Era Vulgaris (album)

Era Vulgaris (album)

Era Vulgaris is the fifth full length studio album by American hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age. The album was completed in early April 2007 and released on June 8, 2007 in some countries, June 11, 2007 in the United Kingdom and June 12, 2007 in the United States. The tracks "Sick, Sick, Sick" and "3's & 7's" were released as singles in early June, with a third single "Make It wit Chu" released around Halloween of 2007.

The album debuted at number fourteen on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts selling 52,000 copies in its first week, which was a decline in comparison to the previous album, which opened at number 5 with 91,000 copies sold in its debut week. In other countries it has reached much loftier debut positions, mostly in the top ten, such as number five in Canada where it sold approximately 10,000 copies in its opening week. The album debuted at number nine at United World Chart, selling approximately 149,000 copies worldwide in its first week.

Overview and background

While 2002's Songs for the Deaf was said to be inspired by Josh Homme's tedious drive through the Southern Californian desert, the inspiration for Era Vulgaris came from Homme's daily drive through Hollywood. He described the record as "dark, hard, and electrical, sort of like a construction worker,…it's like dirt, clearly seen." The album's title Era Vulgaris refers to the Latin term for Common Era. The title was chosen by Homme because he thought "it sounds like 'the Vulgar Era', which I like, because that sounds like something that I would like to be part of… I mean I think we're in it, and I'm stoked".

Two tracks from the album had previously been released or performed elsewhere. "Into the Hollow" was previously performed by producers Josh Homme and Chris Goss as 15ers, and "Make It Wit Chu" was previously recorded as a Desert Sessions track, as well as appearing on their live album Over the Years and Through the Woods.

Production

Pre-production speculation and contributors

In June 2006, in an interview on the Australian radio station Triple J, Jesse F. Keeler, the former bassist from Death from Above 1979, revealed that he would be playing bass on an upcoming Queens of the Stone Age album, but said that he would more than likely not be touring with the band due to his desire to spend more time with his girlfriend. Eventually on the DFA internet forum, Keeler revealed that due to conflicting schedules, he would not be appearing on the album. In a July interview with NME, Homme confirmed that the band was back in the studio, writing, but he remained unwilling to reveal who would appear in the band on the new record:
The album was expected to include guest performances from Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, former band member Mark Lanegan, Billy Gibbons of ZZTop, and (jokingly) deceased humourist Erma Bombeck. However, of these only Casablancas' and Lanegan's tracks appear on the U.S. release. Casablancas performed synth guitar and backing vocals on "Sick, Sick, Sick", and Lanegan sang backing vocals on "River in the Road". Ultimately, scheduling conflicts prevented Gibbons from appearing, while Reznor's track "Era Vulgaris" was released separately on the You Know What You Did promotional CD, as well as on the UK release of the album.

Recording

The album was recorded "with exactly zero input from [record label] Interscope Records" between July 2006 and April 2007 at Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, Steakhouse Studios, Los Angeles and Studio City Sound, Van Nuys and mixed at Bay 7 Studios, North Hollywood, California. Recording and mixing were by Alain Johannes, while the album was produced by Josh Homme together with Chris Goss as the Fififf Teeners. The primary contributors to the recording were Homme, Troy van Leeuwen, Joey Castillo, Johannes and Goss.

Goss and Johannes were replaced by Dean Fertita (keyboard) and Michael Shuman (bass) for later bonus track recordings and the subsequent supporting tour. Regarding the bands line-up changes for Era Vulgaris, Homme commented "I like combinations that no one would expect…It's the cool part of any surprise party."

Musical style and influences

Era Vulgaris displays influences from many different genres. The album departs from the softer, hollowbody guitar sound of their previous album Lullabies to Paralyze with heavy, crunchy guitars and adding in some industrial influences. Rolling Stone noted the influence of "New Wave synth geek Gary Numan…all over this record." Musically, the album has been described as "brand new retro", a fusion of "punk, rock, blues and southern grit" (FHM), and slower, moodier, and groggier than the bands previous efforts.

Marketing and promotion

Behind the scenes and promotional contest

Shortly after the album's announcement in February 2007, a video was posted on the band's official website showing Homme, Castillo and Van Leeuwen jamming. Along with brief footage of the recording session for "Misfit Love", the last 6-7 seconds of the video contained footage of the recording of "3's & 7's" accompanied by studio-mastered audio. A second video of the recording of the album surfaced subsequently on YouTube, depicting the band (this time including Alain Johannes) recording a new track, "Turning on the Screw" in studio.

In early April, the official band website was updated with a 37 second excerpt from "Sick, Sick, Sick". This was replaced, however, by the complete song, "3's and 7's", which was later removed. QOTSA fansite thefade.net announced a promotional contest for fans to win "a special package" from the band, confirmed as legitimate by the band's webmaster. On April 13, packages were sent to selected winners containing a CD entitled You Know What You Did with the sole track "Era Vulgaris", which Homme separately confirmed would not be appearing on the record, although it was included as a bonus track on the UK edition. The CD was accompanied by a handwritten letter asking fans to share the song in any way possible:

Bulby, Xfm and soundtracks

The full track "Sick, Sick, Sick" was leaked onto the Internet, countered by the posting of a promotional video to the official site featuring a "sales pitch" for Era Vulgaris by two talking lightbulbs , followed by streaming of "Sick, Sick, Sick" with official lyrics displayed in the background.

