13
Jun
13

Album Review: Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Queens_of_the_Stone_Age_-_…Like_ClockworkThe Down Lizzo:

I’ve purposely waited a full two weeks before reviewing this behemoth of an album because I needed to get at least ten listens under my belt before even attempting to put my thoughts about …Like Clockwork into words.

It’s been six years since Josh Homme and his ever-changing band of musical freaks got together to throw down a follow up to 2007’s Era Vulgaris.

Though Homme has been busy as ever during that time with other musical projects (Eagles Of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures, producing an Arctic Monkeys album, etc.) it’s done very little to fill the gigantic Queens Of The Stone Age-shaped hole in the rock music world.

When rumours started surfacing more than a year ago that the Homme had summoned long-time QOTSA guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen with a host of regular contributors to the studio to start work on the new album, I was pretty fucking fired up.

Then news broke that Dave Grohl had climbed back behind the kit and I immediately knew that something truly epic was in the making.

 

 

As time wore on, it was announced that everyone from ex-QOTSA bassist Nick Oliveri to Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor to motherflippin Sir Elton John were getting involved in the new album.

My excitement mounted.

Then, finally, the band started releasing their new material online when they dropped the first single “My God Is The Sun”. I eagerly blasted the track through my headphones at eardrum-shattering volume only to take them off again three minutes and fifty-five seconds later feeling, well, a little meh.

Sure, it had that desert rock goodness I love about this band, complete with rattlesnake maracas, Grohl pounding the shit out of the kit, wailing guitar solos and Homme’s signature falsetto, BUT did it make me want to smash a bottle of whisky, drop two tabs of acid and drive screaming into the desert? No, it just didn’t have that kind of explosive, maddening energy I’d come to expect from this band.

 

 

A couple of weeks later, the five animated videos the band did with Boneface started getting released one after the other, each continuing the story from the last until the final 15-minute promo video was released in one huge, difficult-to-swallow chunk.

It was a low point for me, as you might have read here. I found the animation depressing, unjustifiably violent and pretty siff all in all. As for the music itself, with the exception of the track “If I Had A Tail” I wasn’t blown away.

Then I finally got my hands on the album, listened to it from beginning to end without interruption, took my headphones off at the end, put them down, slumped back in my chair and whispered two words.

“Holy fuck.”

 

Sick Tracks

Before I get into which tracks on this album kicked my goddamn teeth out, there’s a crazy story about Josh Homme I read that gave me some insight into this album.

In 2010 Homme underwent a pretty straightforward knee operation and due to some extreme complications that happened whilst he was under general anaesthetic, he died.

For whatever reason, his heart stopped beating and he had to be resuscitated and essentially, brought back from the dead (get the full story here).

Chances are the whole incident was greatly exaggerated if it even happened at all. I remember reading the article when it happened and not thinking much about it, until I heard the new album.

 

 

There’s something about the band’s new material that I couldn’t quite place at first. It’s a kind of eerie feeling I got when wading through the dark sludge of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”, wandering the abandoned halls of “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory”, melting through the kaleidoscopic Neverland of “Kalopsia” and finally, confronting the gaping void of “I Appear Missing”.

Whatever happened to Homme, whether it was on that operating table, or whether it was something else equally as profound in his personal life, has left him a changed man.

Gone are the chugging ten-ton riffs that made tracks like “Sick, Sick, Sick”, “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane” and one of my personal favourites, “Misfit Love” so fucking epic.

 

 

They’ve been replaced by otherworldly harmonies, melodies and chord structures dredged from the ether. You won’t find material like this on any other album, I can guarantee that.

It will either turn you stone-cold in an instant or it will strike that tuning fork we all have inside us, buried deep down beneath our fabricated layers, and continue to strike it with every listen until you wake up with these songs resonating in your head.

All airy-fairy, introspective, deep-and-meaningful nonsense aside though, there is another side to this album that is just pure rock ‘n roll swag at its best.

After surviving the onslaught of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”, Homme and the boys take a 180 degree turn with the instantly likeable “I Sat By The Ocean”.

Light and breezy, this track hints at the fact that …Like Clockwork is not completely wrought with deep, dark, emotionally taxing songs. In fact, on a good five tracks out of ten the guys are just there to kick out the motherfucking jams.

 

 

They dial the swag up another notch with “If I Had A Tail” which sees Homme landing killer lines like “Buy flash cars / Diamond rings / Expensive holes / To bury things” and “If I had a tail / I’d own the place / If I had a tail / I’d swat the flies.”

But undoubtedly one of the best tracks on …Like Clockwork is “Smooth Sailing” which sounds like it could have been written for the express purpose of becoming the soundtrack to every dive-bar strip show from now until mankind goes up in flames.

If I had to try and describe it in terms of genre, I’d probably go with “mutant funk-rock”. This is not a song you play in the background while you make love, no. This is a song for fucking. End of story.

So yeah, while this album might not have the ten-ton riffs mentioned earlier, it still rocks pretty fucking hard, which is all I ask of a QOTSA album.

What’s weird though is that despite the fact that none of the tracks in the Boneface promo video impressed me much, when listened to in their entirety and in the context of the album they take on a whole new meaning and are somehow a lot more accessible.

 

 

Should You Give A Shit?

Look, though it comes pretty damn close to perfect, this album still has its flaws – two of them to be precise.

The first is the opening track (“Keep Your Eyes Peeled”) which is pretty much the aural equivalent of eating a mouthful of glass.

The second is the fact that try as I might to find them, I have no idea where Trent Reznor, Nick Oliveri, Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys frontman), Mark Lanegan, good ol’ Elton John, even Dave Grohl himself are on this album.

 

 

If you’d never told me that any of them had contributed, I’d be none the wiser. Sure, I could Google who is doing what where, but if it isn’t apparent from listening to the album countless times, then what does it really matter?

What does really matter is the simple question “Is this album worth a damn?” to which I can honestly reply, “Holy fuck yes.”

I’m not going to go the whole hog and post “Smooth Sailing” to melt your guy’s faces off. Instead, here’s “I Sat By The Ocean” to give you a little taste of what we’re dealing with here:

 

 

Final verdict: 9/10

-ST


1 Response to “Album Review: Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork”


  1. 1 Seerower
    June 20, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Good review!

    I read somewhere that Josh Homme was immobile for 4 months after his near-fatal knee surgery during which he wrote much of this album. It shows. While it is not as frenetic as some of QOTSA’s past effots, it has a cohesion which the previous albums lacked. Every song flows together with the kind of dark ballsy swagger that only QOTSA can deliver.

    Songs For The Deaf used the radio theme to tie its songs together but that gimmick has nothing on the way that all the songs on this album fit together. They are like pieces of a puzzle and you cannot appreciate the full picture until you have heard them all.

    Except for that first song which freaks me the fuck out because it gives me the same sensation as weed paranoia.


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