It takes nearly a minute for Villains to begin its slow ascent from the murk and even longer before the clenched funk of "Feet Don't Fail Me Now" clicks in, a deliberateness that suggests Josh Homme has supreme confidence in the seventh album from Queens of the Stone Age. Perhaps some of this swagger flows in Homme's blood, perhaps it stems from QOTSA finally reaching Billboard's pole position with 2013's …Like Clockwork, but there's an undeniable assurance to Villains that surely has something to do with the band -- or specifically Homme, who is the only constant in QOTSA's career -- knowing precisely who they are as they close out their second decade. To that end, the hiring of Mark Ronson -- the man whose star rose with Amy Winehouse and who's sustained his fame through Bruno Mars -- as producer feels like the move of a group who knows no outside influence will dilute their music, and Villains proves this to be true. QOTSA doesn't come to Ronson, Ronson comes QOTSA, sharpening their attack and adding spooky grace notes to the margins. On these asides, QOTSA conjures the dark magic that's been their calling card since the start, but where …Like Clockwork gained strength from its foreboding, Villains feels designed to lift spirits. For one, it's filled with ravers and boogies, alternating between taut vamps and louche glam grooves. Homme goes so far as to tip his stove pipe hat to Marc Bolan on "Un-Reborn Again," one of a few classic rock nods scattered throughout the album. As classic as Villains can sound -- and there's no doubting that Homme and company pledge allegiance to the sounds and styles patented in the '70s -- it feels fresh due to execution. At this stage, Queens of the Stone Age don't have many new tricks in their bag, but their consummate skill -- accentuated by the fact that this is the first QOTSA album that features just the band alone, not even augmented by Mark Lanegan -- means they know when to ratchet up the tempo, when to slide into a mechanical grind, and when to sharpen hooks so they puncture cleanly. All that makes Villains a dark joy, a record that offers visceral pleasure in its winking menace.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine