The Eagles of Death Metal are to Death Metal what Don Henley’s Eagles are to… um… music. That is, they are antithetical to it. However, The Eagles of Death Metal are pretty good at rehashing rockabilly and generally providing a good time. You could say, in fact, that they are to classic rock what The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion was to blues. So if you like that sort of thing (and Beavis and Butt-head quality sex puns), you’ll probably like Heart On, the new album by Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme. Homme, the lead Queen of the Stoneage, plays drums for The Eagles of Death Metal and sings back-up. Hughes provides the guitar licks and downright silly vocals (If you have a little brother in junior high who wanted to write songs about fucking and sing them in a way that seems badass to a thirteen-year-old, you’d understand where Hughes is coming from).
Clearly, The Eagles of Death Metal are out to have a good time. That’s why their album title is a sex pun, most (if not all) of the songs are about fucking (“Solo Flights” is about masturbating – way to shake it up, guys!), and there’s plenty of grunting and groaning in the vocals. Normally, I have no patience for novelty songs but The Eagles of Death Metal aren’t a novelty band (sorry kids, The Darkness was totally a novelty band). They’re not serious, but that’s not a bad thing; Interpol is intensely serious and also extremely boring. The Eagles of Death Metal are pushing the old Chuck Berry shtick to its logical, modern conclusion. Ramona’s traded in her tight dress for tight pants and she’s out on the dance floor with Hughes and Homme instead of Mr. Berry (who has, undoubtedly, hidden a camera in the lady’s room of whatever club this is. How the mighty have fallen).
The trick for The Eagles of Death Metal is to create pretty bangin’ arrangements for their lyrical silliness and then keep the songs brief. There are only two songs on Heart On that are longer than four minutes and most are under three. And while the sense of humor is front and center for The Eagles of Death Metal, they never sacrifice melody. These are well-crafted songs about fucking, the sort of perverse little ditties that I wish had populated the FM radio of my misspent youth.
The opening hand-claps and Rolling Stonesish guitar of “Anything ‘Cept the Truth” let you know what you’re in for. Homme is a more-than-capable drummer (far better than that shitty Lars Ulrich) and once you get past the pastiche, the guitars are good for a nod or two of the head. There are some surprises as well, like the Tom Waits-esque growling that inexplicably introduces “Wannabe in L.A.,” (one of the few puns that isn’t a sex pun on the album). “Tight Pants” features a chorus that’s minor-league LCD Soundsystem, one of the many treats that keep Heart On from becoming too tedious.
Of course, Heart On still does feel a bit tedious, and that’s largely due to the subject matter. There’s very little diversion from the macho pretense and cock-grabbing songs about gettin’ it on. Which is why I get bored about half way through the album and start to look around for other things to listen to. “Now I’m A Fool,” is nice break from the machismo, and it’s one of the first Eagles of Death Metal songs I’ve heard that smacks even slightly of real depth.
When I was in high school, my friends and I used to buy six-packs of Tab soda and take turns draining the cans (warm) as fast as we could; this resulted in some lengthy and raucous belches. It’s a good time for bored adolescents, and it might be fun to revisit sometime, but I’m kinda past that point in my life. That’s how I feel about Heart On by the time I get to “Cheap Thrills”. Heart On isn’t a bad album, but I’m not gonna crank it up a hundred times a week and it’s not gonna change my life. That’s not its mission, though. I suspect its mission is to get Hughes and Homme laid and I wish them every success in that endeavor.