by Carter Gray Shelter
Eagles of Death Metal are a curious group. While Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme’s side group with frontman Jesse Hughes is definitely not a parody of anything, but they have a certain amount of humor in their music and owe a clear sonic debt to big rock groups of the ‘70s and ‘80s. You can spot influences like Aerosmith, Eagles, The Rolling Stones, and Iggy & the Stooges all across their latest record, Zipper Down. The album has a hypermasculine edge, like it’s music made for men who drive fast cars and want to hear songs about loose women (I mean just look at the album cover!), but Hughes and Homme manage to take that edge and turn it on its head, crafting hard-hitting rock and roll that can be as interesting as it is fun.
While there are songs like “Got A Woman” that talk about women shaking their asses, they’re paired next to songs have a little more depth to them like Hughes’ ode to monogamy “I Love You All the Time” or the takedown of L.A. hipster headquarters Silver Lake on “Silverlake (K.S.O.F.M.).” But the lyrics often don’t seem to be central to the album. It feels as though they are there simply to add structure to the songs and not for any honest expression of human feeling. That feeling comes about through the music and melodies that this pair is so gifted at crafting.
On late album standout “Save A Prayer,” Eagles of Death Metal take a spacey falsetto vocal line that sounds as if it could soundtrack a duel in a Clint Eastwood movie, and fits it seamlessly within a song that’s essentially a Duran Duran song with a distortion pedal turned on. Over that, Hughes gives a dark vocal line that breaks open during the chorus in a way that sounds both hopeful and foreboding. “Don’t say a prayer for me now/save it for the morning after” doesn’t sound like someone who’s expecting a good morning, and though that bad morning could just be a hangover, Hughes sings it with such conviction and drama that it’s hard not to imagine it being something much worse.
The album’s true highlight, though, might be “Oh Girl,” a grooving, anthemic rocker that serves as Zipper Down’s centerpiece. After an intro that sounds as if it could have come off of QOTSA’s last album, the song cuts into a funk-inflected verse, with twin guitars playing of each other in what almost sounds like a synthesizer line played on guitar, and then finally explodes into a soaring chorus, with the duo singing a duet in one of the better hooks of the year. It’s a taste of what Hughes and Homme can do together when they’re at their absolute best.
What Eagles of Death Metal lack in lyrical depth, they make up for in spades in riffs, melodies, attitude, and fun. They’re trying to be the most brilliant songwriters out there; they’re just trying to start a party. And with Zipper Down, they let the world know that their party is the party to be at. This batch of songs is just begging to be blasted out of a stereo and would go down best with a couple cans of beer and a pack of Marlboro Red. If you want to know what the state of Rock and Roll is in the 2010s, Zipper Down is the answer.
Carter Gray Shelter is a Staff Writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org