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Songs for the Deaf

Songs for the Deaf is the third studio album by American hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age. Released in 2002, the album features Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl as a guest drummer. Like their other albums, Songs for the Deaf has a large number of guest musicians, a signature of the band's releases. Following the breakthrough Rated R, this album is widely regarded as Queens of the Stone Age's magnum opus, garnering universal acclaim from critics, whilst earning the band's first gold record certification in the U.S., having sold 986,000 copies in the country. Songs for the Deaf is loosely considered as a concept album, taking the listener on a drive from Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert while tuning into radio stations from towns on the way such as Banning, California and Chino Hills, California.

Overview and background

Contributors

Songs for the Deaf was the first and only Queens of the Stone Age album that featured Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, on drums, who also toured with the band. He replaced the previous drummer, Gene Trautmann, who started working on other projects. Grohl had been a keen admirer of Queens of the Stone Age since the band opened for Foo Fighters on tour, and originally wanted to appear on Rated R. He joined Queens of the Stone Age in October 2001 when he received a phone call from Josh Homme, with whom he had been friends since 1992 when Homme was the guitarist for Kyuss. Grohl admitted that he had not drummed for a long time, and added that fronting a band was "tiring". Grohl put Foo Fighters on temporary hiatus, delaying their upcoming album, One By One, to October 22, 2002, because of touring duties with Queens of the Stone Age in support of the album. Grohl's first performance with the band occurred at March 7, 2002 in The Troubadour, Los Angeles, and his last performance was at the Fuji Rock Festival on July 28, 2002. He returned to the Foo Fighters soon after, initially being replaced in Queens of the Stone Age by Kelli Scott of Blinker the Star before Danzig drummer Joey Castillo was eventually announced as his long-term replacement in August 2002.

Songs for the Deaf marks the last appearances on a Queens of the Stone Age record of former members Brendon McNichol (lap steel) and Gene Trautmann (drums). The album also included the first musical contribution to a Queens of the Stone Age album by multi-instrumentalists Natasha Shneider and Alain Johannes (who co-wrote the track "Hangin' Tree" with Homme). Jeordie White (of Marilyn Manson fame) reportedly auditioned for the band in 2002, but lost out to Troy Van Leeuwen, who joined the band as a touring member in support of Songs for the Deaf'. White did appear on the album, however, making a brief cameo appearance as a radio DJ. Shneider, Johannes and Van Leeuwen would subsequently become full time Queens of the Stone Age members and contribute to the follow-up album Lullabies to Paralyze (2005).

Another change in personnel came with the arrival of producer Eric Valentine, who had previously worked on a pair of Dwarves albums with Oliveri. Valentine was actually a requirement by Interscope and didn't do his job according to Homme, who commented that "[Valentine] just recorded it actually, it says production, he was only there to record the beginning of it.

Production and release

In September 2002, Josh Homme explained the band's goals with the release of the album:
I've been thinking of this album since the first album, not necessarily the radio thing, but to me that isn't the full concept, the full concept is the diversity of it all, I think we're supposed to be pushing buttons over the three records. I've always looked at our first three records as a set: the first one was to distance ourselves from Kyuss, the second album fanned out the music into different areas and this one takes that out even a little further, I think.

In the same month, Nick Oliveri explained the band's aims in an interview with retail company HMV:

We're still doin' the same thing we always did, which is play music that we wanna hear but we can't buy it in the stores so we have to make it. We're not trying to cater to anybody—I wouldn't know how to do that because I've never sold records, you know what I mean? 'Let's write a single!' I don't know what that is—I've never had one.

Between them, Homme and Oliveri had different opinions on the usage of fake radio excerpts between tracks on the album, the former believing it gave the album "fluidity". According to Oliveri, they are a jibe at, "how a lot of stations play the same thing over and over. We don't get played on the radio, so I figure we should talk shit about them.

