Them Crooked Vultures: Don’t Call Them a Supergroup

Them Crooked Vultures
Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
November 19, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures: Don't Call Them a Supergroup

It's been a while since we have had to tolerate the popular formation of "supergroups." Oh, sure they never really went away entirely, but the numbers definitely seemed to dwindle after the 1990s. Perhaps artists were intimidated by the megasuccess, the super-success of Asia's 'Heat of the Moment.' Yet, in the past couple years, there seems to be a growing trend amongst the 'talented malcontents' of other more famous bands to form these groups, see e.g. Velvet Revolver, Chickenfoot, Monsters of Folk, etc. However, these names alone should readily indicate the struggle faced by these bands to capture their member's former glory. Supergroups have notoriously not been very super. And, unfortunately, Them Crooked Vultures is not an exception to the rule.

Supergroups tend to appeal to devoted music fans who know enough about the movement of their favorite musicians to keep track of who is playing with who. How many people can name the members of Nirvana not named Kurt Cobain? And how else can you explain a sold-out Fox Theater show for a band whose first album was released only this week?

TCV is comprised of Dave Grohl, former drummer of Nirvana and singer for the Foo Fighters; John Paul Jones, former bassist for Led Zeppelin; and Josh Holmes, former front-man for Queens of the Stone Age. With that kind of talent, you'd expect flashes of brilliance at the Fox Theater last night - which there definitely were, particularly when they played their album's first single, "New Fang" (which sounds oddly familiar to me). I also can't deny that Jones and Grohl are an amazing rhythm section and together, they can catch fire as they did during "Scumbag Blues." Unfortunately, the weak link in the band's superness is clearly Josh Holmes who was front and center for most of the show. His singing, while competent, is unremarkable and his guitar-playing lacks any real inventiveness or spark.

It is no surprise that TCV should sound like a mash of Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, but it is a surprise that the combination doesn't sound like any of those bands individually (if you get my meaning). This is probably a good thing for the classic-band status of those groups. TCV sounds like an updated 1970s hardrock outfit - a bit like what I would expect Slade or Foreigner to sound like if they formed in 2009. Need I say more? Although there were flashes of greatness, I think the band's determination to show just how hard they can rock undermined the final result. It was great to see John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl on stage as they are two under-recognized luminaries in rock history, but their own rock history demonstrates very clearly that they can do better.