Queens of the Stone Age, ‘…Like Clockwork’ — Album Review
Here we are in 2013 and Queens of the Stone Age are finally back with the long-awaited new album ‘…Like Clockwork.’ Was it worth the wait? Read our album review to find out.
It’s been a tough six years for Queens of the Stone Age fans. After the band’s 2007 release ‘Era Vulgaris,’ there were several things that kept Joshua Homme‘s attention away from making a new QOTSA record — kids, Them Crooked Vultures, that time he died, etc.
Now the band is finally back in the saddle with ‘…Like Clockwork,’ which also features the return of ‘Songs for the Deaf’ drummer and all-around rock and roll badass Dave Grohl. Homme explained the decision to recruit Grohl as part of “the search for something classic.” It would appear that their search was successful, as the band’s sixth studio album often has the feel of a classic rock album laced with that indefinable, unique quality that set Queens apart from every band in rock.
The disc features a laundry list of guest spots including Elton John, Trent Reznor, Mark Lanegan, Alex Turner, Jake Shears, even former bassist Nick Oliveri pops up. Aside from Reznor’s back and forth chorus with Homme on the hauntingly beautiful ‘Kalopsia,’ you’ll have to listen really close to spot the others (or just check the detailed credits at their website).
The 10-track adventure begins with ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled,’ which feels like a rusty robot marching through the back alleys of a dystopian metropolis. The opener serves as a nice entry point, as it feels like a slower, more melodic distant cousin of tunes like ‘Misfit Love’ and ‘Turnin’ on the Screw’ from ‘Era Vulgaris.’ ‘…Like Clockwork’ really gains momentum with ‘I Sat by the Ocean,’ an infectious upbeat groove led by Homme’s unusual slide guitar lead and signature mix of croon and falsetto — you’ll hear more of the latter than on any other QOTSA disc.
‘I Sat by the Ocean’ comes to a crescendo with thunderous drum fills and weeping guitars at the end, all of which nicely spill over into ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory.’ “I want God to come / and take me home / ’cause I’m all alone / in this crowd,” Homme sings over a delicate piano progression. The song has an undeniable 60’s rock feel, with signature Queens of the Stone Age flourishes — this is where the experience does begin to reveal itself as the “classic” journey Homme and crew aimed for.
The lyrics are particularly strong throughout the album, as Joshua Homme’s wit and humor blend with deeply poetic imagery like, ” A city of glass with no heart,” and “expensive holes to bury things,” both of which can be found accompanied by the stutter-step groove of ‘If I Had a Tail.’ The riff-driven radio single, ‘My God is the Sun,’ features some powerful bass work from Michael Shuman, a dynamic car-running-out-of-gas breakdown and brings album’s first half to a strong close.
‘Kalopsia’ tap-dances along a beautiful melody until it crashes head first into distorted guitars as Reznor and Homme trade screams for the chorus. Uncharacteristic, yet undeniably Queens-esque songs like this, ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’ and the title track showcase just how much the band has grown artistically since the release of ‘Era Vulgaris,’ almost exactly six years earlier.
‘Fairweather Friends’ is another piece of unique nostalgia — a 70’s rock arrangement ran through the Queens meat grinder and accented by royal keys compliments of Sir Elton John. ‘Smooth Sailing’ brings the robo-funk full on and is almost impossible not to, at least, nod your head to. The bridge, guitar solo and main riff are all so unique and delightfully fresh that the track stands as one of the album’s true high points, of which there are many.
Another of those aforementioned high points, perhaps the highest, comes with ‘I Appear Missing.’ This song seems to blend every element of what QOTSA does so well into one incredibly powerful and epic experience (to simply call it a “song” almost seems like an injustice). Outstanding lyrics like, “Shock me awake / tear me apart” and “It’s only falling in love because you hit the ground,” build the suspense until the free-fall down the rabbit hole goes full speed with a soaring guitar solo and is then cushioned by a graceful, falsetto-laden landing.
The album’s title track is another tender, piano-led ballad that showcases a new vulnerability in the band’s sound that only strengthens their appeal. For an album that has, thus far, felt like such a truly classic journey, ‘…Like Clockwork’ and all of it’s Pink Floyd-esque moments serve as the perfect ending for said voyage. “It’s all downhill from here.” We beg to differ, Mr. Homme.
Many people have had the knee-jerk reaction to gauge the quality of this album by comparing it to the band’s previous outing with Grohl, which is widely regarded as their best work, 2002’s ‘Songs for the Deaf.’ It’s almost impossible to compare the two albums in a “which one is better?” fashion, because the answer is neither. Both albums are incredible and both are very different. Where ‘Deaf’ serves as the band’s best hard rock outing, ‘Clockwork’ is the band’s most artistic, well-written and fully realized album. The album is only 10 songs and about 46 minutes in length, which, upon first glance, may be disappointing. After listening you understand that it’s a collection of songs that perfectly compliment one another and adding any more may have felt forced or unnecessary. Queens of the Stone Age showed great restraint in that respect. Where most bands would’ve thrown you a mere collection of songs, Queens deliver an “album” in every sense of the word.
Final Verdict: Queens of the Stone Age return after a 6 year hiatus and give us the classic album that we always wanted, but never saw coming.