, 2008 on Downtown Recordings. Pre-order it on Amazon.


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