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Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

Dec 10th 2009
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Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked VulturesThem Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures
Score: 71

Them Crooked Vultures is the newest rock supergroup made up of the household names of the genre, comprising Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. Founded earlier this year, the band released its self-titled debut album in November. Unfortunately, the group hasn’t quite managed to fully harness the combined talent of its three quite experienced members, and so Them Crooked Vultures never quite rises past mediocrity.

Instrumentals on Them Crooked Vultures are certainly interesting. The album begins with the band slowly developing half-lines, but stops, and proceeds to play the rest of the track at a sound that seems still somewhat underdeveloped. Thankfully, near the halfway point, the band begins to play more actively, which combats the boringness of the slightly underdeveloped lines, but the second half of the track ends up even more repetitive than the first. This is, naturally, a serious problem on a five plus minute track. Indeed, the “epics” of the album (the first track, as well as “Elephants,” and “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take after You Give Up”) all seem to have a strong tendency towards high levels of repetition – else they just drag on and on for far too long – such that they end up not really being epic on any level whatsoever.

Some tracks, though, are significantly better. On “Mind Eraser, No Chaser,” the instruments, while not terribly interesting on their own, certainly match the vocals and lyrics quite well. Following that track, “New Fang” maintains an almost melodic drum line. Surprisingly, the sixth track is one of the most successful: while somewhat repetitive, the slap and the otherwise hard edges on most of the lines are entrancing. And though it clearly overstays its welcome, “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take after You Give Up” does have some outstanding later sections.

Vocally, Them Crooked Vultures is largely unexciting. Though all of the members of the group have proven themselves to be skilled vocalists in their own work, Them Crooked Vultures keeps its vocals on a thoroughly mundane platform. At no point do the vocal lines of the album rise above the main sound (though they occasionally come close on some of the louder tracks, such as “New Fang”). Instead, the vocals are pushed into thick layers of percussion and guitar. Occasionally, they manage to sound interesting, especially on the best-constructed tracks of the album, such as “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up,” but this is regrettably rare. The majority of the album manages the impressive feat of making Josh Homme’s voice sound boring, which certainly doesn’t say anything good about the album’s appeal as a whole.

The lyrical portion of Them Crooked Vultures suffers in the same way as do the vocals – they’re simply not especially interesting. Homme and company haven’t managed to make the album lyrically appealing, and as such it slips by without making much of an impact. Even occasional amusing sections (including song titles like “Caligulove”) can’t salvage the music from being fundamentally dull. It’s not so much that it’s badly done or without potential – instead, the problem is that it isn’t nearly compelling enough for a nearly seventy-minute album.

Even if Them Crooked Vultures isn’t much better than mediocre, it is certainly extremely interesting to hear Grohl, Homme, and Jones together on the same album. And while there are certainly a fair share of disappointing spots on Them Crooked Vultures, there are more than enough tracks like the frankly excellent “Caligulove” to just average out. Instead, the good slightly outweighs the bad, and the album ends up above average, just not by nearly as much as what such a talented group of musicians really deserves.

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