Chicago Sun-Times
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Them Crooked Vultures, "Them Crooked Vultures" (DGC/Interscope) [2 STARS out of 4]

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During the world premiere of Them Crooked Vultures at Metro last August, the primary joy of this latest supergroup came from surrendering to the pummeling rhythms of Dave Grohl--one of the finest drummers of his generation with Nirvana turned one of the most pandering radio schlock meisters of the last decade with the Foo Fighters--as he gleefully channeled John Bonham while assaulting the clock with Bonzo's old bandmate, legendary Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. You felt every punishing bass drum beat walloping you in the chest as Jones' rumbling four-, six-, eight- and more-string bass lines vibrated your innards, while at the same time you taxed your brain following rhythmic patterns turned inside-out and upside-down with no loss of forward momentum.

This was hard rock that was as visceral as it was intellectual, and it was a jolly good time and a pretty impressive trick--onstage. Unfortunately, it hasn't translated nearly as well now that the much-buzzed all-star trio, which expands to a quartet in concert, has finally released its debut album, and much of the blame must rest on the third leg of this glitzy tripod, Queens of the Stone Age bandleader Josh Homme.

Given the leisure and the dubious benefit of pondering the songwriting and parsing Homme's weak and not in a Robert Plant-like way vocals--not for nothing has this guy often ceded the mike to guest singers with the Queens--all of the flaws of this made-in-a-manager's-boardroom collaboration become all too obvious, and they are the same as most supergroups': Star power and virtuosity don't compensate for lackluster material, no matter how much the musicians are stoked to be jamming with storied peers.

Jones' impressive skills as a master arranger and versatile multi-instrumentalist are underutilized, with only the odd coda (such as the "Sgt. Pepper's"-style outro incongruously tacked onto the end of "Mind Eraser No Chaser"), afterthought dollop of keyboards ("Spinning in Daffodils") or downright bad idea (the lounge music-on-Mars detour of "Interlude with Ludes") hinting at that reservoir of talent. Grohl's undeniable ear for hooks and sweet backing vocals also go untapped, putting most of the burden on Homme to craft the vehicles to carry these Grand Prix drivers, and he delivers tunes that would be filler at best on the finest Queens albums (the single "New Fang" or the stomping "Elephants") as well as material that at worst wouldn't make the cut on a "Desert Sessions" toss-off ("Bandoliers" or "Caligulove," whose lyrics are even worse than that titles might indicate: "I already gotcha baby/Put yourself upon me/I'm in lust, a slave to desire/When you Caligulove me").

Yes, there are pleasures to be had: Muso-geeks would be happy to hear Jones and Grohl play the Britney Spears songbook, just because it was the two of them playing. But for all the promises the musicians showed onstage--or, for that matter, in much of what they've done before--the sum of the whole on record is much less than each of the parts.

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23 Comments

Don't quit your day job. Oh, wait...

"...not for nothing has this guy often ceded the mike to guest singers with the Queens..."

Are you... serious? Do you mean to say that Homme often tries to get additional singers to hold the line because he is impotent in this regard?

I think you should stick to reviewing Top 40 Pop hits, if that is the case. Your ears don't deserve the Vultures.

really? have you listened to album? I saw them live in Boston and was more than happy to hear this album. I don't know what you were expecting, but the work laid down by these 3 artists is probably one of the most cutting edge rock album I have heard in a long time. Cheesy lyrics aside, and Josh Hommes Queens of The Stone Age lyrics, and even Kyuss lyrics have always been cheesy, so no departure there. I don't know why your blasting this, but compared to another recent supergroup, say Chickenfoot, this work by Them Crooked Vultures blows that away.

Go and review american idol contestants, why don't they fire you?

you are a s---bag, hate you and your s---ty reviews.

I THINK THE REVIEWER SHOULD GO ON A DIET CUZ THE FAT ON AND AROUND HIS HEAD MAYBE PLUGGING UP HIS EARS!!

Horrible review

Made in a managers boardroom? If you believe that, then you really don't deserve to writing this review in the first place, let alone get paid to do it.

What a terrible and inaccurate review.

I bet you would like them to play the briteny spears songbook so you could sing along. You are a fat miserable man with taste in music that only a high school girl could enjoy.

"...made-in-a-manager's-boardroom collaboration..."

Oh, come on! Homme and Grohl have been friends for years and Grohl played on the third QOTSA album. Homme is known for recording with his friends. Aren't you familiar with Desert Sessions or Eagles of Death Metal?

Chickenfoot is a Jr high band to this work by the Julliard String quartet in comparison.


Gunman alone is the hardest rocking song I've heard in years. Did one of the principals hurt you in life? Hope that's it. This is fantastic.

The lyrics are a lot less stupid than many of Led Zeppelin.

I'd hate to read your Review of Zep back in the day.


"one of the most pandering radio schlock meisters of the last decade"?

