Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris (2007), 7/10

Relatively hated album for changing the Queens of the Stone Age formula and experimenting in ways that most find either too different or dull. I do truly understand that it's not for everyone, but this is a breath of fresh air after the monotonous Lullabies to Paralyze. If there's a more Josh Homme song than "I'm Designer" with its desert guitar licks and ironic lyrics I haven't heard it, and while it is not my favorite song from an aesthetic standpoint, communicates a specific feeling very successfully as does much of the album. Not to mention "3's & 7's" is one of their strongest songs bar none. We also get the drugged "Suture Up Your Future" just before going on another droning trip in "River in the Road" and closing with the brilliantly unsettling "Run, Pig, Run". The unfortunate missing title track in the North American release featuring Trent Reznor takes it down a peg in comparison to the Deutschland Tour Edition, but the much more widely accessible release is strong enough. Admittedly, the album is held back by a jagged set of motifs that don’t always come together to say much of anything other than providing very separate, individually pleasing songs. The clever wordplay sometimes lands to full effect and sometimes drags on but works more than it fails. If I were to pitch the album to a wider audience, I’d say it encapsulates Homme’s individual eccentricities better than any other QOTSA album, leaning into his individual creativity and relying on the band to fill in the foundational gaps with tight performances, which it does successfully. Some songs like “Into the Hollow” feel like a regression that don’t fit amongst the wider psychedelic progressiveness seen on others like the opener or “Misfit Love” or the wonderous and instrumentally grandiose yet lyrically intimate “Suture Up Your Future”. Another showcase of the band’s idiosyncratic strengths in drug-induced desert sounds comes just in time for a strong closing with “Run, Pig, Run”. Not quite as consistent as their best work but one of their strongest efforts in experimentation and examining the wondrously surreal world of psychotropics.