Fire Note Says: Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork, hits right on time.
Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme is—to put it bluntly—the man. He’s accrued many a famous friend, having rocked out with the best from John Paul Jones and Sir Elton John to Dave Grohl and everyone in between. He’s also helped define and cultivate (fans would put emphasis on cultivate) the so called “desert rock” scene with his buddies Kyuss. So it’s no wonder that fans had to wait almost exactly six years for QOTSA’s sixth studio album …Like Clockwork. Their previous effort Era Vulgaris (2007) left me feeling a bit alienated with its electro/dance direction and abstract, almost stunted song writing process. But rest assured: I can say that …Like Clockwork gives fans an experience that’s worth the wait. The album is a realization, a reevaluation, and a retooling of the formula that made their past albums so great. I consider …Like Clockwork to be the thinking man’s QOTSA album.
What do I mean by that? Many of the members took their time away from QOTSA to invest in new projects; Homme with Them Crooked Vultures, Fertita with Jack White’s super group The Dead Weather, and Shuman with his side project Mini Mansions. It seems that this time away, along with the re-release of their self-titled debut and playing live shows of that album in full, has sparked something in the band. Dropping the acclaimed riff-based sound of past albums such as the druggy, crunchy Rated R (2000) and the sandy, sludge of Songs For The Deaf (2002) produces one of their most cohesive albums to date. Cohesion isn’t always everything though, so how does it play? Well, as is tradition with QOTSA releases, there’s always a colorful cavalcade of characters adding their special touch. Here Homme and Co. construct their codeine cabaret with help from Sir Elton John, Jake Shears of Scissor Sister fame, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, and the list goes on and on (as it always does). While sadly not every guest hits their mark, the labors do produce some of the most beautiful tracks since “Auto Pilot”, “In The Fade”, and “Mosquito Song”. Songs like “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” display a melancholy emptiness with deranged beauty that’s rarely heard. “Kalopsia” plays fast and loose with a spastic intensity, then mixes in a lucidity that is barely ever shown by QOTSA. It wouldn’t truly be a QOTSA record if there wasn’t an impressive riff or two to hold it all together, and “My God Is The Sun” is that track. With the traditional Queens’ drive showcased in songs like ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar But I Feel Like a Millionaire” or “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” this track also includes touchstones such as the delirious waltz tempo and hesher-like heft that infects a lot of their catalogue.
While there are a lot of positives to rave about, it isn’t the perfect album. “Smooth Sailing” one of the sleaziest and freakiest tracks on the LP—which should showcase Scissor Sister’s Shears—is a fairly straightforward, drab stomper. The closing title track, while it is encased in beautiful piano, feels like it’s holding something back and never reaches its full potential.
All in all …Like Clockwork proves that QOTSA can make a less riff-oriented record and do it thoughtfully as well. These songs seem to have a sense of purpose that comes forward more prominently then their past works and maybe even conveys a different identity. If Era Vulgaris left you disappointed then it’s …Like Clockwork that will go around for multiple spins again and again and again.
Key Tracks: “My God Is The Sun”, “Kalopsia”, “I Appear Missing”
Artists With Similar Fire: Kyuss / Them Crooked Vultures / Eagles of Death Metal
Queens Of The Stone Age Website
Queens Of The Stone Age Facebook
-Reviewed by Christopher Tahy