10 Years Ago: Eagles of Death Metal Release Their Swaggering Second Album, ‘Death By Sexy’
Though Eagles of Death Metal were borne out of Josh Homme’s collaborative Desert Sessions in the late ‘90s and pegged as a Queens of the Stone Age side project from there on out, the band has always primarily been a vehicle for frontman Jesse Hughes – Homme's friend since his family moved to California's Palm Desert when he was a teenager in 1979. With an over-the-top stage presence and unwavering commitment to just have fun, Hughes and Eagles of Death Metal released their debut, Peace, Love Death Metal, in 2003 and only amped up their goofy, grandstanding machismo with their second album, 2006's Death By Sexy.
But first, a little backstory: Hughes and Homme formed Eagles of Death Metal in 1998 and remain the band's only permanent members (although Homme rarely tours with the band due to his other projects). At the time, Homme had recently dissolved his influential stoner rock outfit Kyuss and transitioned into the leader of Queens of the Death Metal, becoming the virtual center of the growing Palm Desert scene. But when Eagles of Death Metal emerged (their first appearance was on the 1998 installment of Homme's musical collective series, The Desert Sessions), he took a back seat (quite literally as the drummer) and let Hughes assume the spotlight out front. Homme, however, has produced all of EODM's albums.
But Hughes and Homme have always had their tongues planted so firmly tongue-in-cheek that everything about Eagles of Death Metal is only half-serious. Even the band name was created in jest – they don't play anything close to death metal and sound nothing like the Eagles (it reportedly came from a bar discussion in which Homme referred to German rock outfit Scorpions as "the Eagles of death metal"). They showcased their rapturous, bluesy garage rock on Peace, Love, Death Metal, but they really got into a groove with the follow-up, Death By Sexy.
The album even opens with Hughes' maniacal laughter on “I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News),” which recalls Peace, Love, Death Metal’s “I Only Want You” while the band cleans up the lo-fi recordings and Hughes shifts from falsetto to an increasingly low-decibel and equally gimmicky moan. Homme called in cohorts Dave Grohl and Jack Black for the song’s music video.
The album is top-heavy in all of EODM’s macho-rock posturing: They tread T. Rex glam on “I Gotta Feeling (Just Nineteen),” deliver a straight-up Rolling Stones homage on “I Like to Move in the Night” and “Cherry Cola” offers a sugary hook and crunching riffs. Elsewhere, Hughes adopts a ludicrous Elvis impersonation amid slide guitar on the breakneck “Chase the Devil.” By and large, Death By Sexy is reckless abandon. Only a few outliers (namely “Poor Doggie”) ever exit that realm of hedonistic fun into just plain reckless territory.
Eagles of Death Meal are here to have a laugh at themselves and the seriousness of rock. That has remained their mission since Day One and, just before the release of their most recent album, last year’s Zipper Down, Homme (who always considered EODM his "other band" as opposed to a side project) reiterated that their music embodies an “inclusive attitude instead of exclusive.” He said, “For us, it doesn’t matter when you get to the party – just know that it’s here, and here we go. I think that lack of pretension is enticing and sort of a relief when the music’s a little bit serious.”
Tragically, it makes the terror attack that took the lives of 89 people at the band’s concert in Paris last November all the more incomprehensible. It's unlikely the terrorists realized they had targeted perhaps the most fun-loving band in rock music. Although no members of the band were injured (Homme was not on the European tour), they lost their merch manager, 35 year-old Nick Alexander, and Hughes has since struggled to make sense of the senselessness.
But the band were quick to proclaim their resolve to continue on, performing again in Paris less than a month later during U2's concert at AccorHotels Arena and played a headlining set in February at the historic Olympia theater. And, as the band said in a statement shortly after the tragedy last November, they now have an increased sense of purpose in their mission to prove that "love overshadows evil."