On May 2, 2007, Homme, Van Leeuwen and new band member Dean Fertita appeared on London radio station Xfm, performing an acoustic set that included the tracks "3's & 7's", "Into the Hollow" and "Suture Up Your Future".

It was announced that tracks from the band will appear in video games Madden NFL 08, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Rock Band, specifically that the track "3's & 7's" would be featured in Madden NFL 08 and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Both "3's & 7's" and "Sick, Sick, Sick" are available as downloadable content on Rock Band and Rock Band 2, as they share the same Music Store.

Artwork

The album's cover features the two lightbulbs from the promotional video, Bulby and his pirate accomplice (pictured right), marking a change from the plainer designs of the bands' previous albums. According to Homme, the light bulb represented "…what you perceive to be a great idea that really is not that great of an idea". The cover was a slip of paper, with a simplified credits page on the back side, marked with the outline of the record. The typography follows an Old English style font; Blackmoor, with the 'Spermy Q' seen on their album Songs for the Deaf.

An art booklet was also included, featuring "Bulby" and several other characters which unfolded to display a pin-up advertisement for the album, following the 50's advertising satire as the rest of the album art followed. The lack of liner notes for the album was remedied when the official website allowed users to view an e-booklet, containing more detailed liner notes, lyrics, and previously unseen artwork. The green light bulb with the pirate hat and peg leg is known as "Patchy".

The lightbulb characters were created by Liam Lynch with overall art direction from Jason Noto of Morning Breath Inc

Reception

Reviews for the album were generally positive, earning a rating of 75 out of 100 on Metacritic, a decline from their previous two studio albums. Uncut and Allmusic's reviews were particularly glowing, with the latter noting how Era Vulgaris is "as different from Lullabies as that was to their dramatic widescreen breakthrough, Songs for the Deaf". The Observer also commented on the albums change in direction, commenting that the band had "turned its back on the mainstream" and that the album was "uneasy and brooding" and "Gripping stuff". Rolling Stone gave the album four stars for the first time since the band's self titled debut, commenting that "Era Vulgaris is Homme's fifth Queens album, and like the others, it's intricately crafted, meticulously polished and ruthlessly efficient in its pursuit of depraved rock thrills. New York Times critic Jon Pareles selected the album as the 10th best release of 2007.

A number of reviews were negative, however; Q magazine gave the album two stars out of five, while The Village Voice criticized Homme for lack of originality, describing the record's sound as "listless and drained of ideas". The Guardian slated the record as lyrically clichéd and lacking the input of former bassist Nick Oliveri and Entertainment Weekly delivered the closing indictment that "there isn't a single song here that you'll remember, or want to return to, two summers hence."

Era Vulgaris had sold 198,000 copies in the US, and 521,000 copies worldwide before falling off the charts. Since it fell off the chart, it has sold 223,000 copies in the US, and 600,000 copies worldwide. The US sales are a drop off from their previous album, as Lullabies to Paralyze, had sold 342,000 copies in the US by March 2007. - though Lullabies to Paralyze had been selling for two years whereas Era Vulgaris had only been selling for several months. Neither album achieved the commercial success of the band's 2002 release, Songs for the Deaf, which had sold 986,000 copies in the US alone as of June 2007.

Track listing

All tracks were written by Joshua Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen and Joey Castillo, except where noted.

  1. "Turnin' on the Screw" – 5:20
  2. "Sick, Sick, Sick" (Homme, Goss, Van Leeuwen, Castillo) – 3:34
  3. "I'm Designer" – 4:04
  4. "Into the Hollow" – 3:42
  5. "Misfit Love" – 5:39
  6. "Battery Acid" – 4:06
  7. "Make It wit Chu" (Homme, Johannes, Melchiondo) – 4:50
  8. "3's & 7's" – 3:34
  9. "Suture Up Your Future" – 4:37
  10. "River in the Road" – 3:19
  11. "Run, Pig, Run" – 4:40

