The problem with most recent supergroups is that they’ve neglected to factor in significant amounts of super. Jack White is a major presence in the Raconteurs and Dead Weather, to be sure, but he is supported by hugely talented yet comparatively obscure bandmates. And while Monsters of Folk offer a certain amount of commercial firepower and an interesting hybrid of talent, Bright Eyes and My Morning Jacket cater mostly to slavish fanboys.
Them Crooked Vultures aim to restore the luster to the supergroup. Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal) and Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) are potent new-generation ringers on guitar and drums, but installing Led Zeppelin’s iconic John Paul Jones in the Vultures’ bass-and-everything-else slot is audacious brilliance, resulting in a trio that effectively crosses rock’s modernity with its classicism. The CD pulses with fresh inspiration and roils with hammer-and-tong intensity — from the new-rock blister of “Dead End Friends” and “New Fang” to the classic thunder of “Elephants,” the Creamy lilt of “Scumbag Blues,” and the Move-meets-Bowie rumble of “Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up.”
Jones’s contributions to Them Crooked Vultures cannot be overstated; the multi-instrumentalist may well be the most musically adept and intuitive bassist in rock history, and his value to this enterprise is both as forward musical thinker and direct conduit to rock’s most fertile and evolutionary period. As a result, Them Crooked Vultures swagger and storm into rock’s future with some amazingly effective side trips into its past, just like the supergroups of old. — Bryan Baker