Ten years after an album is released is enough time to warrant a deluxe edition, right? In the case of Queens of the Stone Age's Rated R, I think it's a fair amount of time. Labels have been on a cash-grab streak recently as we're seeing reissues of albums that came out this year and albums that really didn't need a reissue. Rated R is actually an album that needed a reissue and is almost better because of it.
To me, Rated R is the quintessential Queens album and my favorite. Oliveri is on bass; Mark Lanegan is on a few tracks; there's a healthy list of contributors (did you know Rob Halford did backing vocals on "Feel Good Hit of the Summer"? You do now!); and Homme is a major creative force. This isn't to say that the later Queens albums have suffered from this too much, but Alain Johannes and other guests have never touched the whirlwind that is Nick Oliveri. Booted before Lullabies to Paralyze, his presence on bass is astounding on this record and its followup, Songs for the Deaf, and his presence in live shows is inherently necessary for some of these songs. We'll get to the live part here in a few.
You get two discs on this edition of the album, but before that, let's talk about the packaging. It comes in a red sleeve like the vinyl did. The vinyl edition of the album was dubbed Rated X and included a B-side that we see on the second disc ("Ode to Clarissa"). The "R" and the "X" are merged on the front cover, showing the unity of the two, but it's also symbolic of something else: Pharmaceuticals. The first disc is the original album, and we find out about that pharmacy symbol damn quick. A bass. A drum kicks in. "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol." Repeat four times. "C-C-C-C-COCAINNNNNE." Welcome to Rated R. Enjoy the flight. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
The album itself is fantastic. "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" is a simple song, but it's going to be stuck in your head forever. "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" is one of the band's first commercially successful singles and deservedly so. "Auto Pilot" is a drugged-out ballad as only the Queens could do with Oliveri still in the mix. The next song, "Better Living Through Chemistry" starts subdued but erupts into a shredding jam that would prove just how tight this band was. Possibly the best QotSA song is on this album: "In the Fade." Mark Lanegan's first lead vocal spot on a Queens song is legendary. Mellowed out and cooled down after a screeching hot album, even 10 years later, "In the Fade" still has the feel of seeing an old hot rod on the street. You think, "Oh, that's pretty cool," but you know the raw power underneath. "In the Fade" etches itself into your mind by being so different from the rest of the album. Moving on to the closing track, "I Think I Lost My Headache" is a plodding stoner jam that rocks through and through. Everything is distorted. Fuzz, tube amps, bass knobs all the way cranked, whatever you can do to make it gritty, do it. And Homme's clean voice cuts through it all. It's the perfect way to end it all. Given the context of the album, back in 2000, I think I would have lost my headache too. The headache of typical radio rock and oh-so-typical stoner jam bands. The Queens did something different. They proved that to be a good band, cooperation is key.
Moving onto the second disc, we've got a collection of B-sides and the band's performance at Reading festival in 2000. The B-sides are pretty interesting. First is "Ode to Clarissa," which appeared on the LP I mentioned earlier. Most of the rest showed up on The Stone Age Compilation, which was put together without any input from the band. "You're So Vague" is a spoof of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" and there's a pretty slick Romeo Void cover ("Never Say Never") that showed up on the Punisher soundtrack as well (let's not talk about me owning that). The Kinks cover is also fun. Homme croons like the nickname "Ginger Elvis" is appropriate on this rendition of "Who'll Be the Next in Line." The B-sides are good to those who haven't scoured the internet for them, but they're pretty easily obtained. The last 10 or so tracks are QotSA live, which is always really good. Their concert DVD is pretty great as are these songs. Hearing Oliveri and this lineup live is something I couldn't get the pleasure of when I first heard this band, but these recordings bring what they promise. There are fan favorites and early versions of some Songs for the Deaf tracks played live, which is always nice to hear so you can compare notes later. The jams are still intact but the sophistication is still there to prove they're better than the rest.
All in all, this doesn't seem like a cash-grab and some people will finally give this some more of the attention it deserves. But, with nothing actually changed on the original album, it's hardly worth it to a person who owns the album. If you don't own it, perfect. Go out and get yourself introduced to it. This reissue is almost the perfect Stone Age starter pack: Their best album, some good B-sides, and a great live show. Diehards don't need it, but if I'm allowed to be contradictory to the album's artwork, this album shouldn't be restricted to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Rated R is worth more than a listen if you've been sleeping on it for the past 10 years.
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