Bonus tracks

  • "Running Joke" – 2:57
    • UK/Japanese/Australian/New Zealand/iTunes release bonus track.
  • "Era Vulgaris" (featuring Trent Reznor) – 4:23
    • UK/Japanese/Australian/New Zealand release bonus track. Previously released as both a contest-winning promotional single (You Know What You Did) and as a free download.
  • "The Fun Machine Took a Shit & Died" – 6:55
    • Japanese/Brazilian/Mexican/German/Russian release bonus track. An earlier, rougher studio take was previously released as a 7" single that was given out to fans at a Brixton Academy show after the band could not play there several times. The song was noted on the sleeve of Lullabies to Paralyze. This is a new version of the song, and a free CD single containing the song was given away with preorders of Era Vulgaris through certain websites. It can currently be heard on a streaming player via the band's website.
  • "White Wedding" (Billy Idol cover) – 3:52
    • Best Buy exclusive download when album is bought. Also available on the "Make It Wit Chu" CD single.
  • "Goin' Out West" (Tom Waits cover) – 3:56
    • Exclusive f.y.e. download when album is bought. Initially available only on the album's U.S. release date, June 12, 2007. Subsequently made available on the "3's & 7's" 7" single, as well as the import version of the "Sick, Sick, Sick" single
  • "I'm Designer" (Primal Scream Remix) – 3:48
  • "Needles in the Camel's Eye" (Brian Eno cover) – 3:23
    • Available on the "Make It Wit Chu" CD single.

Era Vulgaris Tour Edition tracklisting

Disc 1

  1. "Turnin' on the Screw" – 5:20
  2. "Sick, Sick, Sick" (Homme, Goss, Van Leeuwen, Castillo) – 3:34
  3. "I'm Designer" – 4:04
  4. "Into the Hollow" – 3:42
  5. "Misfit Love" – 5:39
  6. "Battery Acid" – 4:06
  7. "Make It Wit Chu" (Homme, Johannes, Melchiondo) – 4:50
  8. "3's & 7's" – 3:34
  9. "Suture Up Your Future" – 4:37
  10. "River in the Road" – 3:19
  11. "Run, Pig, Run" – 4:40
  12. "The Fun Machine Took a Shit and Died" – 6:57
  13. "Make It Wit Chu [Acoustic]" (Homme, Johannes, Melchiondo) – 4:50
  14. "Era Vulgaris [Richard File Remix]" (featuring Trent Reznor) – 6:06
  15. "I'm Designer [UNKLE Remix] - 6:11

Disc 2 (Live In Amsterdam)

  1. "Monsters in the Parasol" – 3:34
  2. "Misfit Love" – 6:41
  3. " If Only" – 3:43
  4. "I Think I Lost My Headache" - 6:10
  5. "Into the Hollow" – 4:13
  6. "Go With the Flow" – 3:22
  7. "Regular John" - 10:59
  8. "Avon" – 3:18
  9. "Song for the Dead" - 7:13

Limited edition vinyl

On December 4th, Interscope Records released the album on triple 10" vinyl records pressed in Nashville's historic United Record Pressing The LP version has been expected since the CD version's release which has art that features ring marks commonly associated with vinyl records. The LP includes the bonus track "Running Joke."

Personnel

According to the album liner notes, the contributors were as follows:

Band line-up

Guest appearances

  • Alain Johannes – bass, guitar (acoustic, counterpoint, harmonic), fiddle (counterpoint, "cig"), marxaphone, backing vocals
  • Chris Goss – keyboard, "the chicken pluckin guitar", "twinkley bits", organ, piano (electric, "eclectic"), bass, backing vocals
  • Julian Casablancascasio guitar, vocals ("Sick, Sick, Sick")
  • Serrina Sims – backing vocals
  • Brody Dalle-Homme – backing vocals
  • Liam Lynch – backing vocals
  • Mark Lanegan – harmony vocals ("River in the Road")

This list is exhaustive of the core eleven tracks (see above), but does not take into account contributions to bonus tracks.

Technical

Technical credits for the album are as follows:

Release and chart positions

Album chart positions

Year Chart Peak position
2007 Billboard 200 14
2007 iTunes 5
2007 United World Chart 9
2007 Australian Albums Chart 4
2007 Austrian Albums Chart 4
2007 Belgian Albums Chart 2
2007 Canadian Albums Chart 5
2007 Dutch Albums Chart 7
2007 Estonian Albums Chart 21
2007 Finnish Albums Chart 6
2007 French Albums Chart 22
2007 German Albums Chart 5
2007 Italian Albums Chart 53
2007 Irish Albums Chart 6
2007 New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart 4
2007 Norwegian Albums Chart 5
2007 Spanish Albums Chart 65
2007 Swedish Albums Chart 6
2007 Swiss Albums Chart 4
2007 UK Albums Chart 7

Singles chart positions

Year Single Chart Peak position
2007 "Sick, Sick, Sick" U.S. Modern Rock 23
2007 "Sick, Sick, Sick" U.S. Mainstream Rock 37
2007 "Sick, Sick, Sick" UK Singles Chart 65
2007 "3's & 7's" Eurochart Hot 100 Singles Chart 85
2007 "3's & 7's" UK Singles Chart 19
2007 "3's & 7's" UK Rock Singles Chart 1
2007 "3's & 7's" U.S. Modern Rock 25
2007 "Make It wit Chu" U.S. Modern Rock N/A

Album release history

Region Date
Germany June 8, 2007
Ireland June 8, 2007
Austria June 8, 2007
United Kingdom June 11, 2007
United States June 12, 2007

References

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