Several songs that appeared on the album (in re-worked form) were previously recorded and released on the Desert Sessions, a side project of Josh Homme with various guest collaborators. "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire" was the opening track of Volumes 5 & 6, with vocals originally performed by Mario Lalli instead of Oliveri and "Hangin' Tree" first appeared on Volumes 7 & 8. Also, both "A Song for the Deaf" and "Go with the Flow" were previously performed as early as 2001 with the former having quite different lyrics and vocals completely by Mark Lanegan.

The album was initially planned for release on August 13, 2002, but was eventually postponed for two weeks.

Release and reception

Songs for the Deaf was the band's breakout album. Upon its release in August 2002, Songs for the Deaf peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard 200 album chart. The album granted Queens of the Stone Age international recognition.

The album would be released worldwide in late August, 2002. The album would peak at the top twenty on most of the charts it appeared on. Songs for the Deaf would continue the trend of higher charting albums after its release. Songs for the Deaf reached the top ten in the Norway, United Kingdom, Belgia and Australia, it was a moderate top twenty success in United States, Finland, Italy, and Sweden and the album reached the top thirty in Ireland, France and Denmark.

Like its predecessor, Songs for the Deaf received very positive reviews, aggregated as a total score of 89 out of 100 ("universal acclaim") on Metacritic, making the album the third highest rated on the site from 2002. Entertainment Weekly called it "The year's best hard-rock album", giving it an A. Splendid said, "The bottom line is that QOTSA turns in another genre-demolishing, hard-as-titanium album in Songs for the Deaf. This is not your father's metal. It's better." Mojo listed the album as the year's third best, while Playlouder and Spin placed it at fourth. NME placed the album as the sixth best, with the three singles each making the magazine's Tracks of the Year list over the course of 2002/2003. Kerrang! rated the album at number 1 on its "Best albums of 2002" list.

The album met with great success earning band's first gold certification in the U.S. on January 27, 2003 shifting over 500,000 copies (as of June 2007 the total amount of sold copies is estimated at 986,000 according to Nielsen Soundscan),, platinum certification in UK on September 20, 2002 with sales exceeding 100,000 of units sold. and platinum status in Canada.

The album received two Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy nominations for singles "No One Knows" (2003), and "Go with the Flow" (2004).

Accolades

The information regarding accolades attributed to Songs for the Deaf is adapted from AcclaimedMusic.net.

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Dagsavisen Norway The 21 Best Albums of the 21st Century 2005 16
VPRO Netherlands 299 Nominations of the Best Album of All Time 2006 *
HARP United States 50 Most Essential Albums since 2001 2006 48
Amazon.com United States The Best of the Decade in Music... So Far 2006 *

* denotes an unordered list

Artwork

The cover art for the U.S. double LP version of the album is quite different, featuring a red Q (with a sperm cell as the line in the Q) on a black background with no other text. It was released on red vinyl. The UK vinyl version cover is the same as the CD cover. The dashboard/interior with superimposed logos is that of a Fiat 124 Sport Spider, a 1960s–1980s mass market Italian sports car. The person on the album disc is musician Dave Catching, who performs on the album.

Track listing

  1. "The Real Song for the Deaf" (Joshua Homme)
  2. "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire" (Homme, Mario Lalli) – 3:12
  3. "No One Knows" (Homme, Mark Lanegan) – 4:38
  4. "First It Giveth" (Homme, Oliveri) – 3:18
  5. "Song for the Dead" (Homme, Lanegan) – 5:52
  6. "The Sky Is Fallin'" (Homme, Oliveri) – 6:15
  7. "Six Shooter" (Homme, Oliveri) – 1:19
  8. "Hangin' Tree" (Homme, Lanegan, Alain Johannes) – 3:06
  9. "Go with the Flow" (Homme, Oliveri) – 3:09
  10. "Gonna Leave You" (Homme, Oliveri) – 2:50
  11. "Do It Again" (Homme, Oliveri) – 4:04
  12. "God Is in the Radio" (Homme, Lanegan, Oliveri) – 6:04
  13. "Another Love Song" (Homme, Oliveri) – 3:16
  14. "Song for the Deaf" (Homme, Lanegan, Oliveri) – 6:42
    • Contains an incomplete version of "Feel Good Hit of the Summer", that features all of the lyrics replaced with rhythmic laughing, toward the end of the track, after about 30 seconds of silence.
  15. "Mosquito Song" (Homme, Michael Melchiondo, Oliveri) – 5:37
    • Mentioned on the track listing, but labeled as a hidden track.

