Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows”

Released: 11.26.02

Peak: #51

Of all nu-metal’s sins, its greatest was to foster a nostalgia for grunge. If you asked a high school kid in 2002 his favorite kind of music, and he said “rock,” you could be pretty sure he had the shittiest taste of anyone in his class. Aside from the pressures of gender-class-race, or some kind of brainwave-flattening hormonal imperative, what possible reason could there be to prefer Saliva or Disturbed to Britney or Justin, to Eminem or Jay-Z–hell, to Toby or Kenny? Maybe that’s loading the deck, but the choice hardily becomes sensible if you substitute Jessica or Mandy, Ja Rule or Fabolous, Rascal Flatts or, erm, Emerson Drive.

Forget the Nirvana leftover “You Know You’re Right,” which sounded like half-assed Tool, or Kurt’s drummer fusing P.J. Harvey and the Violent Femmes with “All My Life.”  Queens of the Stone Age stood out from the Active Rock wasteland as the only popular band of the ’00s that demand to be written about in the language of a second-rate Creem hack–you know, balls-out, no bullshit, ROCK AND MOTHERFUCKING ROLL. In fact, Josh Homme is responsible for the most bullshitless hard rock since Motorhead, with both vocals and instrumentals pruned free of preening. And “No One Knows” was a model of hard rock efficiency. (And of hard rock recycling–its riff had been kicking around for half a decade.)

“Stoner rock” has always seemed a limp categorization for any band, though lines like “I journey through the desert of the mind” and “I drift along the ocean/ Dead lifeboats in the sun” do make it tempting. I prefer Homme’s own term, “robot rock,” and its connotations of precision, persistence, and craft. After all, bullshit is a key ingredient of lots of great rock, and Homme’s achievement isn’t that he strained all poo lumps, but that something essential remain after the purification.

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