Just picked up this one today. I'm not too impressed with it after the first listen, and truthfully there isn't one track on the album that makes me want to give it another spin. I probably will though, as I did spend $10 on it. For the record "R" is still my favorite QOTSA album.
Alright, I listened to it start to finish on the main stereo last night.
The gear listened to consists of Shanling CDT100 connected directly to the Rotel 1090 amp connected to Carver Amazing Platinum loudspeakers.
First off, this album is clearly different from QOTSA' previous offerings. It is not pop-y like Songs for the Deaf was and not nearly as dark as Lullabies was. It was more similar to Lullabies in that it was dark.
There is no one single track that really stands out. I haven't been listening to the radio, but I doubt there is any track off this album that is going to get a lot of play on the radio. Its not one of those albums you put it, forward straight to a specific track and then take it out. Era Vulgaris certainly has a cohesive whole album feel to it. If you had to pick one song that really stands out, that would be '3s and 7s'.
One of the recurring musical themes I noticed would be unrelenting, driving, rock your face off guitar riffs. Both the lead and the supporting guitars are very present and always active. And if you are paying attention, there is much guitar work going on in the background.
Unlike previous albums, the lead singer is much less of a major player. He is still there, but compared to the guitars, on this album, he, Josh Homme, as a singer is much less of an important factor on this album.
And the one thing that really struck me with this album is how much layering, dimensionality there is to it. I've had the benefit of listening to the album in my car and on the HT rig, and the thing I noticed is that this album more than any other I own benefits from the good gear I have in my main stereo. If your average well recorded album sounds, say 50% better on my main stereo over the HT rig, this one had a 200% improvement. I've never noticed so much of an improvement before in any other album. I would suspect this is due to the combo of the Shanling/Rotel/Amazing combo to throw such a large soundstage, allow all the instruments to seperate, and quickly articulate the music. There was so much layering and depth to the album. It was very fun to listen to. At times I could count no less than 10 different layers of instruments. It was exceptional.
And this album had another first for me. Its a very noisy, busy, furious rock album, but apparently it is recorded very well. On the Amazing stereo system the resolution and musicality of the album was just spectactular. Similar rock albums that have lots of intentional distortion and blurred guitar riffs tend to stay flat and have poor imaging and soundstage when I play them on my Amazings, but Era Vulgaris was clearly different.
I do believe this album is starting to grow on me. As stated before this is a very different kind of album than what I am used to from QOTSA. I guess this one has to grow on ya after a few listens. Current favorites are Misfit Love, Suture Up Your Future, and Run, Pig, Run. Am I the only one that thinks Make It Wit Chu is a little out of place on this album? To me it doesn't seem to fit the theme of the album.
I've also noticed that this is a relatively well recorded album, especially considering the genre and popularity of the band. A pleasant surprise.
Overall I can say this is a much more solid album than Lullabies. It doesn't seem to trail off at the end like their last effort. It's a contender for my top 10 of '07 at the moment.