Douglas Recommends: “Dead End Friends” by Them Crooked Vultures

My introduction to Them Crooked Vultures was in early 2011 with Elyse and Ian, my college roommates from senior year. I had heard of the super group featuring Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, but it wasn’t until someone shared Dave Grohl’s “Fresh Pots” video on social media that I dug deeper into the band with my friends.

“Fresh Pots” was filmed in 2009, during Dave’s time in Them Crooked Vultures. According to “Fresh Pots,” Dave Grohl drank five fresh pots of coffee a day. Dave’s coffee intake got so bad he was hospitalized. I showed the video depicting Dave Grohl’s wigged out state to Elyse and Ian, and the three of us started listening to Them Crooked Vultures after that. Music was what brought Elyse, Ian, and I together. In the Country House, a room in our house full of pillows, blankets, big speakers, and partitioned with a moth tapestry, the three of us listened to Them Crooked Vultures. “Dead End Friends” in particular got lots of play.

The song begins with an interplay between guitar riffs and rhythmic responses which escalate in tone. Every exchange creates a heightened tension in the song. With Josh Homme on lead vocals and Dave Grohl singing backup, they sing, “I ache for the touch of my dead-end friends.”

The song explores dark psychological territory through the quality of sound and speed of performing. Josh Homme sounds like someone on the edge with rapid guitar soloing. Dave Grohl’s caffeine induced beats and percussion unsurprisingly sound like a hospital visit waiting to happen. Jonesy sounds as good and better as he ever as he was with Zep, bringing medieval and fantasy ambience to this feverish desert road trip sound. Recently, I showed this song to a musician. She said the notes are played in an Arabic scale, and pointed out that you can hear it in the notes and sound.

Listening to this song with Elyse and Ian back in the day, I tried not to think about the fact that while I would graduate that May, Elyse and Ian had one year left of school. I felt sad I would be leaving my friends behind, and they would go on being together while life took me elsewhere. The future seemed uncertain, and it was hard to say goodbye to what we had.

As cool as a Them Crooked Vulture reunion would and should be, it’s the friendship of Elyse and Ian I really miss when I listen to “Dead End Friends.” Seven years later since the three of us were together, and I still feel nostalgia for our times. In “Dead End Friends,” Josh and Dave sing, “No more wandering/ Just me and my dead end friends again.” While it would greedy to ask for more, from either Them Crooked Vultures or Elyse and Ian, I wouldn’t want this all there is or ever was for either of them, because I ache for the touch of my dead end friends.

(Song recommendation by Douglas Menagh)

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