I’m not sure if it’s up on the website yet, but the NME has picked Queens Of The Stone Age’s Rated R as its album of the year. Now, Rated R is not a great album – it rocks along in a fun way, but the hooky promise of the best single (“Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret”) is not, alas, kept. So why this choice? Theories that come to mind:

– it’s been a year in which all the obvious choices are a bit too obvious. A pick like this will at least get people talking.
– QOTSA’s basic selling point is that they are Proper Rock for indie kids and so can be bought without suffering the taint of Liking Metal, in a way that Kyuss could not have been and Monster Magnet can not be, for example. This probably applies more here than in the States because we rock less, but in a musical environment of extreme fiddliness there’s still something tokenistic about the Queens’ rockin’ ways: I’d guess a lot of end-of-year lists will feature Rated R as their only rock record. So NME gets to position itself as a paper which will embrace tough, hard music in the dark days ahead without alienating its demographic.
– QOTSA are American. The reason Melody Maker went belly-up is that ‘the kids’ were generally into British music and thus could be well-served by the non-specialist British press, TV etc. Americophilia = exoticism = a good niche for the NME to be in. Also NME is trying to turn itself into a global music brand, so picking Coldplay would send out the wrong signals.

Or of course it might be that the writers liked the album. But how boring would that be?