CDs Revisited: Queens of the Stone Age - 'Rated R'

via Amazon
To further prove the idea that I was a very impressionable teenager, and how that's influenced me to this very day, let me take you back to a day in the summer of 2003 when I was at camp: one night I was hanging around my cabin and listening to one of the counselors go through another's CD collection and more or less criticizing every single one (being the snarky music asshole was kind of his thing). I don't actually remember most of the albums mentioned that night, but I do remember that he was infuriated by seeing a copy of Load, and when he got to Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age his reaction was "What the fuck? How do you own this album but you're missing fucking Rated R, easily the greatest Queens of the Stone Age album?" (two things: 1) I'm paraphrasing what he said, but most of those words were uttered in some order, and 2) You have to remember that this was in 2003 so the QotSA discography was rather small at the time).

That reaction to my counselor not owning Rated R stuck with me for years. I don't know why- in 2003 I was far more interested in listening to Rancid and Less Than Jake- but whenever I would hear someone discuss Queens of the Stone Age, I would remember that night when it was declared by an angry music snob that Rated R was their best album. Flashforward to 2007, and I found myself listening to them more often. Despite my memories of Rated R being hailed as their #1 album, I started with Songs for the Deaf because I was also obsessed with the Foo Fighters at the time and I was aware that Dave Grohl played on that album. I knew some songs off Rated R, but as far as owning physical albums (I was particularly charmed by "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" for its simplicity), I didn't buy a copy until that fall when I found it in the used CD bin at the Salvation Army in New Paltz. I remember being excited to finally carry the album around with me whenever I wanted (I still didn't have an iPod at this point, and carried a discman with me everywhere).

The first distinct memory I have of listening to the disc was the night I built a cardboard fort with my roommates: we'd invited friends over to see it (obviously, who builds a room-sized fort and doesn't show it off?), ordered pizza, watched whatever was on TV... it was either The Surreal Life or America's Next Top Model.I know those shows aren't all that similar and I should know the difference but I honestly don't know which one was on. Anyway...

It was icy outside and our friend Lauren lived across campus so I offered to walk her back to her dorm. After dropping her off, I immediately put on Rated R and slid my way back to my place. I must have already been listening to it earlier that day, because I recall avoiding icy patches while listening to "Tension Head" and "Lightning Song" but I also could have skipped ahead on the album without realizing it. Either way, I was doing everything I could to take it all in while also doing everything I could to not bust my ass. I wanted to love this album- I had to. What kind of fan doesn't like a band's best album? Fortunately, it wasn't much of a stretch. This album has all the blueprints for everything that came later that I already enjoyed: the laid-back grooves in "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret," in-your-face punk attitude of "Quick and to the Pointless," and the experimental instrumentation of "Better Living Through Chemistry" (for the record, I don't think bongos normally qualify as "experimental" but this is supposed to be a metal album). It was easy for me to see why someone could consider it to be the band's best work.

Here we are eleven years later. I don't really listen to Queens of the Stone Age anymore, but I won't skip them if they come up on shuffle. I gave ...Like Clockwork a listen when it came out and I remember meaning to listen more though that never happened. I listened to Villains once last year and I don't remember anything about it. It happens, people sometimes lose interest in stuff they once loved.

Do I still like Rated R though? Yeah, I do. But do I think it's QotSA at their best? Well... I certainly think it's from their best era, but I also think it comes in second to Songs for the Deaf.

I'm sure if my old counselor ever reads this, he'd have some choice words for me.

Stream Rated R below.


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