Eagles of Death Metal

Death by Sexy

(Downtown; 2006)

By Conrad Amenta | 23 March 2006

Death by Sexy is almost a suitable title, though lopping off the "y" on the end and adding an "ist" for the sake of commentary might steer this shot at reviewing Eagles of Death Metal in the direction of gusto. Supplement: in a university class I occasionally attended, there was always a point at which the prof would absolutely lose his shit because we’d crossed the line between ironic, self-aware playfulness and were instead running headless through perpetuating-the-original-stereotype territory. It’s with that prof’s splotched, purple face in mind that I say in a weary voice that the joke is friggin’ over already, Eagles of Death Metal.

For example: “Show me you’re a good dog / show me you can beg…Oh doggie, where’s your bone?” from “Poor Doggie,” which aspires to same heights as AC/DC’s “Giving the Dog a Bone” (so, about as far as Jesse Hughes can throw Josh Homme’s fourteen foot tall frame). Or “Don’t Speak (I Came to Make a Bang),” which, with lines like, “Hold me, I’m your fabulous weapon,” contains some of the thinnest veiled innuendo since Zep’s “Lemon Song.” I admit that it’s more interesting and fun to view this type of cock-rockery as the multicolored plastic balls in the rock archetype, po-mo IKEA ball room, but that’s not really being entirely honest. We might assume that Eagles of Death Metal are performing a highly-aware reading of a classic rock landscape consisting of big-breasted groupies in car-wash attire, endless drugs and Robert Plant as Gandalf, but that benefit of the doubt extends exactly the length of one album, and they’ve already used up that goodwill on Peace Love Death Metal. Finally, it would be silly to expect a band whose appeal is predicated on a sarcastic band name to put out anything of substance beyond a catchy hook or two, but lowered expectations shouldn’t necessarily equate higher ratings. I don’t expect Kid A or political lyrics about farming subsidies from them, but how about throwing a metaphor beyond “I’d like to razz-ma-tazz you” into the mix here and there?

These tracks are enjoyable enough that any one or two of them taken at random would fit nicely on a mini road trip playlist, probably next to Midnite Vultures-era Beck and a half-volume of the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack, but “one or two” is definitely the operative term here. In its entirely, Death By Sexy exposes the band’s songwriting toolkit for its lack of depth and almost complete redundancy, especially if you’ve already heard their debut. Homme (or “Carlo Von Sexron” as he “hilariously” calls himself here) plays the straight man, chugging along on the drums with a metronome’s creativity while Hughes oscillates between a sneering Elvis approximation and a greasy falsetto. It’s semi-ironic fun but, even at thirteen short tracks, less could have been (and should have been) a great deal more, especially given how catchy and accessible any one of these songs can be when taken on its own. Instead, the inside joke becomes stale awfully quickly, mostly because there’s literally nothing separating this album from their last beyond further regression into the stereotypes and sexism of rock’s more embarrassing and unforgivable moments. Needless to say, celebrating norms that should be broken down or at least passed over doesn’t seem like a good idea, even if it’s all in good, beer-helmeted fun.

The duo first appeared on one of Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions compilations, and maybe they should have stayed there, where the project’s status as meaninglessly amusing one-off would have protected it from actually being reviewed. After all, it’s not that Eagles of Death Metal aren’t okay at what they do, and there’s even some nice production that fills out the tiny guitar-with-drums combo. It’s just that the band is a one-trick pony, which only allows for one stylistic direction--straight head--and, as a result, the line between lovingly rendered rock tribute and callous self-flagellation now sits at their heels. You can always leave your trucker hat and VHS copy of Girls Gone Wild in the closet when you’ve grown out of the fad, but for Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme, they’ll always have been Eagles of Death Metal.