Eagles of Death Metal
specialize in knowingly over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll awash in bad attitude and out-of-control hormones. But as they demonstrate on Heart On
, music that plays to the lowest-common denominator doesn’t have to be dumb. On the contrary, Heart On
is shrewdly conceived and smartly executed, celebrating rock’s most pleasurable qualities with a playful spirit, loud guitars and a rhythm section that’s out to shake your rump.
Mocking Rock-Star Posturing
Eagles of Death Metal are the brainchild of songwriter Jesse Hughes and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. While Hughes provides vocals and guitar on Heart On
, Homme assists on drums and bass and produced the album. In the tradition of previous Eagles records, Heart On
subtly mocks rock-star posturing with its outlandish guitar riffs and suggestive lyrics, but Eagles aren’t a parody band like Tenacious D or Spinal Tap
. Rather than focusing on writing joke songs, Eagles write real songs that reveal an exuberance for rock’s sillier extremes – in this way, Hughes and Homme get to have it both ways, laughing with and at the conventions.
Big Dumb Fun Done Well
Heart On explodes with its first track, the hand-clapping, hard-rocking “Anything ‘Cept the Truth,” as Hughes struts around while sweet-talking a lovely lady. The song is utterly mindless but also plenty ecstatic, a great example of big dumb fun done extremely well. From there, Eagles shift gears, trying out some slinky roadhouse rock on “(I Used to Couldn’t Dance) Tight Pants” before diving headfirst into the fuzzed-up strip-club murk of “High Voltage.” Throughout, the band flies high on goodtime vibes, dealing with issues of love and loneliness as nothing that can’t be cured by cranking the volume on the stereo.
Paying Homage to Past Greats
As part of its loving homage to rock ‘n’ roll’s past, Heart On
occasionally explicitly references earlier bands’ songs. The title track’s opening lick recalls the Stones
classic “Honey Tonk Women,” while “Now I’m a Fool” improbably swipes its melody from Steely Dan
’s “Only a Fool Would Say That.” If that wasn’t enough, “Prissy Prancin’” tips its hat to Led Zeppelin
’s “Dancing Days.” Done improperly, this sort of creative “borrowing” is the sign of an artistically bankrupt group. But with Eagles of Death Metal, it’s an expert evocation of rock’s enduring strengths. Because there is such giddiness in their approach, Eagles get away with just about anything they want on Heart On
is far from perfect. When Eagles fail to nail a superb hook, the songs can feel like empty exercises. And because the band’s themes are admittedly shallow, the album can become repetitive at times. But on the whole, Heart On
is a total blast – an album that requires no deep thinking but should inspire a lot of pleased grins and devil signs among their fans.
“Anything ‘Cept the Truth”
“(I Used to Couldn’t Dance) Tight Pants”
“Now I’m a Fool”
Release date – October 28, 2008
Label – Downtown Records