All during Music Week at Deadspin, I'll be writing about great asskicking songs of yore. Today, it's "In The Fade" by Queens Of The Stone Age.
Queens of the Stone Age released a 10th anniversary deluxe edition of the "Rated R" album this week (titled "Rated Rx"). There are five previously unreleased tracks on the new album ("Ode to Clarissa" is the best one), but the heart of the album remains "In The Fade." "In The Fade" marked the first time former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan sang lead on a Queens track, and the result is HOLY FUCKING SHIT good. If this song had been released in 1993, it would have been in the Top Ten.
It starts out yawning, like you're waking up after a brutal hangover. Then the guitar riff echoes in. It's four notes. Just four. Yet I could listen to those four notes played over and over again (while drunk) for a good long time. I don't know how musicians do that. I don't know how they find four simple notes and make it something that can affect you in a profound way, or at least in a way you think is profound.
You'd think it would be easy to stumble on a riff like that. It's just four notes. But no. It wasn't until THIS song, at this moment in time, that one guy, Josh Homme, figured out that particular combination. I'm always amazed that there are new guitar riffs to discover. You'd think they would have all been used and stolen by now. But they aren't. There's still an infinite number if riffs out there waiting to be discovered by guitarists willing to practice hard enough to find them.
I don't understand the lyrics to "In the Fade," but it doesn't matter. The main chorus is, "You live till you die." This would sound dopey coming from pretty much anywhere else. But when Lanegan sings it? Yeah, that's some seriously deep shit. All I know, man, is that you're there until you aren't. You know what I mean?
/massive bong hit
Bob Mould, legendary Husker Du frontman, once lamented that music has now become sonic wallpaper in the modern age. You listen to music while working, or working out, or driving, or taking the subway, or surfing the Internet. There's always something else there to occupy you. People, he argues, rarely sit down and LISTEN to this shit anymore. Really listen, with nothing else going on around them.
And yet, there are still songs out there that can compel you to do it. There are songs that, through sheer force of will, will grab your balls and force you to put everything else aside so that you can give them your full and undivided attention. "In The Fade" is one of them. I remember I got drunk and stoned one night. I had some football game on, muted, with music playing in the background. This song came on. And when it did, I was just like FUCK IT. I turned the game off and closed my eyes. I let that riff pingpong around in my skull and burrow deep into my consciousness, let the song's mood of disaffection blast right through me, making me feel like a braindead eighth grader roaming the school hallways again. In a good way. I didn't need anything else to occupy me.
That's what a kickass rock song can do. Especially one that ends with a reprise of an equally kickass song: