The Desert Sessions are an eclectic collective headed by Josh Homme, the man behind two of my favourite bands: Queens of the Stone Age and Kyuss. The Desert Session typically haven’t been a “band”, but more of an idea. The idea began after Homme’s first band Kyuss broke up and before Queens of the Stone Age recorded their first album. Homme based his idea for the Desert Sessions on the Palm Desert generator parties from his teenage years. Musicians from the area would go out into the desert, with generators powering their amplifiers, and do all kinds of messed up things to their minds while also pioneering a new style of music, “stoner rock” or “desert rock”. After bands from the scene gained varying amounts of success, particularly Homme, he decided to start up the tradition again. In 1997 he called up a few musicians, including Dave Catching and Ben Shepherd, from groups such as Kyuss, Soundgarden and Monster Magnet. They spent a while at Homme’s desert studio, and recorded Volumes 1 and 2. 8 more volumes were made up until 2003. And now, after 16 years, we have another 2 volumes of Desert Sessions. This time, the featured artists include Les Claypool (Primus), Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), Mike Kerr (Royal Blood), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), and even actor Matt Berry.
You might think that all these different musicians mixed together would create something of a hybrid of their different styles, but that’s not the case here. The Desert Sessions create a whole new sound. The first track “Move Together” starts off with a slow, quiet intro and then moves into a section with a creepy riff played over an off-putting drum beat. Then in the last half, the song morphs into a nice groove while keeping some of the same sounds as before. “Noses in Roses, Forever” sounds like it could be a song from Them Crooked Vultures, the Homme collaboration with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones. “If You Run” has a sort of country sound until it reaches its peak, and is followed by the high energy punk-ish song “Crucifire”.
The most out-there song on the album is “Chic Tweetz”, but even then it’s not the weirdest thing Desert Sessions have ever done. It features the singer “Töôrnst Hülpft,” who is speculated by fans to just be Homme with pitched-up vocals. When asked about Töôrnst in an interview, Homme went into a weird story about how this character joined them in the studio, while not actually denying that he’s made up. The song itself is a strange mix of carnival music, electropop and rock, featuring vocals with weird effects and lyrics such as “You’ve got a big nose; Oh beat me with a hose” and “For spite I wore these tights; You jealous, you little hamstring man? Vell come and get me.” It’s difficult to imagine that anyone was sober during the recording of this song.
My favorite songs on the Vols. 11 & 12 are the last two. “Something You Can’t See” is the only song written without Homme, and “Easier Said Than Done” is easily the album’s most serious song. It sounds like it could’ve been on Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork. Overall this album has more of a Queens of the Stone Age feel than previous Desert Sessions, but it is still very distinct from them with its own unique identity. If you’re going to listen to this, don’t go in with any expectations because it will almost certainly fail to meet them, but in the best way possible.