2006 / Music

Review: Eagles Of Death Metal Perfect First-Rate Stripper Music

Duo Continue To Mine Boogie-Rock Vein

Initially, the Eagles of Death Metal might seem like a joke band.

Photo: Downtown Records

Photo: Downtown Records

From their novel name to the teenage-boy mindset of their lyrics to their slightly cheesy, low-fi boogie-rock sound, the Eagles and their music continually suggest a sense of good-time frivolity. When not comically threatening to slide it down some chick’s throat in their lyrics, the group keeps its (collective?) tongue firmly planted in its cheek.

This perception is reinforced by the fact that the group, which consists of frontman Jesse “The Devil” Hughes and Queens of the Stone Age’s mainstay Josh Homme, is still seen primarily as Homme’s side project. Many see the band as a pickup gig for Homme and a recurring experiment with being the second banana in a group.

But in spite of all this, this band is the real deal. Their first record, “Peace, Love, Death Metal,” was brilliant, metallic groove rock — the kind of jams ideal for heavily pierced go-go dancers to use when strutting on the stage. The band’s latest effort, “Death By Sexy,” should silence any doubters. The record is evidence enough that the band has perfected its formula for creating first-rate stripper music.

The Eagles’ music is mostly pedal-to-the-metal guitar rock that rockets along like a herky-jerky freight train. Apart from some familiar guitar phrasings and the fact that Hughes frequently shares Homme’s un-metal use of a falsetto, the Eagles’ music is distinct from the Queens’ more polished and artsy sensibilities and harder guitar bite. Only the new album’s opening track — the hyperactive, quick riffage on “I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)” — seems like a knockoff of the Queens’ “Go With The Flow” from the “Songs Of The Deaf” LP.

What makes the Eagles’ music so captivating (and it’s probably why strippers choose similar songs) is the beat. Like dance music, the beat is what defines these tracks. Sure, the guitars are heavy but not oppressively so. This gives plenty of breathing space for the drums and bass to consistently create grooves that really swing. They might seem basic but they are always effective.

While the music is thrilling, it runs in parallel to the irony-rich lyrics. Hughes wallows in juvenile obsessions about cars and chicks, and frequently uses them as metaphors. These songs are essentially an update on the surf and car music of the ’50s and early ’60s. This time, the guy in the “Leader Of The Pack” would have a nose ring and tatts and the girl that’s pining has the same.

On “Cherry Cola,” Hughes sings like a ’50s daddy-o trying to woo his dream girl with lines like “I can razzmatazz ya honey if you want me to/I can be ya daddy, be ya rock n rolla.” The music is all business as the hard-hitting kick drum pattern plays off a winding, fuzz guitar.

“I Like To Move In The Night,” however, is a child of ’70s rock. The drumming is a less nimble attempt at Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and the interchanging chordwork clearly mimics the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” Shards of guitar licks lie on top and slide astride of Hughes’ cooing.

“Chase The Devil” begins with dobro or national steel guitar plinking before a thunderous rockabilly melody roars to life. Hughes sings in a lower register, like an evangelist, but punctuates his Bible-thumping ravings with whoops and hollers.

“Poor Doggie” and “Don’t Speak (I Came To Make A BANG!)” are built around the same sizzling guitar sound but the former takes its time, unfolding like a blues-metal sing-along as the latter releases waves of riffs in fast succession.

“Eagles Goth” is a dark, moodier number. Based around a complex, tumbling drum part, the melody is slow, menacing and hovers behind the singing. Hughes’ lyrics read almost as credo for men of the road: “I’m a cold-hearted killer, with sophistication and a touch of high class/A heartbreaker bringing death by sexy/A ladykiller momma in a rock ‘n’ roll band.” But instead of being about braggadocio, the narrator is warning the woman eyeing him that he’s not for her. It’s akin to Pee Wee Herman’s speech in “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” where he tells Dottie that he’s a rebel and too dangerous for her. (OK, I’m kind of embarrassed I felt compelled to make this parallel).

“The Ballad Of Queen Bee And Baby Duck” is a bass-centered, art-rock update of John Lennon’s “The Ballad Of John And Yoko.” It’s a thinly-veiled love song obviously dedicated to Homme’s main squeeze, Distillers’ singer Brodie Dalle. It’s a sentimental song, a rare moment of seriousness among the ridiculousness.

The album closes with “Bag O’ Miracles,” a most unlikely acoustic folk-blues jamboree. Homme shows his hand as an excellent acoustic guitar player, fingering bluesy runs that along with handclaps and tambourine, give Hughes’ double-tracked vocals the playing field to sing a soulful lament about lost love. The song has an uncharacteristic aura of authenticity about it.

Authenticity in music is typically either bestowed on a musician based on their background or is earned through consistent refining of their approach in a particular genre. So, although the Eagles of Death Metal specialize in sleazy, heavy grooves delivered with some silly lyrics, the group has bettered its formula and proven itself an authentically great band.

“Death By Sexy” establishes that the Eagles are a joke no longer.

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2006 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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