Eagles of Death Metal-Zipper Down
Zipper Down is lean, mean, and ready to get into a brawl to steal your girl, and that’s just how I like it.
If the album cover isn’t an adequate tip-off, this is not exactly what I would call a subtle record. This is straight hard-rocker by way of stoner metal and vintage Queens of the Stone Age material, and it makes Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme a positive joy to listen to. There is always a feeling of sleaziness about Homme, and you can’t help but be fond of that je ne sais sleaze that ultimately comes off as affectation rather than genuine trashiness. On this album it’s hilarious and on point.
While this is very much Hughes’s show, with the direction moving toward a more straightforward rock sound, it’s impossible to miss how important Homme and his house style are to the sound of this record. My favorite tracks, “Oh Girl,” “Skin Tight Boogie,” and “Save a Prayer,” feel like they could have come off QoTSA’s latest, or even from the B-sides of their greatest, …Like Clockwork—especially “Oh Girl.”
“Oh Girl” starts off with that absurd bombast that announces one of those epic rock songs that you would see in ‘80s films like Heavy Metal—or at least an homage to that vivacious grandiosity that was a stadium rock staple. There is the wailing guitar line and that distinctive distortion that has been Homme’s calling card on pretty much all the work he’s contributed after his stint in the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. It’s the odd corrugated reverb, the sense of controlled white noise as a crunchy fuzz, all with a parallel clarity that undercuts the fuzziness to give it a unique sound. Following this epic theme comes a quirky driving rhythm that feels completely out of place in this context.
I get the feeling that I’m in an off-color dive on some desert back road. It feels like everything is in 16mm film and leather jackets are required.
Then the chorus kicks back into an epic, almost bipolar, grandiose mode as Hughes screams passionately about that one girl that got away that he wants back more than anything. It is not a new structure—or even particularly novel for these two musicians—but goddamn if it doesn’t work like you wouldn’t believe.
One of the album’s great successes is its knack for evoking atmosphere. When I’m listening to it I get the feeling that I’m in an off-color dive on some desert back road. It feels like everything is in 16mm film and leather jackets are required. There is this sense at the edge of feeling that smells of cheap aftershave and alcohol, bursting with the comical glow of neon-lit naked women in rayon movements. There is the feeling of mustached bikers, of aged and decrepit wooden bars with the band of the week playing their hearts out to a crowd of three drunk guys and giving it their all. And that’s awesome.
But. This album is not balanced.
While the tracks on Zipper Down work in isolation, except maybe “Got the Power” or the songs where the basso profundo is just a bit too much, there is little of the superstructural cohesion that makes a good album a great album. More importantly there is also a lack of emotional balance. While tracks like “Oh Girl” straddle that line between serious and flagrant with panache, other tracks like “Silverlake” and “Complexity” sometimes dip too far into parody at the cost of real emotional weight. This wouldn’t bother me so much if the album didn’t also feature those glimmering moments of emotional depth at which Homme excels.
It is the juxtaposition of sleaze with real emotional weight that gives Homme’s main body of work real depth and power. It’s why “Oh Girl” is my favorite. And for all the fun that this album does have—and it is a lot of fun—there are those moments that get so over the top that they hinder my personal enjoyment. When the rock firm of Hughes and Homme shit on the people of Silverlake in the song of the same name, it feel gratuitous rather than fun. And while the interplay between Hughes and Homme, who clearly have a lot of fun playing and writing together, works so well, that dip into parody can at times be a detriment to an overall solid album.
Until You’re Comin’ Back to Me Girl.
7,430 out of 10,000 Rawckus Kung Fu Throwing Stars