By Scott Caffrey
There's a familiar pattern to Josh Homme's career: completely overtaking bands and tweaking them to the nth degree. Never content with a lineup, Homme's maxim reads: "More always means better." From Kyuss to Queens of the Stone Age, and now with the Eagles of Death Metal, he manically adds booty to his aural treasure chest.
On the Eagles' sophomore Death by Sexy..., which he produced, Homme took that endearingly whacked trio that wrought Peace Love Death Metal and added this (drums, bass, guitar), that (dependable friends), and the other thing (co-writing songs) to create a fully realized garage-rock opus. By dipping back into that dependable (Joey Castillo) cauldron of characters (Jack Black) and hired guns (Mark Lanegan), though, Homme created a blessing and a curse. As the Dream Boys profess, "You've been sentenced to Death by Sexy."
The blessing is obvious. With a more intense and filled-out sound, Sexy is a great party starter. Tons of big-big-big fuzzy rawk guitar, backed by skin-slamming drum and propulsive, popping bass, it's all driven by front man Jesse Hughes, whose distinctive falsetto is straight outta Shocking Pink-era Neil Young. And everything falls sloppily in line to create a danceable, tranceable boogie.
Killer new rawkers like the super-fun "Cherry Cola" and the fist-pumping opener "I Want You So Hard (Boy's Bad News)" are vintage Eagles, like they picked up the Peace sessions where they left off. Taking Hughes's already-punchy guitar and pumping it full of bass – and even more guitar – makes for a delicious, thundering herd of squealing pigs.
Halfway through Sexy, around the time of "The Ballad of Queen Bee and Baby Duck," comes the curse. For no good reason, Homme has taken the porno 'stache off the chick cruiser and made a goofy John and Yoko song with his girlfriend, Brodie Dalle. To be fair, though, the curse is mostly just a blurring of lines. But suddenly, this great little garage band you can almost dance to starts morphing into The Queens of Death Metal. Or Eagles of the Stone Age.
Sure it's subtle, but it's the first clear sign that Homme has begun to take away that which has made the Eagles special. Rounded out by the super-greezy "Poor Doggie" and "Shasta Beast," which can really move, it's the nifty juke-blues genuflection on "Bag O' Miracles" that ultimately saves the second half from sameness.
But attitude can make up for a lot, and EoDM is looooong on that. Armed with new nicknames for their old nicknames, a couple of studio ringers, and production with the precision of banging bumblebees, Death by Sexy... is just another brazen statement by some punk-ass sophomores. And when it's over, you need a cigarette. And your best girl wants to share it with you.
So sexy it hurts. Uh huh.
As their live show will attest, this is still the Jesse Hughes show. Homme may want to claim EoDM as his own, but he was absent on the road and all that production goes out the window when you're standing on stage with a quartet. Hughes has to take back his band, if even just a little bit. Because while collaborating with Homme is a great thing, and a perfect way to make a name, you can't let him run away with it (anymore than he already has).
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