The intro to track #4, "A Song for the Dead", is an homage to Black Flag; the drums in that segment are lifted directly from the Black Flag song "Slip It In. The band's subsequent studio album, Lullabies to Paralyze, got its name from a line in "Mosquito Song".

Variations

The UK and Japanese version of the limited edition album includes the cover "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" (2:35, Davies), originally written and performed by The Kinks, and a live version of "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" recorded at The Troubadour in Los Angeles on March 7, 2002. A cover of Roky Erickson's "Bloody Hammer" appears on the U.S. double LP released by Ipecac Recordings.

A second version of "Gonna Leave You" dubbed "Te Voy a Dejar" was recorded with Nick Oliveri singing in Spanish, and is available as a B-side on the UK version of the "No One Knows" CD single. A hidden track can be found on this CD by rewinding the first track. Starting at 0:00 on track one, rewind the track roughly 1:30 and listen. A voice says: "Huh? What?" and a pattern of bass kicks in. This is widely known as "The Real Song for the Deaf". This track, as well as being omitted from some pressings of the album (see track listing), is difficult to listen to on all but conventional CD players—most software CD players do not allow rewinding of this nature, and most MP3 "ripping" software will not include the data. Initial pressings of the album came with a bonus DVD, which featured behind the scenes footage of the group recording album, live performances (many of which were taken from the Troubador live show), and interview footage. A limited tour edition of the album was released on June 2, 2007, with a second disc of five songs recorded live at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels.

Limited-edition bonus DVD track listing

  1. "Monsters in the Parasol" (Live at The Troubadour)
  2. "No One Knows (Live at The Troubadour)
  3. "Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" (Live at The Troubadour)
  4. "Quick and to The Pointless" (Live at Vintage Vinyl)
  5. "Queens of the Fucking Stone Age"

Personnel

The following people contributed to Songs for the Deaf:

Band

Additional musicians

Radio DJs

The songs on Songs for the Deaf are often interluded by staged bits of radio chatter.

Producers

Recording personnel

  • Mixing – Adam Kasper at Conway Recording Studio
  • Recording – Alain Johannes ("Everybody's Gonna Be Happy") at Sound City Recording Studio, Van Nuys, CA.
  • Mastering – Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood CA.
  • Guitar technician – Dan Druff
  • Sound technician – Hutch
  • Pre-production – Bob Brunner "Mates"

Chart positions

Album

Year Chart Peak Ref.
2002 Billboard 200 17
Australian ARIA Albums Charts 7
Belgian Albums Chart 9
Canadian Albums Chart 18
Denmark Albums Chart 33
Dutch Albums Chart 40
Finnish Albums Chart 33
French Albums Chart 32
German Albums Chart 9
Irish Albums Chart 32
New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart 13
Norwegian Albums Chart 28
Swedish Albums Chart 58
UK Album Chart 4

Singles

Year Single Chart Peak Ref.
2002 "No One Knows" US Mainstream Rock Tracks 5
US Modern Rock Tracks 1
US Billboard Hot 100 51
Dutch Singles Chart 39
UK Singles Chart 15
2003 "Go with the Flow" US Mainstream Rock Tracks 24
US Modern Rock Tracks 7
US ''Billboard Hot 100 116
Australian Singles Chart 39
Irish Singles Chart 26
Dutch Singles Chart 50
UK Singles Chart 21
"First It Giveth" UK Singles Chart 4

References

External links

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