Queens of the Stone Age emerged from the stoner rock underground of the 1990s to become one of the leading heavy rock bands of the 21st century, a transition sparked by the release of their major-label debut, Rated R, in 2000. A murky immersion in chemical excess, the album showcased QOTSA’s skill in wedding thick, grimy guitars with shape-shifting psychedelia, a blend suited for the desert leader Josh Homme called home. Over the years, Homme remained the constant in QOTSA’s mercurial lineup, anchoring the group as members and guests cycled through the studio and stage. Dave Grohl‘s presence on the drumkit on 2022’s Songs for the Deaf helped break the band to a wider audience in America, placing them at the vanguard of hard rock music. QOTSA’s membership stabilized around the release of …Like Clockwork, the 2013 record that returned them to indie status while giving them their first number one album on the Billboard charts. Homme maintained the same quintet through the Mark Ronson-produced Villains and In Times New Roman…, a 2023 album that found them discovering new shades and textures within their palette.
Queens of the Stone Age has its roots in Kyuss, the stoner rock band Josh Homme led during the early ’90s. After Kyuss split in 1995, Homme served as a supporting guitarist on a Screaming Trees tour, then decided to launch a new band called Gamma Ray. An eponymous EP appeared in 1996 before a German metal band named Gamma Ray threatened legal action over the appellation. Taking a cue from a nickname bestowed on the group by producer Chris Goss, Homme decided to rename his fledgling unit Queens of the Stone Age, unveiling this moniker on the Roadrunner various-artists compilation Burn One Up! Music for Stoners in 1997. Later that year, the split EP Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age — comprised of old tunes from the latter and new material from the former — confirmed the transition between Homme‘s two groups.
Homme co-produced Queens of the Stone Age’s eponymous 1998 debut with Joe Barresi, which was released on Loosegroove, the indie imprint from Pearl Jam‘s Stone Gossard and Regan Hagar. With Alfredo Hernandez on drums, Homme played all the guitars and most of the bass and keyboards on the record, but he soon expanded QOTSA into a touring outfit featuring former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri along with guitarist Dave Catching; the latter played on the first volume of Homme‘s shape-shifting collaborative project the Desert Sessions, which appeared in 1997. This group was by no means secure. By the time QOTSA entered the studio to record their major-label debut Rated R, Hernandez was no longer with the band; Nick Lucero and Gene Trautmann split drumming duties on the record.
Co-produced by Homme and Goss and released on Interscope, Rated R built QOTSA’s audience exponentially. “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” gave the band a Top 40 hit in the U.K. Live spots at Ozzfest and with Foo Fighters and Hole helped broaden their following, while events like Oliveri getting arrested after performing nude at the 2001 Rock in Rio Festival helped generate headlines. All this buzz culminated in Foo Fighters leader — and former Nirvana drummer — Dave Grohl becoming a temporary member of QOTSA for 2002’s Songs for the Deaf and its 2022 supporting tour, which featured Homme, Oliveri, Grohl, ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, and A Perfect Circle guitarist/keyboardist Troy Van Leeuwen. With its singles “No One Knows” and “Go with the Flow,” Songs for the Deaf elevated Queens of the Stone Age into the upper ranks of modern rock acts, acting as a heavy, trippy counterpart to the prevailing neo-garage rock of the early 2000s.
Grohl decamped at the conclusion of the Songs for the Deaf tour, returning to his regular gig in Foo Fighters; he was replaced by Joey Castillo, who previously drummed with Danzig. In the wake of QOTSA’s success, Homme embraced a variety of outside gigs, including playing on a pair of Mark Lanegan albums and collaborating with Jesse Hughes on Peace, Love, Death Metal, the first album by their band Eagles of Death Metal. When it came time to reconvene QOTSA for a sequel to Songs for the Deaf, the band no longer featured Nick Oliveri; Homme fired him due to issues in the bassist’s personal life. With Alain Johannes taking over for Oliveri, the group finished recording Lullabies to Paralyze, making space for guest appearances by ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons and Shirley Manson. Preceded by the single “Little Sister,” Lullabies to Paralyze appeared in March 2005, followed by a supporting tour that occasionally featured Lanegan in his last live outings with the band.
Chris Goss returned to co-produce 2007’s Era Vulgaris alongside Homme. Featuring fewer guests than usual — Julian Casablancas of the Strokes appeared on the single “Sick, Sick Sick,” Lanegan provided vocals on one track — Era Vulgaris appeared in June 2007, wrapping up the band’s contract with Interscope. After a supporting tour featuring bassist Michael Shuman and keyboardist Dean Fertita — the pair would become steady members of QOTSA from this point forward — the band went into a period of inactivity as Homme pursued other projects over the next few years. Chief among these was Them Crooked Vultures, a power trio also featuring Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who released an eponymous album in 2009. The next year saw a deluxe reissue of Rated R and in 2011, the band reissued their hard-to-find debut and did a small supporting tour behind this deluxe edition.
Queens of the Stone Age began recording a new album in 2012, transitioning from drummer Joey Castillo to his replacement Jon Theodore during the sessions. The record found QOTSA bringing Grohl back into the fold while also finding spots for Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor, Alex Turner, Jake Shears, and Elton John, as well as Nick Oliveri for his first spot on a QOTSA album in a decade. With the finished album in hand, Queens of the Stone Age signed with Matador in 2013 and the ensuing …Like Clockwork album was released in June of that year. Supported by the singles “My God Is the Sun” and “I Sat by the Ocean,” …Like Clockwork topped the Billboard 200, as well as the Alternative, Digital, Hard Rock, Independent, and Top Rock charts. Following the success of …Like Clockwork, Homme and various Queens’ members participated in the Sound City documentary project and Iggy Pop‘s 2016 Post Pop Depression album and tour. For Villains, the band’s seventh album, QOTSA worked with Mark Ronson and invited Nikka Costa and Matt Sweeney into the studio as guests. Featuring the singles “The Way You Used to Do” and “The Evil Has Landed,” Villains debuted at three on the Billboard charts upon its August 2017 release.
