On November 13, as we all know, a well-planned and horrific act of terrorism was committed by supporters of ISIS in Paris, France along with another attack in Beirut, Lebanon the day before. One of the scariest parts of the media coverage involved a massacre of 89 hostages at Le Bataclan Theater. These victims died for no legitimate reason. They only wanted to see the band Eagles of Death Metal perform a great show at a legendary Parisian rock venue, but instead, they were met with a terrible attack. Luckily, some were able to escape the shootings with little to no injuries. The lucky include every member of the band, and especially the one who wasn’t even there at the time. I want to focus on the member that’s considered to be one of the greatest musicians in contemporary rock.
Josh Homme, primary songwriter and founding member of the bands Queens of the Stone Age and his side-project of quirky garage-punk band Eagles of Death Metal, has garnered a reputation as a star of alternative rock. Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) continued the development of another genre of rock referred to as “stoner rock” and is widely considered to be one of the best rock bands of the 21st century by critics and average music fans alike. The band developed a form of rock that fit Homme’s goal of making rock music that would be “heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls.” He’s also very comfortable with being a provocateur. In their eponymous debut, the band created music that was heavy but, for some reason, felt light, just as Homme hoped. Their take on music further developed in releases such as Rated R [not to be confused with the Rihanna album] in 2000 and perfected by the time their album Songs for the Deaf was released in 2002. At the time, the main topics in songs were drugs, love, Homme’s general sense of average human paranoia, and whatever. Although the lyrics are fairly simple, the music was and still is awesome. A message promoting individuality really hits home. Homme proved himself to be a master of writing art expressing frustration in a relatively positive manner and provided an outlet that many fans of alternative music in the world, including myself, could relate to.
Homme’s vision is further continued in his side project, Eagles of Death Metal, which was originally created as a way to help one of his closest high-school friends to feel better about getting divorced. This band isn’t nearly as popular or memorable as QOTSA, but the garage punk they create is a whole lot of fun. If I were a student studying abroad in Tufts-in-Paris program, I would have definitely wanted to head to their show at Le Bataclan to have a great Friday night. You may be thinking to yourself, “It seems as if this article has gone in a circle. What’s the point?” Trust me. I’m getting there.
…Like Clockwork, QOTSA’s last album, released in 2013, was inspired by a period of turmoil in Homme’s life. After getting a severe knee injury, Homme had a near-death experience due to complications during surgery. It took months for him to recover, and QOTSA’s music died out. “Friends” abandoned him, life became meaningless, and death was lurking around the corner while he rested in the hospital. Over time, Homme triumphed over the obstacles he faced and started making music with greater depth. This extra “meaning” in life was applied to Homme’s music on the record …Like Clockwork, which not only became the soundtrack of my junior year of high school but was a complex record that further experimented and created light through its dark and heavy surface.
I was appalled at the terrorist attacks that occurred on Friday and shaken by the fact that had I been in Paris, I would have definitely been at that concert. All of these who died there had stories that were cut short. Nothing can be done to reverse the damage.
ISIS propaganda made an enemy out of a figure that attacks fear and social constructions for a living. The next QOTSA album has not begun recording yet, but something substantial is coming. There is no doubt that this horrifying experience will provide inspiration. I’ll admit that at one point in my life, I felt alienated in my daily life. QOTSA — and music in general — provided an outlet for me. Something like music may not be physically powerful, but it is a powerful force that can shape the way we think. From this experience, Homme, a master of darkness will be equipped to create deep compositions. It’ll be something that can evoke even more emotion than QOTSA’s previous albums.
I’m sure music by QOTSA isn’t as popular in the Middle East and North Africa as it is in the US. However, I also know that at least one kid in a turbulent area of the world is going to find that new album somehow. And that one kid is going to be inspired by something he can actually see and experience. After getting rocked by this new album, that one kid will find the other ones and realize the main message from Homme’s work: Go ahead and be different. Don’t listen to the stupid rules. That individual is going to embrace their individuality and develop self-awareness. They will express their frustrations about suffering through creating things instead of destroying them. Who knows what can happen from there?