Masterpiece: Songs For The Deaf


[Today: Into the desert…]

I never listen to the radio unless I rent a car.” ~ David Byrne

Radio is so fragmented, it’s unbelievable.” ~ Bob Seger

Have you listened to the radio lately? Have you heard the canned, frozen and processed product being dished up to the world as American popular music today?” ~ Billy Joel

Once upon a time, radio was a kingmaker – the single biggest factor in breaking new bands to the masses. DJs like Alan Freed, Dick Clark, Wolfman Jack, John Peel and Casey Kasem were gatekeepers of rock and roll, and people looked to them for musical guidance. But the collective experience of hearing a hit song on the radio is now a thing of the past, undone by MTV, MP3s, corporate shenanigans, and a hundred other extenuating circumstances. Except, of course, in Los Angeles, where driving isn’t optional, and hundreds of miles of freeways lay pointing in every direction. It’s no accident that L.A. boasts some of the best radio stations in the country – the layout of the city practically demands it.

Queens Of The Stone Age’s third LP, 2002’s Songs For The Deaf, tracks the 120-mile journey from Hollywood to the desert in Joshua Tree, and the album’s 14 songs are stitched together by fake radio station IDs and made-up DJ banter from places like Banning and Chino Hills. It’s a drive that QOTSA frontman and lead guitarist Josh Homme has made many times. “When I’d do it I didn’t have a stereo, all I had was a radio,” he recalled in a 2002 interview. “And it goes into weird religious stations and really bad, bad music on that trip through the middle of nowhere. So I used to really enjoy the silence and then every once in a while the station you were at would all of a sudden let out a screech and become a new station. I just wanted to bring that to a record somehow.”

He brought it to record in typical QOTSA fashion – with a rotating cast of musicians that included Dean Ween of Ween and Chris Goss of Masters Of Reality. Dave Grohl put Foo Fighters on hiatus for most of 2002 so that he could play drums on this album and the subsequent tour, and Mark Lanegan makes an excellent guest vocal appearance on ‘Hanging Tree’. QOTSA had released two well-received albums before this, but Songs For The Deaf was their breakthrough, going Top 10 on three different continents. Songs like ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Another Love Song’ are the kind of catchy hard rock that hasn’t been heard on the radio in decades. “I need a saga, what’s the saga? It’s Songs For The Deaf – you can’t even hear it,” whines a DJ to open the album. With this saga, Queens Of The Stone Age mock what AM/FM has become, while creating an alternate universe where I still can’t live without my radio…

Listen: Another Love Song

Listen: Hanging Tree

Listen: No One Knows

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Masterpiece: Songs For The Deaf”

  1. Aram Says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with radio. I would never claim to be an extremely adventurous listener, especially at this advanced age, but radio has become so completely homogenized and pasteurized that it is only the result of accident or chance that one hears anything worthwhile on the air anymore. I’m pretty much a classic rock dinosaur (and proud of it thank you very much), but the classic rock stations are so interchangeable that I have found myself, much to my horror, actually tuning into KOIT just in the hope of hearing something for the hundredth time, rather than the millionth.

    I relish the times I can go to LA and listen to Jim Ladd on KLOS. He is an old-school FM DJ who actually negotiated control over what he plays. No one, and I mean no one, puts together sets of music the way he does. He raises radio to an art form. I think that you can listen to him via the web site. I just never remember to.

  2. Buried Treasure: Whiskey For The Holy Ghost « dk presents… Says:

    […] indie circles. He’s released a number of fine solo albums and served as a part-time member of Queens Of The Stone Age, but for a few months in 1994, he sang like a beaten man at the end of his […]

  3. functional hermit Says:

    I still miss Nick Harcourt’s Morning Becomes Eclectic show on KCRW after leaving LA.

    But honestly, when I’m on a long road trip at times I find the radio to be something I can count on. I make a drive from Atlanta to my parents’ in Connecticut (14.5 hour drive) at least once or twice a year and the randomness of the radio, as well as the need to find a new station once one has gone out of range, are a great way to pass the time for a while.

  4. Crafty Lefty Says:

    KRVM (91.9 Eugene) still gets it done for me…nothing better than high school students who think Lynn Skyn is a person. They do however have a nice eclectic mix of songs/artists…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: