Austin City Limits happened this past weekend. You didn’t go, obviously, because no reasonable person travels to Austin at any time of year other than March, but you may have seen some pictures like I did. There was mud, lots of fratty-looking dudes, and a bunch of bands. Like Pearl Jam! And Dave Matthews! And, oh god, Them Crooked Vultures, featuring Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones. Rolling Stone was on hand for their performance, and my suspicions have been confirmed: This is definitely the worst band. Like, of all the bands.
“We’d like to play Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ right now,” Homme announced early in the set, “but we’re not going to.” Instead, they played “Mind Eraser,” a hard-charging thunderclap of a song constructed from a squall of guitar. “Scumbag Blues” opened with a whine and then plummeted suddenly into a fit of grinding riffs, Homme adopting an eerie, unsettling falsetto.
The Vultures’ set didn’t end so much as unravel, petering out in a weird, wonky and slightly aimless jazz odyssey that found Jones working a single walking bassline while Homme noodled over top. That kind of heady jamming is clearly not their strong suit, but it conveys the group’s single guiding ethos: In this operation, we do what we want.
First, I don’t get the “Thriller” thing. Is it a joke? Homme is definitely the kind of guy who’s still making child molester jokes about Michael Jackson, so I suppose it probably was. Second, they have a song called “Mind Eraser.” Third, they have a song called “Scumbag Blues.” Fourth, falsetto. Fifth, aimless jazz odyssey. Sixth, look how fucking old that bassist is.