Silence is golden. Not very many rock bands know that.
Never mind all the other attributes that made Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs for the Deaf a 2002 favorite among music writers, record store clerks and, oh, the general public. The most striking thing the Queens of the Stone Age do on its third album is to shut up.
Granted, only two tracks out of the 14 on the album have significant pauses — “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire” even includes a fake ending — but it’s that willingness to get out of the way that pushes Songs for the Deaf from good to excellent.
Maybe that’s overstatement.
But memorable melodies, muscular riffs and rock solid playing — all of which can be found on Songs for the Deaf — are everywhere (although not nearly as prolific as they ought to be). Hell, those phrases could be used to describe Weezer’s Maladroit.
And in those ways, Songs for the Deaf can get lost among other albums of the same ilk.
But that silence — or rather, the common sense to know when to stop hammering a listener with the same fucking power chord — makes the album distinct.
Given that Homme can shred and that guest drummer Dave Grohl can pound the hell out of a drum kit makes those silences even more meaningful. It’s all too easy for musicians as expert as Homme, Oliveri and Grohl to shove their talents in listeners’ faces.
Not to diminish the other things that do make Songs for the Deaf a real keeper …
“Song for the Dead” epitomizes the adjective “concise” — it gets a lot of mileage out of only two distinct riffs. “No One Knows” is a durable enough tune to withstand even overexposure on MTV.
In fact, all the songs on the album benefit from economic writing. The Queens take a pinch of material and fashion out complete works with it.
Other listeners may call it “repetitive”. Repetitive is Philip Glass. This is not Einstein on the Beach.
Thank the A&R dieties that Homme isn’t another muddle-voiced, Clorox-gargling singer. It would have been ridiculous to hear another Vedder clone caw over the headbanging grunge of “Go With the Flow” or “Gonna Leave You”.
If anything, Songs for the Deaf takes the idea of keeping it simple to an extreme level. Call it “keeping it frugal”.
That, and some strategically placed silences go a long way to make an album both good and unique.