Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R [Deluxe Edition]

“In 10 years from now, you’ll still be playing this awesome album, and that’s what really counts.”

So says Kerrang magazine in the liner notes of the glossy re-issue of the Queens of the Stone Age‘s much-applauded Rated R. And they are right, you know. It’s been 10 years since Rated R came on the scene and the album is just as relevant as ever.

That being said, and even though I am a huge fan of QOTSA’s first commercial success (their 1998 self-titled debut was overlooked), I wasn’t exactly sure that the deluxe edition of Rated R was a good idea. The album always sounded fine to me and frankly I would have been much happier if the band had released a new album instead.

But beggars can’t be choosers and, surprisingly, the re-issue kind of acts like a new piece of work in its own right.

For starters, it’s a double-disc. Disc one contains the original 11 songs on Rated R. Only these versions sound a lot sharper and powerful than the original versions. The bongo-esque drum beat of the epically rolling and swirling “Better Living Through Chemistry” is clearer, Mark Lanegan’s vocals on “In The Fade” are even more haunting and the end of “I Think I Lost my Headache” now features a backwards symphony of squawking trumpet horns.

Disc two almost acts like a separate album. The first six songs on the 15 track disc are studio-recorded B-sides (except for a live version of “Monster in the Parasol”, which was recorded in Seattle). “Ode to Clarissa” is a rollicking, almost poppy beat with a “Yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus, pounding drums, and bassist Nick Oliveri on vocals. “You’re So Vague” is a clever spin on Carly Simon’s infamous song. It’s moody and dramatic with a strong build and stirring guitar riffs and reminiscent of darker QOTSA songs such as “Song for the Deaf” and “Skin on Skin”.  ”Born to Hula” sounds like the quintessential QOTSA song – Josh Homme’s soothing voice carries the song over changing but always prominent drumming and wailing guitar solos.

There are covers too: “Never Say Never” is a cover of the 80’s post-punk band Romeo Void’s hit and definitely has that new wave feel as Homme sings “I might like you better if we slept together” over a bouncing bass beat. The Kinks’ 1965 hit “Who’ll Be the Next in Line” is also covered with a keyboard-backed California surf vibe.

The second half of disc two is a collection of live songs recorded at their Reading Festival appearance in 2000. Though there is some repetition with Rated R songs such as “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, “Quick and to the Pointless”, “Better Living Through Chemistry”, and “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” and on some of them the sound isn’t the greatest (drums on “Chemistry” are too low), there are few additional live goodies to keep fans happy. “Regular John”, “Avon”. and “You Can’t Quit Me Baby” are all from their self-titled album and a welcome addition to anyone’s QOTSA collection. Also making a live appearance is the muscling “Millionaire” which would later become the first track on their next album Songs for the Deaf as “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire”.

Any doubts I had about the validity of the re-issue were erased after one listen to this album. Obviously I’m slightly biased since I already listened to Rated R with regularity, but it’s definitely something worth listening to, anyhow. Any Queens of the Stone Age fan would be happy to have this in their collection – especially as it works to tide fans over until a brand new album is released – and anyone not familiar with QOTSA would be hard pressed to find a better starting point than the Rated R – Deluxe Edition. It showcases some of the best that the band has to offer (and in a more accessible way) and highlights just how amazing these guys are live, conveniently at a time when the band has started touring again. Pick this up, listen, then go out there and see them.


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