Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme has revived his long-stagnant Desert Sessions project with the release of Vol. 11 & 12, now available on vinyl and most digital platforms. Beginning in 1997, Homme’s side project was created with a bunch of friends in the middle of the desert, as Homme and Co. hung out, jammed, and free-associated songs on the fly at Homme’s Joshua Tree crib. At his desert compound, Homme stashes rare recording equipment and instruments which helped produce ten volumes of tunes between ’97 and 2003. The latest release is the first output of these sessions in 16 years.
The goal of the sessions is to help promote songwriting in a chilled out, improvised atmosphere, away from the cold confines of a studio or label interference. Each Desert release sees a rotating crew of collaborators that in the past has included Alain Johannes, Troy Van Leeuwen, Dean Ween, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan, and more. This time around Homme landed contributions from Les Claypool, Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, Autolux’s Carla Azar, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, among others.
“There’s a bit of mental disrobing that goes on as you drive to the desert,” Homme told NME about Joshua Tree’s influence on the creative process. “I think as a musician, particularly in this day and age, you have a bit of armor on to protect yourself from grabbing hands and chatting mouths and closed ears. You do it to insulate yourself. But on the way to Joshua Tree, you take a lot of that off – which is ultimately a combination of insecurity and bravado – and you really empty your pockets of the residual of trying to protect yourselves.”
The entire collection is solid, but there are highlights you could skip to for samples including the QotSA-esque “Move Together,” featuring ZZ Top’s Gibbons on lead vocal. The track traverses an electronic backbeat of boops and beeps before Homme’s signature licks sear through. The track settles in with a breezy, melodic harmony that exemplifies the sort of freedom Homme and his crew seemingly strive for on these releases. “Move Together” could’ve easily been a Queens B-Side in another life, another studio.
“Crucifire” is also a standout with Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr grabbing the mic. It’s a no-frills rock jam that gets in and gets out in just under two minutes. It would certainly be a pit pleaser and palate cleanser if it was ever taken to stage.
And then there’s “Chic Tweetz,” featuring…whoever the hell Töôrnst Hülpft is, and comedian Matt Berry (What We Do In the Shadows). The lyrics, delivered in some sort of Euro-accent: “I sent you: chic tweets! / Unanswered for weeks, I want take peeks in those cheeks / I sent you this: hot fax! And you gave me de axe / I I would wax all your cracks.” Nothing about the track makes sense which makes it simultaneously magical, absurd, and brilliant.
The internet is already attempting to crack the case with theories swirling over the identity of the mysterious Hülpft. Is it Them Crooked Vultures co-collaborator Dave Grohl? Trent Reznor? Homme himself? Your guess is as good as mine.
Check out the Desert Sessions Vol. 11 & 12 tracklist and cover art below and check the album out wherever you stream music.
Desert Sessions Vol. 11 & 12 Tracklist:
01 “Move Together” (lead vocal: Billy F. Gibbons)
02 “Noses In Roses Forever” (lead vocal: Joshua Homme)
03 “Far East for The Trees”
04 “If You Run” (lead vocal: Libby Grace)
05 “Crucifire” (lead vocal: Mike Kerr)
06 “Chic Tweetz”(vocals: Töôrnst Hülpft, Matt Berry)
07 “Something You Can’t See” (lead vocal: Jake Shears)
08 “Easier Said Than Done” (lead vocal: Joshua Homme)