Stoner rock. Is it a real phenomenon or just a figment of some writer’s imagination? This heavy, guitar-driven music can be ponderous, coarse, intense, depressive, aggressive and even violent at times, and the latest generation of stoners all seem to reference the now-defunct Kyuss as pioneers of their particular scene. While that protostoner band is long gone, ex-Kyuss guitarist Joshua Homme has rallied handsomely with his Queens of the Stone Age. More song-oriented than Homme’s previous ensemble, the Queens still can churn out cavernous, metallic guitar riffs that appear custom-made to cut through even the most serious of booze and dope hazes. While the Queens dutifully pay their debt to the Black Sabbaths of the world, Homme also tips his hat to the alternative rockers who grew up digging Nirvana and the post-Kurt Cobain grunge scene. Indeed, R even features cameo appearances by Seattle music veterans such as Mark Lannegan and Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees. Josh Homme clearly has his high-decibel act down pat, but it’s the tunefulness and his willingness to experiment within the pop construct that sets the Queens apart from their contemporaries. With horn sections, vibes and steel drums all thrown into the well-produced mix, R is an intelligent but bruising musical experience that can be enjoyed whether or not you’re under the influence of suspect substances.

Mitch Myers writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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