After the Villains tour, Queens of the Stone Age took an extended hiatus, reemerging in June 2023 with In Times New Roman…, their third album for Matador. It was the first QOTSA album to be produced by the band and to not feature any guests. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
When highly influential English psychedelic rockers Spacemen 3 splintered, singer/guitarist Jason Pierce (also known as J. Spaceman) formed his group Spiritualized, extracting his more melodic and plaintive songwriting from droning minimalism of his former band. Spiritualized evolved from the narcotic, Velvet Underground-inspired sounds of their earliest material to incorporate both gospel and blues influences and wistful orchestral pop touches that took cues from Brian Wilson and Phil Spector‘s teenage symphonies to God. The band reached a new level with the lush atmospheres and sad-hearted beauty of their 1997 classic Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space and found international chart success with 2001 album Let It Come Down. With a creative process that involves exacting composition, recording, and mixing, Spiritualized albums trickled out slowly throughout the 2010s and 2020s, with extended gaps between albums like 2012’s Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, 2018’s And Nothing Hurt, and 2022’s Everything Was Beautiful.
Although Spiritualized fully emerged after the acrimonious breakup of Spacemen 3, the band’s roots extended back to that group’s final LP, 1990’s Recurring. A Spacemen 3 album in name only, Recurring was split evenly between independently recorded work from Pierce and estranged partner Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember; as a result, while Kember’s side presaged his eventual work with Spectrum, Pierce’s half, recorded with most of the musicians who would later be featured in Spiritualized (including guitarist Mark Refoy, bassist Willie B. Carruthers, and drummer Jon Mattock), pre-dated the orchestral drones that became the band’s hallmark. The first true Spiritualized single, a dramatic reading of the Troggs‘ “Anyway That You Want Me,” was the final nail in the coffin — reportedly, Kember was so incensed by the Spacemen 3 logo appearing on the disc’s jacket that he disbanded the group for good.
In 1991, Spiritualized returned with a string of EPs — Feel So Sad, Run/I Want You, and Smile/Sway — before their long-awaited debut, Lazer Guided Melodies, finally appeared the following year. The masterful, blissed-out result of Pierce’s obsessive studio fine-tuning and endless remixing, the album was promoted by Spiritualized’s slot on the high-profile Rollercoaster tour, where they appeared with the Jesus and Mary Chain and Curve. A limited-edition live document, Fucked Up Inside, followed in 1993, trailed by another EP, Electric Mainline, later in the year.
In 1995, Spiritualized — now a trio consisting of Pierce, keyboardist/guitarist Kate Radley, and bassist Sean Cook — issued Pure Phase, a heady, dense production that boasted separate mixes from each stereo channel. With 1997’s platinum-certified Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, Pierce deliberately jettisoned many of the band’s usual points of departure, including drones, tremolos, and phase tones; recorded with new drummer Damon Reece, it featured a cameo appearance from legendary New Orleans pianist Dr. John on one track, while Memphis studio legend Jim Dickinson appeared on another. Other guests included the Balanescu Quartet (also featured on Pure Phase), the London Community Gospel Choir, and Spring Heel Jack. The two-disc Royal Albert Hall October 10, 1997 live album followed in late 1998.
The following year, Pierce gutted Spiritualized’s lineup, firing Cook, Reece, and Mike Mooney, who formed Lupine Howl after their dismissal; Radley left after she married Verve frontman and solo artist Richard Ashcroft. Only saxophonist Ray Dickaty and occasional keyboardist Thighpaulsandra (aka Tim Lewis) remained in the band. Pierce began writing and recording material for the next Spiritualized album at George Martin‘s Air Studios and recruited percussionist Tom Edwards, bassist Martin Shallards, Echoboy drummer Kev Bales, and guitarist Dogan (from Julian Cope‘s band), for the sessions. That critically acclaimed fourth album, Let It Come Down — which featured an even lusher, more involved sound than Ladies and Gentlemen — arrived in mid-2001. The effort was their highest-charting release to date, peaking at number three in the U.K. and marking the band’s first appearances on the French and U.S. charts.
The follow-up, 2003’s Amazing Grace (Dedicated/Arista), was more of a back-to-basics record. Although it entered the U.K. charts at number 25, it failed to make a dent in international markets. Their sixth album, Songs in A and E (Universal/Sanctuary), arrived in spring 2008 and saw Spiritualized bounce back toward the top of the charts. In 2010, the band embarked on a tour performing Ladies and Gentlemen in its entirety, writing new songs influenced by that album — as well as by the Beach Boys and Peter Brötzmann — while they were on the road. Pierce and company laid down the songs at studios in Los Angeles, Wales, and Reykjavik over the course of two years; the result, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Double Six/Fat Possum), was released in April 2012.
After a six-year hiatus, the longest yet for his band, Pierce wanted to make what he thought would be the last Spiritualized album. Not having the budget to record in a large studio, he opted instead to construct the effort on a laptop computer, “playing” everything himself (the lush strings are sampled) save for horns, upright bass, and timpani; it was a process he initially found exasperating. The end result, And Nothing Hurt, was released in September of 2018, followed by a full-band tour as well as the admission that the offering would not be the final one from the group. The album charted respectably throughout Europe and reached the Top 20 of the Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums chart in the U.S. Everything Was Beautiful followed four years later and was as meditative and expansive as ever, with the lead single, “Always Together with You,” nodding yet again to both Spector and the Velvet Underground. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi