The wonderful world of rock ‘n’ roll

Has anyone actually heard that new Queens of the Stone Age album? I hope no one was excited or anything. It’s pretty bad. I mean, the hit was all right, but it was nothing compared to "Songs for the Deaf," and definitely nothing compared to "Rated R." But on the whole, it sounded as if that whole Eagles of Death Metal power-pop business tamed Josh Homme down more than a little bit. Now I hear that he’s doing the music for a video game, and a weird military one at that.

This new game, called Spec Ops, promises to be yet another Tom Clancy-ish vendetta against undefined "Arab Terrorists" and will feature Homme performing 30-second songs that should have something to keep everyone happy, unless they actually like music. "Some of them are mellow," Homme told MTV News. "Some of them are rock and some of them are, like, hick-hop because we’re a bunch of white guys."

Now, I’m not saying that doesn’t sound like exactly what I want to spend my time listening to, but does anyone else notice that Josh Homme seems like, well, a bit of a meathead? It’s not like that means he can’t write good music, because he has in the past.

Well, it’s not really that good, but it’s definitely rockin.’ But there was that fight that he lost and lied about winning, if you remember that from a year or so ago, then the tepid, limp Lullabies to Paralyze and its trying-to-be-a-little-too-badass title, and now this? Hick-hop for a lame anti-terrorist video game? In the words of the much less meatheadish Greg Sage, "Is this real?" Although I’m probably being oversensitive about it, I really think this latest misstep proves once and for all my suspicion that Homme is just an overblown "indie jocker" with a huge ego. He’s even starting to make Billy Corgan look good. (Just kidding -ed.)

Speaking of good old Billy, everyone’s favorite cue ball, is hard at work on his new solo album, TheFutureEmbrace. Although somewhat lamely titled (indeed, I think I learned in about third grade that bands whose name is comprised of multiple words condensed into one have no future and no chance of success), Corgan has brought in Robert Smith to help him out with his latest endeavor. Although Smith will only be lending background vocals to one track (a Bee Gees cover – also pretty lame), his wild-coiffed presence will hopefully help solve one of the problems that keep Billy’s solo projects from making it big. In the Pumpkins, there was James Iha to balance him out, preventing it from being all about Corgan. That’s where Zwan faltered, as there was no check and Corgan was free to unload all his jacked-up pseudo-religious wankery on us without fear of reprisal or conflict.

Although Robert Smith is only doing one tiny thing in a practical sense, at least Billy is reaching out to his elders for a little support. This is the first step on his road to containing his raging self-absorption, and I commend him for it. I will be eagerly awaiting the June 21 release (OK, maybe not) to see how the new face of Corgan looks, and whether or not he shaved off that awful beard. I hope to Mary Star of the Sea that he did.

After his busy year with the Pixies, Frank Black is taking a little time for himself and recording a solo album, his first without the Catholics since way back in ’96. This new disc will be titled Honeycomb, and word around the campfire says that there’s a scary ghost hiding in your tent. Ha. Actually, it says that we can expect a healthy dose of "roots-rock" and "Americana," which in my understanding means "bad" or "like The Band, but a lot worse, as if Aerosmith and Lynyrd Skynyrd kind of got thrown into the mix somewhere." But that’s just one man’s relatively uninformed opinion. What I do know is that Black recruited a crack team of seasoned musicians such as Americana heavyweight Buddy Miller and soul veteran Reggie Young to aid him in bringing the correct vibrations and sounds to his recording sessions.

"It was wonderful to have these incredible musicians poking fun at my non-Nashville chord progressions," a recently released statement by Black said, "and then give me a wink after a take to let me know that they approved and enjoyed it. I was so lucky to have them playing on this album." Although it’s not like Black has never released lemons, I think that on the merit of his highest-quality material I am willing to not make fun of this album anymore until I hear it, or at least until I see it and find that there’s some kind of dopey picture of him on the front, sitting on some country porch swing with an acoustic guitar, gazing balefully into the sunset as he watches the day pass him over and fade into the blackness that made the Pixies the best.