Review: …Like Clockwork, Queens Of The Stone Age

QOTSA ...Like Clockwork

The sixth studio album from Queens Of The Stone Age was released a couple of days ago and has met with loud applause and critical acclaim. But recording ‘…Like Clockwork’ wasn’t without its trials; midway through recording drummer Joey Castillo left the band. Luckily that Josh Homme  is a resourceful fellow so in stepped in to fill the breach. He’s not the only contributor, as usual there are a plethora of musical superstars from Alex Turner (Arctic Monkey & The Last Shadow Puppets) to Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) via Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) and, most surprisingly of all the ultimate queen himself, Elton John appears on ‘Fairweather Friends’ alongside former bassist Nick Oliveri who was also kicked out of the band in 2004 over an ‘alleged’ drug problem.

So then, another QOTSA album, another maelstrom. But, as proved time and time again there’s nothing like a good falling out to bring the best from Homme and his motley crew, and since when did this band ever have a static line-up anyway? Even ‘Songs For The Deaf’ had umpteen different musicians on it as well as the core four.

‘…Like Clockwork’ is probably closest in tone to ‘Lullabies To Paralyze’ as this was also made just after Oliveri was fired. It is incredibly dark with heavy, crunching, de-tuned bass-lines and so much reverb it sounds as if it was recorded in a cave deep underground.

The album opens up with a really low, almost oppressive bass line and angular sounding de-tuned guitar notes on the song ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’. It sounds like the song is stalking you, while Josh Homme warns you of danger, dreams and nothing being as it seems while harmonising with a creepy sounding piano part. After, this, as if waking abruptly from a bad dream ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ snaps in with a rock ‘n’ roll riff that will have you nodding you head and swaying. It’s so upbeat it’s as though the last song never happened. Then it all gets slower and trippy with ‘The Vanpyre Of Time And Memory’. The opening 12 and a half minutes is the entire QOTSA sound in a nutshell.

Of course there hasn’t been the obligatory explicitly sexual lyrics yet. ‘If I Had A Tail’ deals with that quite deftly: “I wanna suck, I wanna lick/I wanna cry and I wanna spit/Tears of pleasure/Tears of pain/They trickle down your face the same”. Next up are the single, ‘My God Is The Sun’, which is as big and loud as both God and The Sun and ‘Kalopsia’ which lulls you in with a slow melody until the chorus comes out of nowhere and smashes you in the face with a brick! (see the video below).

‘Fairweather Friends’ follows and is interesting in as much as Homme let Oliveri sing backing vocals on such a pointedly titled track as this. The other great thing about this is that Elton John also gets a vocal credit and it is testament to his voice, r the fact the Homme wants you to know he’s there, that you can identify his lines very easily indeed. Homme is known for having lots of guest vocal from people with distinctive voices like Alex Turner and Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) but buries them deep in the mix, it’s just a shame that the song ends in the abrupt way it does. ‘Smooth Sailing has a real electronic blues-y swagger to it and contains a line that instantly stuck out to me: “I’ve got bruises and hickeys/Stitches and scars/I got my own theme music/Plays wherever I are.” Also “I blow my load over the status quo”, if this isn’t the sound of confidence and ego, what is?

‘I Appear Missing’ is the most introverted and autobiographical song on ‘…Like Clockwork’, it seems to be about his unexpected stay in hospital after a routine knee operation went wrong. The big surprise come at the end of the album with the title track, which is a melodic piano led track that you could almost call a ballad, it weren’t quite so prog in the middle. That said, it’s still a beautiful sounding song and marks a real departure from any of Homme’s work to date. This is a monster of an album and if you like anything Josh Homme produces you’ll love it. For the beginner though, I still think ‘Songs For The Deaf’ is where you should start as this could be a difficult album to get your head around if you cam to it cold.

Here’s a short film melding five of the songs together including the full single of ‘My God Is The Sun’ at the end. Artwork by Boneface, animation by Liam Brazier. Tell me what you think is going on here!

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2 Responses to “Review: …Like Clockwork, Queens Of The Stone Age”

  1. Was listening to this at work the other day, and after giving the Daft Punk album a go (overall good I think but doesn’t challenge Discovery in any way) it was so nice to just sit through a consistently excellent album.

    I couldn’t stop hearing Bowie though – first in Kalopsia but from then on I couldn’t STOP hearing it even on a second listen through.

    • I can see what you mean about the Bowie influence. I think it’s slightly more subtle than that, but it is there. It is damn good.

      Oh, and you’re right about Daft Punk’s album, Discovery is still their best album by far. I do like the fact that a dance act can make such a good and authenticly 70s sounding funk album.

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