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Ladies and gentlemen, Them Crooked Vultures — the second-best band John Paul Jones has ever been in! The Led Zeppelin guys never made much of a splash in the supergroup scene, unless you’re the kind of die-hard fan who still busts out those old records by the Honeydrippers or the Firm. But when John Paul Jones got the hard-rock supersession itch, he didn’t mess around. For Them Crooked Vultures, he hooks up with Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), two of Zep’s smartest disciples. If these three 800-pound gorillas want to bash out an album as willfully weird and slapdash as Them Crooked Vultures, who can tell them not to? And if they do a song called “Elephants” where they basically crunch every riff onLed Zeppelin II into seven dizzy minutes, why not?

On Them Crooked Vultures, the three rock stars don’t exactly visit the depths of Mordor. The album sticks to the sort of low-end guitar boogie that Homme and Grohl were blasting in their Camaros when they bummed their first cigarettes. The first thing you hear is Grohl’s instantly recognizable drums whomping out “Nobody Loves Me & Neither Do I,” as Homme plays desert-rat guitar and Jones adds a bass line as nasty as “Out on the Tiles.” Homme takes almost all the lead vocals, but he doesn’t try to define or dominate the songs, mostly doing lyric goofs like “Slick back my hair/You know the devil’s in there.”

Sometimes the music sounds exactly like Zeppelin, as on “Reptiles,” a sly update of “South Bound Suarez.” Other times it sounds like Queens of the Stone Age with a hot new bassist. But it’s not desperately ambitious — the album sounds like the good-natured quickie it probably was. Jones plays a few keyboard solos in “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” and “Scumbag Blues,” and though Homme doesn’t sing like Robert Plant (his upper register sounds more like Cream’s Jack Bruce), he does deliver loads of Jimmy Page doppelgänger solos, just to prove he can.

Despite the fact that Jones has spent most of the past three decades doing ornate orchestral arrangements (most smashingly on R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People), he doesn’t get fancy here. He puts all his mojo into forward motion, reminding you he’s the bass man who helped give the world “Black Dog.” But the stylistic asides here add a bit of flavor. The superbly titled “Interlude With Ludes” is a psychedelic ditty with a circus-style loop, as Homme muses, “On the good ship Lollygag/LSD and a bloody pile of rags/I hate to be the bearer of bad news/But I am.” “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up” is a daffy eight-minute Doors tribute. And “Caligulove” is, well, a song called “Caligulove.”

Homme and Grohl are old hands at this kind of thing — see their excellent Zeppelin homages on the Queens’Songs for the Deaf. But they definitely seem inspired by Jonesy’s presence, and he helps them keep it light. Homme and Grohl pound away like fanboys touched with the spirit, as if jamming with one of their heroes brought out their wanton side. That’s what makesThem Crooked Vultures fun: It’s fan fiction with a classic-rock heart.

 

source : http://www.rollingstone.com