Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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HOT ONEs Alert: The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” and Queens of the Stone Age’s “Sick, Sick, Sick”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 29, 2007

“Dark, hard and electrical, sort of like a construction worker…”

I think there are more parallels between these guys than most people (including myself) ever really realized. Both groups come from culty, regionalized backgrounds traced through several other earlier groups, both tend to pal around with famous collaborators, both briefly courted mainstream success with a pair of high-profile, critically acclaimed albums with accompanying radio-ready hits with cool, MTV-ready videos, and both blew more or less blew their commercial prospects with the lead singles off their latest albums (even though I think both–“Blue Orchid” and “Little Sister,” respectively–were fucking awesome).

And now, both are back. A few years (relatively) out of the limelight appears to have done both groups some good–with expectations lower than they’ve been for about a half decade, both bands feel considerably more relaxed and confident. And with commercial prospects effectively out the window (and believe me, if they weren’t already, dudes are done on the pop charts after these bad boys), both groups are free to really let loose, and they sound harder, faster and louder than they have in ages.

Icky Thump” probably rates as the less conventional of the two. Without a chorus to speak of, Jack spends most of the song either in blues preacher mode ranting about God knows what (“You can’t be a pimp and a prostitute too” sure to end up the song’s most quoted line) or slamming on some mad old school-sounding organ (is there any other kind? Seriously though, think “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida”) while Meg does her rudimentary best, working that kick drum and riding the cymbals when necessary. To find a song in the Stripes catalogue this bluesy and gritty, you have to go way past 2005’s mostly neutered Get Behind Me Satan, all the way back to De Stijl or maybe even the s/t, fans of which Jack promises the new album (of the same name) will please greatly. Not something I thought I’d like to hear, but damned if it doesn’t work on this song at least.

Meanwhile, “Sick, Sick, Sick” sees the QOTSA sound more streamlined than ever, and considering how streamlined they were before, that’s sort of saying something. Supposedly Trent Reznor is a collaborator on album Era Vulgaris, and I feel like there’s something of a Nine Inch Nails influence on this track, too–it feels almost industrial in its slick, metallic grind. Josh Homme said he wanted the EV to sound “dark, hard and electrical, sort of like a construction worker,” and based on this track at least, that description’s basically right on. It’s by far the heaviest single I’ve heard from these guys yet, but it doesn’t desert the perverse, damnation-drenched sense of groove they acquired over the last few albums. This is what Avenged Sevenfold should sound like, or at least what their videos should be set to.

Between these two and Grinderman’s “No Pussy Blues” (which might’ve gotten the HOT ONE distinction itself had it not let me down by actually yelling “I’ve got the no pussy blues!” at the end of it, ruining a perfectly great song title), 2007 is gearing up to be a banner year for dirty, depraved, funky-ass garage rock singles.

One Response to “HOT ONEs Alert: The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” and Queens of the Stone Age’s “Sick, Sick, Sick””

  1. I whole-heartedly agree with these statements. “Icky Thump” is simply sick, sick, sick. It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about the White Stripes.

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