Rated R put Queens of the Stone Age on the rock map as a force to be reckoned with in 2000. Led by singer-guitarist-songwriter Josh Homme and bassist Nick Oliveri, both of influential stoner-metal band Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age went on to produce some of the most original rock of the 2000s, and now, after the departure of Oliveri and a slew of other lineup changes, which at one point included bringing in Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl for an album and tour, the band has reissued Rated R as a two-CD deluxe edition.
In addition to the original album, the release includes a second disc containing six B-sides and nine live tracks from the band’s performance at the 2000 Reading Festival. The B-sides were first released on “The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret” and “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer” singles, and the Reading Festival tracks have been on the web for awhile. So the content isn’t necessarily new, at least not to QOTSA fanatics who have spent some hours on YouTube during the past couple years. But this is the first time those 15 tracks have been collected in one place, and it’s a fine supplement, but not an essential addition, to the collection of any serious fan.
If anything, listening to the two discs makes you miss Oliveri’s enraged musical counterpoint to Homme’s sultry crooning, especially since Oliveri shares a songwriting credit with Homme on many of Rated R’s tracks. Oliveri played bass and occasionally sang lead on Rated R and Songs for the Deaf (arguably QOTSA’s two best albums), and once Homme kicked him out in 2004 (based on rumors that Oliveri allegedly beat his girlfriend), QOTSA’s sound shifted dramatically. And while Homme has continued making great music — 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze is excellent, and 2007’s Era Vulgaris is almost as good — the new music lacked the screaming intensity Oliveri brought to the table. Oliveri charts like “Auto Pilot” and “Quick And To The Pointless” brought a refreshing simplicity to the meticulously produced soundscapes of Homme’s songs on Rated R, and you could reasonably argue that Oliveri’s presence and contributions in both Kyuss and QOTSA helped shape the sound Homme continued making for the two subsequent, Oliveri-less albums.
The B-sides “Ode To Clarissa” and “You’re So Vague” drive home that point. They’re more metal, more punk than anything Homme produced after Oliveri’s departure. (Don’t underestimate the latter just because it parodies “You’re So Vain.”) He is an irreplaceable musical force, and even though Oliveri told UK’s The Skinny in 2006 that he would consider rejoining QOTSA, there’s no reason to think that is going to happen anytime soon. For now, it looks like the work of the Homme-Oliveri songwriting team is to remain in the past.
But enough reminiscing. The B-side “Born To Hula” is great, intricate Homme riff-rock. The other B-sides are fun if you’ve never heard them. The live songs are good listens, just not as interesting as watching the band’s performances on the 2005 live DVD Over the Years and Through the Woods. The packaging is red and white as opposed to the original’s blue and white. The book is cleverly and artistically designed. Hardcore fans will really appreciate this reissue, but the casual fan can safely skip it. It’s not even QOTSA’s best CD (that honor goes to 2002’s Songs For The Deaf), but it is, perhaps, their most important one.