Will Mark Ronson Help Queens Of The Stone Age Reach The Next Level Of Greatness?

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Last year when Iggy Pop was looking to make a statement album he made the perfect choice hiring Josh Homme as producer. Homme brought the exact things to the table that Iggy needed – a hard edge, great songwriting and arranging, innovative guitar play – and the album turned out to be one of the best of the year.

Well Josh Homme himself may have made a similarly inspired choice when he named Mark Ronson as producer of the new Queens Of The Stone Age album Villains, which hits the streets in August. I think they absolutely knocked it out of the park with the just-released first single ”The Way You Used To Do”, and if the rest of the album is this good it could be a gamechanger. You’ve got to hear it if you haven’t already, it is really great.

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Ronson is famous for producing pop giants Lady Gaga, Adele and Bruno Mars, but he’s also the guy who helped make Amy Winehouse a star, showing off his expert flair for 60s and 70s pop and soul in the process. In 2015 Ronson released his own album Uptown Special which was one of the best of that year. That album included the irresistible, ubiquitous single “Uptown Funk” which was the thing that caught Homme’s ear. In a recent interview on Beats1 Homme said of working with Ronson:

Listening to “Uptown Funk!” it’s very tight and vacuous and it sounds great. I knew I wanted to make something very tight with the air sucked out of it and very clear, you know. So he was a great reminder as an opening… and his desires are so beat centric and so are mine. We had a tremendous amount of overlap.

You may well ask how Queens Of The Stone Age could possibly get any tighter. Their sound is built on Homme’s innovative, razor-sharp riffs that are as percussive as they are melodic. This track is not a radical departure from that signature sound. But listen to “The Way You Used To Do”, Ronson’s production gives Homme’s slashing chords a new, atomic-level sharpness. Right off the top you’ve got some buzzing guitars punctuated by an electronic clap track, something you wouldn’t expect from the Queens. The variety of amazing guitar sounds come out as compressed and intense as if you were listening to them in a closet. The different sections of the song change subtly and skilfully. This is power and finesse at the same time. This is what Rock is all about. I can’t stop listening to it.

It is also more evidence that Rock Music is alive and well in 2017. Again, there are all kinds of familiar Rock elements at work in this track, but it sounds fresh and new and not like it came from any other Rock era but the one we are in now. Josh Homme and the QOTSA are right on the frontline of Rock’s blossoming in the 21st century, and this new album may yet elevate them to an even higher standing on the vanguard.

Photo: By MGSpiller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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