In the late 1990s, as a side project to his band Queens of the Stone Age, American musician Josh Homme set up his “Desert Sessions”: collaborative projects with a host of musicians at a ranch in the Californian Desert.
The Desert Sessions offered a reprieve and unique opportunity for those involved: its aim was for the artists to have fun and be experimental with music that would be recorded and remain exclusively played to that particular session.
Now in 2019, 16 years after the last session, Homme has returned with Volume 11 and 12 of the Desert Sessions, and it’s one of the most intriguing musical releases of the year.
Titled ‘Arrivederci Despair’ and ‘Tightwads & Nitwits & Critics & Heels’ for Volume 11 and Volume 12 respectively, the new releases see the likes of ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and the Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears feature. In the past, the Desert Sessions have seen the likes of PJ Harvey and QOTSA alumni Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri make contributions.
Of the 8 song track-list, “Crucifire” (featuring Mike Kerr from English duo Royal Blood along with Jake Shears), “Easier said than done” (the sole track with just Homme) and “Far East from the Trees” stand above the rest as the most engaging, high quality tracks of the Sessions.
‘”Crucifire” captures the rock and energy we often associate with Californian Rock, ironically from two Englishmen taking centre stage. “Easier said than done” epitomises a calm, lax nature with Homme’s soothing voice paired with an acoustic guitar and piano: something we haven’t properly seen from Homme and Co. since 2013’s ‘…like Clockwork’ album (see The Vampyre of Time and Memory and …like Clockwork)
Whilst “Far East from the Trees” the primary instrumental song from the promotional material, is so enticing and smooth, you could mistake for an epic film soundtrack like the Godfather or ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly’. Truly a soundtrack for the desert and the answer to ‘What kind of songs can we expect from the Desert Sessions?’
In contrast, both the deep, low voice of Billy Gibbons on “Move Together” and the shrill, comedic tone of “Chic Tweetz” don’t blend well with the rest of the album. A peculiar thing to say about songs a recording session designed to be experimental and varied in style and substance. Comedy isn’t new territory for the Sessions or Homme’s other collaborations like the Eagles of Death Metal, but it’s the one downpoint on an otherwise consistently brilliant film.
Overall, the Desert Sessions fulfill their need to us music fans: bridging the gaps between albums from some of the world’s biggest artists. An almost perfect listen with tunes that cater to all genres. I find myself comparing Homme and the Desert Sessions more and more to a fine wine; seemingly better with age, and we find ourselves asking for more.