This is easily my most disappointing album release of 2009. As I wrote in my review of Chickenfoot's recent album, I should know by now to approach supergroups with a healthy amount of trepidation, given their dubious track records. Them Crooked Vultures is comprised of vocalist/guitarist Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age, Kyuss and Eagles Of Death Metal), drummer Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). Those are some pretty impressive credentials, though I must admit I've never remotely been a fan of any of Homme's other bands. My hope was that the input of the other two thirds of the group would at least make Homme's contributions tolerable, an admittedly sizeable task given the fact he's doing lead vocals and guitars. Those hopes were immediately dashed, as Them Crooked Vultures sounds basically like just another awful Queens Of The Stone Age album, albeit with a kickass rhythm section.
The band had been an idea in Grohl's head back in 2005 and the group finally sorted out their schedules to record their debut this past summer. That Grohl managed to convince Jones to participate is miraculous, given Jones' preference since Zeppelin ended for producing and arranging other artists, while mostly shying away from other projects where he would be a full-fledged band member.
The album is an overlong, confused mishmash of noise and unfocused ideas that, frankly, I found virtually unlistenable until I had waded eleven songs deep. There, I found "Caligulove", which, in addition to being an excellent title, also initially stays away somewhat from the excesses and overly artistic reachings of its ten predecessors. Of course, everything is relative. The song still has multi-layered guitars, sound effects and xylophone (!) on it, but the arrangement succeeds until the song's final thirty seconds, where it spins off into a pointless cascade of noises accompanied by a plinking piano. Amazingly, the track is then followed up by what appears to be another keeper. "Gunman" is a groove-heavy dance number with funky bass, wah-wah guitars and some nice disco style offbeat high hat cymbal work from Grohl. I keep waiting for it to derail with a pompous, schizoid sidetrack into a minute long theremin solo or some such weirdness, but it thankfully never happens. Next is the song "Spinning In Daffodils" to close the album, which brings us right back to the dung heap we'd temporarily escaped from.
Homme's voice is an acquired taste and sixty six minutes of it (the length of this album) is more than enough for me. Even more of a challenge? The quirky arrangements that are all over the bloody place as far as tempo changes and mood. "Elephants" starts off with a cool, slow strutting attitude during the guitar and drum intro that sounds like a lost Zeppelin song (a good lost Zeppelin song)...then the tempo increases dramatically and I completely lose interest. The bulk of the material follows this formula, throwing in jarring time signature hiccups that almost dare the listener not to throw up their hands in anger.
Group? Yes. Super? Not even close.