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Queens Of The Stone Age Return With Their Best Album So Far …Like Clockwork
written by Andy Lara of 4evertwentysomething
Arguably Palm Desert’s greatest export Josh Homme has finally reconvened with his primary band, Queens of the Stone Age, and released the highly anticipated, and best album so far, …Like Clockwork on the indie-label Matador Records.
Released June 3rd, 2013,…Like Clockwork (the band’s sixth full-length) is Josh Homme and co’s most focused and concise offering since their major label debut Rated R. Offering only 10 songs, it is the shortest QOTSA album yet, but that does not mean it is short of surprises; on the contrary, …Like Clockwork is arguably the most listenable, interesting, and unpredictable QOTSA album so far.
…Like Clockwork is undoubtedly a step forward and away from 2007’s egregious Era Vulgaris and 2005’s dismissible Lullabies to Paralyze in songwriting, sound, and presentation: There is something undeniably haunted, bitter, disappointed, even jaded about this record. It sounds more mature, like the kind of record a man after a near-death experience would make (just like Josh Homme who was bedridden for four months after a knee-surgery complication). This return to the studio could explain the album’s brevity; it is an exercise in efficiency. …Like Clockwork is Josh Homme attempting to trim the fat: it is a clear and cautious step forward, as evidenced by the mid-album dismissal of long-time drummer Joey Castillo. This parting was bittersweet for fans of 2002’s classic Songs for the Deaf as …Like Clockwork features appearances from a couple of that album’s well-known players, Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl. While Oliveri and Grohl’s appearances are brief and not as prominent as before, their presence could explain the solid return to form that …Like Clockwork threatened and has proven to be.
Most notably absent from …Like Clockwork is the high-octane, “robot rock” that Homme has previously mentioned as the band’s key trait. While …Like Clockwork is still very much a riff-oriented album for the most part, the rock-your-socks-off, gymnastic riffage seems to have taken a backseat in favor of chilled-out, psychedelic, and sexy compositions. In fact, “My God Is The Sun”, the album’s first single, is the only obvious and straightforward exercise in the robot technique. Although it might be the most familiar throwback to the Songs For The Deaf days (via its speed [it’s the fastest song on the album], and volume [this song begs to be cranked up]), the outro unpredictably descends into a proggy (probably thanks to ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore’s drumming), freak-out, with Homme employing his famous falsetto to trace the slow decrescendo/come down with a mad, psychedelic wail.
“If I Had a Tail”, which features Homme singing with a British swagger backed by a disco beat, is arguably the album’s heaviest song, with Homme at his most sexual without being raunchy. Homme’s is a cool kind of steeze, like a young Mick Jagger. The song features a heavily reverbed “wall of shred” that sounds like some virtuoso phantom jamming on otherworldly sounds with mesmerizing wah effects. The nightmarish outro, featuring Ray Manzarek-esque organs, “spooky” whispers and ghost-like backing vocals, mirrors the album’s cover, where a vampire/phantom-of-the-opera character envelops a weeping damsel; it is a strange and macabre display and perfect visual complement to the dark and haunted record enclosed.
On “Kalopsia”, the album’s moodiest and most interesting track, a programmed and detached drum beat (thanks to Trent Reznor) supports a lamenting Homme through a magical, mystical 4.5 minutes where cascading pianos and flamenco guitars take turns with with loud, overdriven, de-tuned guitars to create a monster of a track, a real beast. “Kalopsia”, meaning the delusion of things being more beautiful than they are, is the perfect name for this dreamy and damaged song. It brings to mind Magical Mystery Tour, specifically the songs “Fool on the Hill” and “Blue Jay Way”– the feedback and overdrive being Josh Homme’s own spice added to the mix.
It is obvious that …Like Clockwork isn’t a party album; on the contrary, it sounds a little like the morning after album, or the kind of album that could have been composed/designed for the drive-of-shame (nobody walks in the desert). On “The Vampyre of Time and Memory,” a somber piano-driven ballad that sounds like the serotonin-depleted jams which could soundtrack waking up in the morning, alone, to witness the aftermath of heavy-partying, Homme wryly says, “I’m alive… Hooray,” with a certain lack of enthusiasm; Even the guitar bends on this track sound literally hungover, lingering behind. This theme of waking up to wonder about your absent friends, or watching them walk away as the rain starts to fall, threads across the album on “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” and especially on “Fairweather Friends.” During the chorus of “Fairweather Friends”, Homme sings, “When the sun is gone, well, so are you”: Almost echoing the ubi sunt sentiment of John Lennon’s “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)”, except, here, Homme may be down, but he’s not out: moments before the song’s denouement, Homme says, “I don’t give a shit about them anyhow,” before diving into the album’s most carefree and only filler-ish track, “Smooth Sailing” (a track that wouldn’t be out of place on Era Vulgaris), reminding the listener that Homme is still the same resilient and youthful force that fans of QOTSA have grown to love: band members can leave, ex-band members can try to steal his thunder (he recently sued ex-band mates Kyuss Lives! over trademark infringement), and an unexpected injury can bench him, but Homme always bounces back.
This resilience seems to be a common theme with all of Josh Homme’s alternative-rock contemporaries: Jack White, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Maynard, and Marilyn Manson, who have all have shared band members with Joshua Homme (the contemporary alt-rock musical tree is complicated and twisted), have all made albums/careers centered around the damaged self, but none have done so as casually or noncommittally as Josh Homme: …Like Clockwork is somewhat damaged, but it is not a self-deprecating documentation of a Downward Spiral; it is dreamy, solemn and magical, but it is not Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; it is heavy and dark, but not subversive and aggressive a la Antichrist Superstar. But besides sharing members, and the occasional contribution from Trent Reznor, how else does Josh Homme directly relate to his contemporaries? If anything, with …Like Clockwork, Josh Homme has finally made a record that can stand next to those alternative masterpieces.
In regards to the breakup of his old band, desert-rock forerunners Kyuss, Josh Homme has stated, “sometimes to preserve something, you have to destroy it. Don’t let it slide down the hill, when you’re at the peak.” So is …Like Clockwork QOTSA at their peak? I don’t think so. In conversation with those classic 90s albums, …Like Clockwork seems like an awfully sober and toothless collection of songs– a good thing as with each album, QOTSA moves further away from the desert/stoner rock tag–so perhaps this album is an important precursor to what is next for QOTSA. It still seems like they’ve still got a few more surprises up their sleeves and there is no stopping Josh Homme, not now: he is just joining the ranks of rock icon/legend status.
album, tour, merch and everything else can be found at: