Album Review: Them Crooked Vultures by Them Crooked Vultures
Fairly Good, Based on 8 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
The fruition of a long anticipated gathering between Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) is a fun, dirty little album. It’s a unique brand of lo-fi, whiskey bar, teeth-kicking rock and roll. Big, mangy and wild-eyed, it’s full of boogie and heat. Them Crooked Vultures find stomping energy in a big, old-fashioned bluesy groove.
Often, supergroups wind up dominated by one particular personality - think Eric Clapton in Derek & the Dominos, Jack White in the Raconteurs -- which makes the egalitarianism of Them Crooked Vultures all the more remarkable. Of course, when it comes down to it, it’s a group of three natural-born collaborators: John Paul Jones, the old studio pro who gravitated toward provocative partners after Led Zeppelin’s demise, teaming up with R.E.M. as easily as he did with avant-queen Diamanda Galas and nu-folkster Sara Watkins; Dave Grohl, who hopped into an empty drummer’s chair whenever the opportunity presented itself; and Josh Homme, who set up a mini-empire based entirely on jam sessions.
Logically rocking result from three-piece puzzle Has a supergroup ever lived up to its classification? The best (Traveling Wilburys, Dead Weather) have been great at times, but to say that they were ‘super,’ better than the bands from which they came, would be foolish. “Handle with Care” was good, but one of those Wilburys wrote Blonde on Blonde all by himself. And another one was a Beatle.
There was something almost quaint about watching Them Crooked Vultures' recent performance at Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club. Yes, the music was punishingly loud and, sure, the chops on display were near godlike, but a bunch of dudes pumping their fists to a hard-rock supergroup? Once the domain of the Claptons and Crosbys of the music world, the supergroup seems to be coming back into vogue. From the Jack White-helmed Raconteurs and Dead Weather to the multi-bearded onslaught of Monsters of Folk, it feels like the confines around a musician's "main band" are looser than ever.
It's hard to call Them Crooked Vultures anything other than a supergroup – the line-up features Dave Grohl, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age – even though, as Wikipedia's entry for supergroups reveals, it is a much-abused term. Contributors have stretched its definition to the limits, to include not merely Dream Evil – manna for anyone frantic to hear a collaboration between members of Mercyful Fate, Firewind, Hammerfall and Pure-X – but Happyland, breathlessly described as "a pop-rock collaboration between Quan Yeomans of Regurgitator and Janet English of Spiderbait. The original name of the band was the Shits," it adds, for the benefit of anyone muttering, "but I thought the legendary supergroup Happyland's original name was the Shits".
One of the delightful things about rock supergroups is that no amount of empirical evidence will ever QUITE persuade us that the next one to come across the horizon isn’t going to be unutterably brilliant. Them Crooked Vultures are a band that consist of the bassist from Led Zeppelin, the drummer from Nirvana, and the man who to all intents and purposes is Queens of the Stone Age. It in no way follows that their music will therefore sound like a perfect, synergised combination of the three acts.
Let's be honest: What makes Them Crooked Vultures a "supergroup" unlike any other "supergroup" this decade is the presence of John Paul Jones. Other than a former Beatle, a former member of Led Zeppelin is perhaps the biggest get for any potential "supergroup," let alone one that also includes former members of Nirvana, the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. From that standpoint, it shouldn't be surprising in the slightest that Them Crooked Vultures has already rocked out a number of packed mid-sized venues.
The idea of Them Crooked Vultures sounded too good to be true. How could one take frontman Joshua Homme and reconnect him with the awesome drumming of Dave Grohl? But even with them two, they decided to also throw in Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones to play bass, for good measure. And yes, we’re talking about Jones, who was the bassist for one of the best bands of all time.