I give you credit Jim, at least your consistent in your incompetency. This album is one of the best and most original rock albums I've heard in years.

Don't agree at all with this mis-informed review. Grohl, Homme, and JPJ have all worked with each other in some capacity before (with Grohl drumming for Queens and JPJ sitting in with the Foo Fighters). This is not some major label smash-up of rock stars. I think the somewhat dirty production of this album really makes it clear that this was not a major label creation.

Next Mr. DeRogatis seems to take issue with what this album is NOT, rather than what it is. Sure, Mr. Jones has talent galore on many instruments and in arranging, but that's not the point of this project. If you want to hear JPJ go nuts with his talent, pick up his superb solo effort "Zooma" and you can have all the chops and arranging you can handle. To make this album filled with string ensembles, extended organ solos, and excessive production would put it MORE into the major label creation category (which it is not). Just because Mr. Jones can do all these things doesn't me he should. Were you expecting a Led Zeppelin-Lite album?

Instead this album is about making some heavy, groovy rock tunes. Because that is the focus, I think this album succeeds. This may not be the greatest rock album ever created, but in terms of mainstream rock nowadays, this is quite a unique creation and worthy of your attention.

BTW, I think other people leaving comments should focus on the flaws in Mr. DeRogatis's review rather than the size of his waist. Dude's fat... who cares!

first of all, if the reviewed band isn't the flaming lips, they don't matter....with the sad sad state of music today, we all must rely on crafty veterans to entertain the masses. sure the album sounds a bit like zeppelin, but if you've paid any attention to QOTSA and foo fighters, they all reap the benefits of their rocking forefathers. it's a shame you collect a paycheck at all. made in a boardroom is purely offensive. i bet you can't even appreciate pearl jam's backspacer! please oh please try to expand your musical horizons and give some of this a fighting chance.

go listen to some indie synth pop you idiot

you must clearly only listen to all forms of pop sounds. if you truly listen to music and attempt to write review, you would have done a better job.

you obvously know nothing about the history of these musicians' career or interactions prior to this collaboration. you are obviously ignorant of their individual output, as well, considering that they've brought exactly what everyone expected. you want to point out what you don't like or what needed to be better. did you stop to think that this was 3 guys who wanted to have a good time rocking out? cuz it is. and it does. there is so much fun, muscularity, musicality, and more on this record. yes, in some places it falls a little flat or middling, but its been kicking my butt since I downloaded it last week, and I can't wait for my pre-order copy to come in the mail this week. crap review. end transmission

I hope they headline Lolla next year just to see if you will burst.

I sincerly hope your intention was to stir people up with this review.

Because it is so far off the mark it's not even funny.

This guy is why music journalism is so poor.

I've never been moved enough to talkback, until I read this review...and listened to the album. This is as bad as many of the Rolling Stone reviews I've read in how inaccurate it is. I understand a review is a review, in which it's just an opinion.... but to say JPJ is underutilized here is simply inaccurate... Incredibly so. JPJ is ALL OVER this album, from the totally bass driven "Mind Eraser" or "Reptiles", to the Clavinet solo on "Scumbag Blues" (think of "Trampled UnderFoot" with a clavinet). Grohl doesnt sing when he drums. Homme splits some of the vocal duties on QOTSA for a number of reasons, with none of them being his ability to sing. That's just crazy.
Stupid review. Ignore and purchase this if you like any of the collaborators. You will not be disapointed!!

I'm convinced at this point that you write your reviews without listening to the album. At best, you write while you listen to it, taking away from the experience of listening. This is why blogs are a thousand times more relevant that pro writers, who don't care to invest much time cause they have a pile of other stuff to listen to.

The deciding factor for me was "Caligulove" - a brutally good song. You're dissecting the lyrics? You can't do that to a Josh Homme song, which always about the visceral feel and melody more than anything. Homme is the most talented member of this group, and you're missing out by not recognizing it.

Well Jimmy, I see ya screwed the pooch again with this review. Yet you give Rhianna 3 stars. You know before I said you were the physical embodiment of the grunge era Seattle music critic, as if developed by Cameron Crowe himself. Maybe you've got a little sweet spot for the industry developed pop machines, like Rhianna. Mighty ironic that you refer to Them Crooked Vultures as created in a manager's boardroom, while your little fascination Rhianna is far better suited to that remark.

Why don't ya do us all a favor, go back to sitting in Starbuck's drinking your mondo vente latte, and dreaming about being in NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys. Because you've proven once again that you are not a compotent music critic and that it's been a wonder how anyone has let you waste ink for so long.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on November 16, 2009 10:37 AM.

Demo2DeRo: Noise By Numbers was the previous entry in this blog.

This weekend: Ian McLagan at Martyr's and a look back at Chicago's alt-era music scene with "Rewind" is the next entry in this blog.

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