Compulsive purchases are so often wrong that I nearly put this one back on the shelf. I’m glad I didn’t.
Following in the footsteps of Apocalyptica, this string quartet transforms the music of a hard rock band into something resembling chamber music. Queens of the Stone Age, the world’s most famous stoner rock band, is best known for their bouncy pop rock song, “No One Knows,” and have been making sludgy heavy metal music for years.
The droning nature of their music (referred to as robot rock by Queens cornerstone, Josh Homme) makes them a surprise candidate for a string quartet. Luckily, the instrumental representation of the vocals adds complexity and depth to what would otherwise be repetitive and bland.
While I am in no position to make judgments about the skills or renown of the musicians involved, the music is a joy to hear. The sound is warm and involving, although on cheaper speakers the tone of the violin quickly becomes tinny. This is a disk best experienced with good quality speakers or headphones.
Whereas the opener, “First it Giveth,” feels a touch abrupt in execution, most of the rest of the album works to capture the aggression of the originals without sacrificing the grace and beauty of the strings. “Hanging Tree” is one of the most harsh songs on Songs for the Deaf, on Strings it becomes a more gentle and nuanced things. “Mosquito Song” translates particularly well, as does “Go With the Flow.” Both are gorgeous and surprisingly intricate. On occasion–”Song for the Deaf,” for example–an electric guitar fills out the sound behind the cello and violin. The trick is used only to supplement the overall sound, but never to dominate the song.
The finest song on the album is the well-developed rendition of “Gonna Leave You.” The layers and the structure are perfect. Its only downfall is that at two minutes, forty-seven seconds, listeners are likely to want more.
The most notably bad thing about the album isn’t the occasional song that doesn’t translate well; the worst thing is the copywriting on the packaging. “Queens of the Stone Age have dished out a new taste of rock and roll that has grabbed the ears and attention of folks young and old, picking up many new fans along the way.”
Aside from that lapse in taste, this is a fun, new way to hear the music of Queens of the Stone Age. Recommended.
Note: This CD cannot be ordered through Amazon. Ordering directly through Vitamin Record’s site unveils the thriving cottage industry of hard rock-to-string quartet music.