Josh Hommeís Queens of the Stone Age have risen above the generally sound-alike stoner-rock genre by virtue of their clever, intricate songwriting and virtuoso musicianship. Hanging out and recording at Rancho de la Luna Studio in Joshua Tree, California, Homme and various musical pals have also released a series of Desert Sessions CDs that rely on neither the kitschy í70s references nor the recycled Sabbath riffs that have become stoner-rock clichés. Instead, theyíve concocted elaborate guitar-rock compositions that conjure an exotic world of gem-loaded desert caravans and opium-smoke-filled harems.
Among Desert Sessions 7 & 8ís many fine moments is an appearance by Mark Lanegan on "Hanging Tree," a top-notch rock tune that benefits from Laneganís grunge-perfect voice and some hypnotizing background effects. Another great smoke-out tune is "The Idiotís Guide," where Homme uses an eerie whispered falsetto on a track that wanders around like an acid casualty lost in the desert after a rave.
But itís the caravan-like marching tunes that stand out. "Donít Drink Poison" and "Up in Hell" display an orchestra of Eastern-style guitars, tribal drums, and chanting lunatics, and both songs create an ornate, Arabian Nights vibe. The humorous finale ó "Ending" ó is the rock bandís frenzied last cliché taken way over the top with thank-yous and good-nights and solos and drums that wonít end. Even better than Queens of the Stone Ageís last record, these sessions are a wild, uninhibited orgy of truly tweaked-out guitar jams.