Queens of the Stone Age Credit: Andreas Neumann

Back in the late 90s, Queens of the Stone Age edged themselves out of the ooze of the desert-fried stoner-rock underground and turned themselves into the most interesting band in mainstream rock. Taking the massively heavy shredding of sole constant member Josh Homme’s groundbreaking previous project, Kyuss, and adding an impossibly smooth sheen, Queens of the Stone Age made a name for themselves with crunchy, otherworldly stoner pop. It’s been a solid 15 years since the band blew up with their 2002 Dave Grohl-anchored Songs for the Deaf, and on this summer’s Villains (Matador) they’ve settled into a more simplified, streamlined groove. Gone are the howls of former bassist Nick Oliveri, the mountain of marijuana-smoke-stained Marshall amps, and their characteristic druggy throb; they’ve been replaced by hyperslick melodies, upbeat boogies, and Mark Ronson production. But Queens of the Stone Age have by no means turned safe on Villains—even with their slightly less bombastic take on rock’n’roll, they’re still the most exciting band you’ll hear on the radio today.   v