The term “supergroup” has been stamped on a lot of bands. Since it originated in the 1960s, the term has come to be associated with any band comprised of musicians from various already-established bands.
A few years back, multitalented drummer/vocalist Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) began talking to Josh Homme, guitarist/vocalist of one of his favorite bands, Queens of the Stone Age, about starting a brand new collaborative music venture. When they recruited one of the all-time best bassists, the legendary John Paul Jones, of Led Zeppelin fame, the term supergroup didn’t even seem sufficient for the newly formed Them Crooked Vultures.
The group sold out shows internationally before ever even releasing a song. The hype behind the band’s anticipated debut album grew steadily with each thrilling performance.
The self-titled LP, released today in the United States, combines some of the best elements of the members’ past bands, and the result is utterly mystifying. It’s instantly catchy at times, dark and mysterious at others. It’s altogether dangerous.
“Elephants” begins with a “Kashmir”-esque backbeat and Zeppelin-sized guitar riff. After a couple bars, the tempo suddenly doubles, with Jones mirroring the quickened riff on bass. The song highlights one of the album’s most intriguing, admirable facets – its unpredictability.
Jones’ meandering bass lines give the album its spine and his mastery for the instrument, as well as a few others, shines through as he is able to adapt to the newly evolved sound of his bandmates, both of whom cite Led Zeppelin as a major influence.
Grohl’s impassioned drumming maintains the album’s high pace from start to finish. On the frenetic “Mind Eraser, No Chaser,” Grohl and Homme trade vocals on a chorus that evokes uptempo Foo Fighters material.
Grohl’s varying rhythms across the album provide a diverse backdrop for intertwining, technically sound guitar licks. The shuffling opener, “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I,” powers through with pounding bass grooves while the choppier “Scumbag Blues” employs effective pauses and a funky clavinet part played by Jones.
Homme’s vocals, mysterious in certain places while volatile at others, elevate the songs’ mystique and add a separate unpredictable element. While it might be easy for his lyrics to get buried beneath such overpowering instrumentation, they create a perfect balance.
On the Vultures’ first single “New Fang,” for example, Homme switches to an elated falsetto that highlights the chorus between energized verses. On the dark and rhythmically bouncy “Gunman,” his singing is wholly haunting as it creates a evocative atmosphere for the song.
Them Crooked Vultures is a lot of things. On first listen, it’s an eruption of raw rock power, the likes of which is rarely felt in popular music anymore. On a deeper level, it’s mesmerizing and intriguing for all its technical skill, balance and eclecticism.
TCV is an absolutely exciting band that rock music enthusiasts should be thankful exists.
Last Word: Mind-blowing, deadly album from a true supergroup.
Kevin Brosky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.