Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures (RCA/Jive)

December 5, 2009 by  

them-crooked-vultures

Them Crooked Vultures. Good name for a band. The line-up? Well, how does John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme grab you? I know, calm down already, it’s not all good news.

Led Zeppelin have, to this point, not ventured too deeply into the supergroup business. And with good reason. The musical progeny of music legends rarely hit the same heights, either critically or financially.

So why has John Paul Jones decided to make a go of it now? Largely, one supposes, because he has managed to team up with Dave Grohl and Josh Homme. Add a member of one of the most creative rock bands ever to a pair of guys who (a) are already used to working with each other, and (b) seemingly unable to touch something without it turning to gold.

So, what wizardry do this mighty trio present us with? Maybe not quite what we would have hoped for, but close. The album on the whole is very much in the comfort zone.

Opening with “Nobody Loves Me And I Don’t Care”, we are re-acquainted with Grohl’s signature drumming style. Then the familiar Homme vocals swagger into the picture. And swagger is an important word for this album. Even in moments lacking real inspiration, there is an overwhelming confidence to the music. It’s played with a grin and a strut and this is conveyed to the listener.

“Scumbag Blues” is a highpoint. It has huge, QOTSA-style distorted riffs, overlaying a tight, cheeky little bassline. The feel is of a song disappearing into a vortex, falsetto vocal harmonies are layered up as Grohl kicks the drums up a gear, and it is wonderfully dizzying.

“Bandoliers”, on the other hand, never really takes off. Its simple, maybe too much so. It could easily be an album filler track from Homme’s “Lullaby’s to Paralyse” album.

At times, things get a little too swamped in mutual backslapping. “Reptiles” is less a new song, and more an homage to the Zeppelin heritage minus the Robert Plant wailing.

One moment of insane inspiration is “Interlude with Ludes”. Shockingly enough for a song featuring John Paul Jones and Josh Homme, it is heavily drug influenced. “On the good ship Lollygag/LSD and a bloody pile of rags/I hate to be the bearer of bad news/But I am.” All good healthy psychedelic fayre, set against a disturbingly hypnotic looped organ sample. It sounds like somewhere between the circus scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and a gyspy funfair.

The wonderfully named “Caligulove” is perhaps the best track to sum up the album as a whole. The bassline is simple but driving. The guitar riff is so raw that its bleeding, and Grohl hammers away like the beast that he is.

John Paul Jones has stuck pretty close to what he does best, and the fact of his presence does seemed to have inspired his new bandmates. Homme, in particularly, produces far better work here than he has for most of his last two albums with QOTSA.

“Them Crooked Vultures” is a very good album if you like Led Zeppelin, Queens of The Stoneage or Dave Grohl. Those not included by this may well feel a little under whelmed. But then again, if you don’t like Led Zeppelin, you obviously have little taste and should go and watch T4 or something.

Enjoy them while you can, this album suggests that Them Crooked Vultures are more a quick knee-trembler than a long-term relationship.

By Liam Clune


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