Longevity amounts to little when it feels as though years are taking mere months. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of living is terrifying. A shock to the system which brings Queens of the Stone Age back for their eighth record, their first in six years. The Josh Homme-helmed band has taken charge of change after change but only now has it managed to find some consistency. Doomed are those not taken by Songs of the Deaf. Put that record down, and pick up In Times New Roman, a far stronger, darker and relaxed piece. It may not hold the artistic foibles of radio show significance, but the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack did that a decade before.
Amicable opener Obscenery rises with its guitar and moves aside to let in the strings with an ease totally dependent on the mixing. When paired with Paper Machete, the usual and neutered Queens of the Stone Age style wobbles on through. It is not lacking in talent but in punch. Each hit of the drum, every smash of the guitar, sounds as solid and plain as the next. There is little room for innovation in these opening tracks and it was much the same on Songs of the Deaf. Yet within In Times New Roman, and it is what tips it as a slightly better record than their defining work, is a crunch and rugged wisdom. Negative Space benefits from some engaged, if sporadic, lyrics. Homme’s vocal change has changed the form Queens of the Stone Age feel, their low-tone Strokes-like guitar work on this third track is a change of pace and the start of a well-needed gear change.
Time & Place holds its own too, though again its guitar work is unremarkable, if noticeable. A blurring of the lines this may be, but it still offers little in the way of much to get excited by. In Times New Roman does not have standout instrumentals but provides more than enough in the way of range and shoulder-to-shoulder musicianship. They may lack portions of independence but the band sound firmer and fresher as a unit in sync instead of vying for attention. Holding tongues on Made to Parade find a thick groove which would fit on Guitar Hero III, though there is no longer space for it. Queens of the Stone Age sing a lot about swallowing their pride when they seem vaguely incapable of tackling their glory days with head-on strength.
Dramatic form keeps In Times New Roman interesting though the dips in form are a shock to the system. Likeable in places, exceedingly good in other spots but there is a vagueness to this release which lends itself to sudden bouts of disappointment. Something as great as What the Peephole Say is held back by how it sounds similar to other modern-day rock or the bits and pieces which came before it. In Times New Roman fails to land a mark of its own but is still a bit of quality from a rock band whose notoriety should rest on this record, not those which came before it. A real high for Queens of the Stone Age, whose work here is firmly better in practice than their well-loved high point.