Review Summary: QOTSA return with a bang, delivering a solidly constructed record that's imbued with seductive quality.
As the merciless rule aptly indicates, you're as good as your latest album. Queens of the Stone Age tarnished their enviable reputation as one of the world's most consistent rock acts six years ago by releasing the uninspired Era Vulgaris
. Following on such a misfire, Josh Homme made the best decision he could by taking a break from his prime outfit, which gave him an opportunity to focus on other projects. The most notable of which was Them Crooked Vultures. The supergroup which also featured such pivotal musicians as John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl hit hard on their self-titled debut, delivering a tour-de-force hard rock ride that burst with restless energy and creativity. It also made it evident that Homme, once the catalyst for the ground-breaking work of Kyuss, didn't lose his verve and songwriting prowess. The new Queens of the Stone Age endeavour ...Like Clockwork
continues to capture Homme at the top of his game, proving that the band's previous disc was only a fluke.
At this point many fans have expected ...Like Clockwork
to be a trip down memory lane to the glory days of Rated R
and Songs for the Deaf
, the two turn-of-the-millennium stoner rock classics. Instead, the new record expands on the robot rock aesthetic of the act's 2005 release Lullabies To Paralyze
, bringing repetitive grooves to the fore. Homme has an uncanny knack for placing them in an intriguing context, whether it's an ominous dirge of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” or sun-soaked melodicism of “I Sat By The Ocean.” In fact, the dichotomy between the dark and the light propels the entire record, making for an effectively diverse and mood-switching presentation in which booming heavy rockers are juxtaposed with plodding piano ballads to supreme effect.
What's more, ...Like Clockwork
seems more focused than any other Queens of the Stone Age effort. The emphasis is on full-fledged songs in lieu of improvisation. Every track is rendered with admirable precision, retaining the attributes that have always made the outfit's music such a precious commodity. There's rock swagger on display which, along with hook-centric songcraft, desert vibes and a dash of flamboyance, makes for a truly seductive sound both deeply ingrained in the 1970s and relatively novel. On top of that, Homme puts in his most enthralling vocal performance thus far, making the transitions between his natural voice and signature falsetto even smoother.
The LP showcases Queens of the Stone Age at their most immediate when it revolves around robust cuts that amaze with a unique symbiosis of dense riffs and tight rhythms. “If I Had A Tail” is utterly enchanting in its progression from brisk verses to a stomping grandeur of its chorus, while “Smooth Sailing” takes one simple blues pattern and expands it into one manic jam featuring irreverent, yet instantly quotable lyrics. In contrast, “My God Is The Sun” trades malicious for liberating with its exquisite blend of sun-drenched riffs and powerful melodies. “Fairweather Friends” is equally uplifting, yet it colours the band's trademark style with piano-invoked sentimentality and cinematic splendour. Another undoubted highlight comes with “I Appear Missing,” a blissful psychedelic epic that overflows with sinister atmosphere built around brooding soundscapes and earnest vocals.
Although the album sports numerous guest contributions, Homme remains in the limelight throughout its entire running time. His dominating presence only reaffirms his artistic independence. It strikes me as admirable that he refuses to look back, redefining the style of Queens of the Stone Age with every new release. With all its sonic diversity, consistency and precision, ...Like Clockwork
is an impressive step in the right direction.