Them Crooked Vultures
Often, supergroups wind up dominated by one particular personality - think Eric Clapton in Derek & the Dominos, Jack White in the Raconteurs -- which makes the egalitarianism of Them Crooked Vultures all the more remarkable. Of course, when it comes down to it, it's a group of three natural-born collaborators: John Paul Jones, the old studio pro who gravitated toward provocative partners after Led Zeppelin's demise, teaming up with R.E.M. as easily as he did with avant-queen Diamanda Galas and nu-folkster Sara Watkins; Dave Grohl, who hopped into an empty drummer's chair whenever the opportunity presented itself; and Josh Homme, who set up a mini-empire based entirely on jam sessions. If Them Crooked Vultures brings to mind Homme's projects more than Grohl's or Jones', it's largely due to his role as lead vocalist and how guitar can push a rhythm section as powerful as this to the side, dominating with its grinding riffs and solos. Homme's predilection for precision does reign supreme -- when the group stretches out, even wallowing in the murk on "Interlude with Ludes," there's the sense that, like a great improv troupe, the trio freaked out then retained the best moments, trimming away the indulgence and experiments, leaving behind intrinsically, grippingly musical hard rock, where power is secondary to interplay. And while there are melodies and hooks that certainly dig into the skull, what impresses is chemistry, how the three play together, how they instigate each other, and how they spur each other on, to the point where their familiar tropes sound fresh -- as on "Scumbug Blues," where Jones' "Trampled Underfoot" clavinet intertwines with Grohl's avalanche and Homme's rigorous psychedelia - creating guitar rock that's at once classicist and adventurous and undeniably thrilling.