A couple months ago I dragged my lovely girlfriend to New York City to see Queens of the Stone Age at Madison Square Garden. As the band worked its way into the introduction to “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” she recognized the song I had made her listen to about a million times in just two months and turned to me with a huge grin. She must have known she’d see me about ready to explode with nervous excitement like that little kid in the “Dragula” music video.
“Feet Don’t Fail Me” is the only song I’ve heard in 2017 that has made me feel that way, and is undoubtedly my favorite song of the year. The opening track on QOTSA’s Villains, it captures what frontman Josh Homme said he wanted the band to sound like all the way back on their first record in 1998: “trance robot music that girls could dance to.”
I’m a believer in the concept of “love at first listen,” and this song socked it to me the first time I heard it. It was everything I wanted out of one of my favorite bands: a perfect album opener, heavy and a straight up killer groove. Another masterful rock and roll stroke by today’s finest practitioner.
Homme is the one true Rock God of this generation. Whatever he puts his hands on rules. Queens of the Stone Age can be counted on for an Album of the Year contender every time they put out music. Eagles of Death Metal is joyous garage rock fun. His supergroup with Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Them Crooked Vultures, pumped out one of the aughts’ best hard rock records. Last year, Homme did what nobody other than David Bowie has been able to do – get an all-time classic album out of Iggy Pop with the divine Post Pop Depression.
For Villains, Homme switched things up by enlisting “Uptown Funk” mastermind Mark Ronson as producer, making this the first Queens album Homme didn’t produce. Haters will say this is a sellout album and doesn’t sound like “real” QOTSA because of the production, but for me this sounds like the next logical progression in their music. The band has bounced from stoner/desert rock to metal to alternative to art rock for years, and they do it all seamlessly and with a groove.
“Feet Don’t Fail Me” is an amalgamation of Homme’s past work and everything he does best. The introduction sounds like something you would hear on Era Vulgaris: odd, trippy, winding and building with synths and weird chanting over rumbling guitar. And when the song finally kicks in, nearly two minutes in…oh man.
It is like if “Smooth Sailing” from QOTSA’s …Like Clockwork, “Gunman” from Them Crooked Vultures, “Sunday” from Post Pop Depression and “Uptown Funk” all had a baby. You can dance to it or you can rock the fuck out to it – a sign of a great song. It’s dirty, but somehow slick. Groovy and sexy, but also robotic and punishing.
Homme said he wanted to get to “that romance of ‘let’s go dancing’” and the song captures the spirit of living in the moment and being carefree. It’s about moving and grooving and taking life by the horns. Sort of strange subject matter for QOTSA since I feel like their songs are usually about weird shit, and Homme is never so blatantly autobiographical as he is in the opening lines here. But it all comes together in a rocking good time.
Other songs I loved this year
Tennis – “My Emotions Are Blinding” – Another song where “love at first listen” applies, I heard this driving to work one morning and it blew my mind. This husband and wife duo crush it with a blast of sensational pure pop. Alaina Moore’s voice is amazing.
Japandroids – “North East South West” – From the phenomenal Near to the Wild Heart of Life, an album all about how great rock and love are, comes a banger with crunchy guitar and swinging drums. An instant classic.
Liam Gallagher – “Wall of Glass” – Who would have thought Liam would become the better Gallagher brother? This is the best thing Liam or Noel has done since Oasis.
St. Vincent – “Los Ageless” – She fucking rules, and this song has a dank guitar riff, great hook and cool beats.
Amber Coffman – “No Coffee” – What pop music should sound like.
Ruby the Hatchet – “Killer” – When Dave Chappelle asked John Mayer to “play the fight riff,” this is the type of riff he was talking about. A throwback to the days of Black Sabbath. I love this band.
Ron Gallo – “Poor Traits of the Artist” – Manic. It rocks a lot and Gallo sounds like a man possessed. Thumbs up.
Kip Moore – “Just Another Girl” – I like Kip Moore because he’s not your typical country artist, clearly aspiring to be more than just what sells in Nashville. Props for the cocaine reference.
Margo Price – “A Little Pain” – The best female voice in music right now.