Congratulations; you’re a millennium-straddling rock band and you’ve made it to your fifth studio album without anybody telling you how you’re supposed to do things. In the case of any other group lucky enough to be in this position, that means pushing the envelope by making your sound harder, less marketable and more abrasive just to prove that you’re on the money and your fans aren’t fickle. But if you’re Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age, apparently that’s a sign pointing towards something very different. Nestled towards the back end of Era Vulgaris, a particularly brutal, slush-stoner cherry bomb that dropped in 2007, ‘Make It Wit Chu’ is at once the strangest and most fantastic piece of writing Homme, alongside longtime multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes, has ever pulled off. Not because we didn’t think he had it in him, and not because it’s so deliciously different, but because it’s a stunt pulled after Queens peaked (around 2003-5) that somehow became their most popular sleeper hit after ‘Feel Good Hit For The Summer’. For a band renowned for being difficult to get into, ‘Make It Wit Chu’ is ludicrously accessible, so much so that I saw alt-folk band Georgia Fair do a a cover of it the other night like it was no big deal.
Where do you start with this song, honestly? I’m inclined to hone in on the chorus, just because it’s so ludicrously camp. The falsetto that Homme manages to inspire in the rest of his band (he responds to the call in his tenor register ‘any time, anywhere’) to sing is pretty spectacular. Not spectacular in the fact that there’s some amazing vocals happening, but rather because if you’ve ever seen a photo of these dudes, you’ll know how funny it is to think of a bunch of tattooed muscle-metal kids crowding around the mic getting sexy. In 2007, it wasn’t yet considered cool for rock champs like Homme to acknowledge their glam fetish to their fans, as he would later in a hilarious spoof for the latest Scissor Sisters record (see infomercial, below). Gender roles haven’t exactly shifted monumentally on the chugg-ier end of the spectrum in the last five years, but given that we’re now in an era where the frontman of a serious punk rock band can go public in his quest to live as a woman, there have been certain steps in a more liberal direction.
Whether this has any bearing on ‘Make It Wit Chu’, a slow-burning blues ballad that features possibly the least guitar effects ever for a QOTSA song, is unlikely to be significant. What is significant, however, is that Homme plays the one card nobody really expected him to, doing a complete about-face and proving that in addition to tuning his guitar down to some ridiculous voicing and employing a cast of screamos to raise the dead, he’s also perfected the art of seduction. This album was recorded just after Homme had married fellow rabble rouser Brody Dalle, who featured in a number of songs, and you can feel the love emanating from the chord progression down to the slowly shuffling drums and that honky-tonk keys line. homme, who spends most of his time in this band singing at least an octave higher than he does here, really shows a new side to his performance and it’s likely one we won’t be treated to again in a big hurry. Consider it a blip in the system, a rogue star in a sludge universe. And add it to your night time playlist, too. Thank me later.