Artwork from Queens of the Stone Age most recent release: Like Clockwork.

Ray Davies of the Kinks might've paraphrased himself after seeing the Queens of the Stone Age last Sunday night and asked: Where have all the good riffs gone?


     Or as George Thorogood once answered my question as to why he didn't write his own blues and rock'n'roll songs, "All the good ones have already been written."


     So as much as they are considered a riff-heavy band and leader Josh Homme a songwriter in his own league, I'm somewhat verklempt and confused about the alleged greatness of the Queens. Yes, they pack a five-fingered death punch rhythmically--sometimes. Yes, they have a fabulously enthusiastic bassist in Michael Shuman who, when his Fender bass playing locks in with drummer Jon Theodore's bass drum pedal (and together they were locked in tighter than a stripper's belly button piercings all night), it's a bit Jones/Bonham. And with a few of the guitar riffs the effect WILL grab you by your privates and make you shake, rattle and roll--a little bit.


     But not enough to rock my world, not enough to be my girl.


     Taken as a sum of their parts, well, their main strength is their greatest weakness: Mr. Homme.


     Hey, I've seen Them Stupid Vultures or whatever they were called. And I'll put their humdrum-plus LC gig right up there with the great nothing of a show put on by the Dead Weather. Thus with the Queens show on Sunday night, in my book, you've got a three-way tie for third place. All the world's great songs have been written, apparently, and none of 'em are by the Queens. Josh Homme, you are charged with being talented but not smart enough to pen something that REALLY matters.


     After the initial opening hyper-stimulation salvo of My God, You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire and No One Knows, it seemed like we were on a wild steel ride like the Medusa roller coaster a la Six Flags. Alas, for the rest of the night there were a few twists and turns, some very mild corkscrews but no G-Loop, no black holes at 70 m.p.h., no Led Zeppelin-like Communication Breakdown, in other words. And this riff-starved/riff-hungry crowd ate it up like feeding time at the zoo. Well, what's a young person to do? The Queens are as good as it gets for Generation Lame-Ass.


     Who could sing along with any of this shit?


     Perhaps if I HADN'T undergone a Zep renaissance during the summer playing every Zep disc (except Presence and In Through The Out Door) while reading the uber-fantastic book, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page, I wouldn't be so hard on our homey Homme. Except for a few lovely lovelies (Little Sister rearranged my organs, thank you), the night was the equivalent of hard-hit bloopers which fell to earth 12 yards beyond second base, an occurrence all-too-frequent in the Dan Dougan Sunday Hangover League softball games in Schiller Park back in the day when we quickly tired out from advancing middle-age and the previous night's liquid stupidities.


      So, in essence, I'm saying, Josh ol' boy, Mr. H, personal friend to John Paul Jones...sir, even Joe Bonamassa has a riff he made his own but that he clearly and beautifully and wonderfully obviously yanked from half of Whole Lotta Love's main guitar them. He blues-ed it out so it had balls as big as King Kong's. Your clearly very competent Queens could do that easy, I think. Why they aren't, I don't know. May I suggest what you need to do is go deeper and stupider than Zep, go to Sabbath, steal and rearrange Iron Man or War Pigs, turn it into Queens property then riff longer than you normally do THEN add your mildly complex yet unremarkable Styx/Supertramp musical personality.


      Then and only then will everyone's privates go home on fire.