Desert Sessions

Desert Sessions, Vols. 11 & 12

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Josh Homme always meant to get back to the desert, it just took him nearly 16 years to do so. Homme never officially put his Desert Sessions project on ice, but Queens of the Stone Age kept him busy, as did domestic duties, so the call of the wild remained muted for year after year, until the collective finally returned in 2019 with Desert Sessions, Vols. 11 & 12. Time changes everything, including the tenor of the Desert Sessions. Where previous excursions into the arid netherworld relied on overpowering volume and nocturnal menace, Desert Sessions, Vols. 11 & 12 is concise and colorful, a blast of madness and mischief. The impishness peaks with "Chic Tweetz," a sneering, crunching Eurotrash send-up featuring comedian Matt Berry, and while the rest of the record isn't nearly as silly, the atmosphere is undeniably light. Chalk it up to a cast of collaborators that not only includes Berry, but Scissor Sister Jake Shears, Les Claypool, and Billy Gibbons, the ZZ Top frontman who has never found a joke he didn't like. Gibbons sings in his highest register on the slinky, sexy "Move Together," sounding like a cousin of Homme himself, and Royal Blood's Mike Kerr is an effective stand-in for the QOTSA leader on the garagey "Crucifire," but the carnival barker of Desert Sessions isn't forcing his personality upon his visitors; this is simply his house, so the surroundings suit his tastes. Homme is a generous host, though, emphasizing the gifts of his guests. The playfulness of Gibbons is highlighted on "Move Together," Libby Grace is slyly haunted on "If You Run," and Shears is elegantly louche on "Something You Can't See," which is every bit as clever as the best of the Scissor Sisters. None of these parts seem to fit on paper, but on record it's a gas hearing a group of gangsters and pranksters giddy on their own good times.

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