Review Summary: "I blow my load over the status quo."
Queens of the Stone Age hold a dear and special place in my heart. I want to throw that out there as a disclaimer from the get go; I love the *** out of this band. There’s no record coming out this year that I’ve been more excited for than . . . Like Clockwork
. Let there be no veils of psuedo-objectivity or feigned “I’m too cool to like something” attitude. I am here and ready to fall in love with this album. I am waiting, arms ***ing held out in a Christ pose screaming, “Please, Mr. Homme! Just let me love you; and all your friends too!” These are the kind of expectations that lead to disappointment. In a way, I was ready to be tragically let down by this record just as much as I was ready to let it have it’s way with me. Such is the way of love, I suppose.
The album delivers. There, I cut to the chase. This record is good. It’s really good. It sounds like Queens of the Stone Age, and yet it’s not directly comparable to any of their previous work. Like all of their previous records, it has its own sound; its own strangely colored torch, flaring wildly and casting contorted shadows that spell out a message: “We’re back, mother***ers!”
“Keep Your Eyes Peeled” creeps the album into gear with a sleazy and paranoid dissonance. The guitars are sludgy and heavy, but not particularly crunchy, and the bass backs it up. When Homme’s vocal hook appears, it is haunted melodically by a ghostly piano. The chorus lashes out with sharp guitar jabs, but doesn’t overtake the song. A beautifully disturbed bridge comes and goes, leading through another chorus and finally into a spinning climax. The piano ghost reappears and another verse closes the song. Genius.
“I Sat By The Ocean” is like a comfortable pat on the back. Think “No One Knows” without the edge. The style is instantly recognizable, but the flavor is new; tweaked ever so slightly. Queens have always had a knack for “life’s a bitch, but I keep on truckin’” types of songs. The content of “I Sat” is far from hopeful, but the song is happenin’. It’s dark and pessimistic thematically, but upbeat at the same time. The hooks are huge and the groove is ***in’ groovey. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” lumbers through its first verse with jarringly overwrought lyrics and a stripped back piano only sound, but all becomes clear and forgiven as the song builds and creeps (QotSA like to creep) to its finish. “Vampyre” features a pair of lonely and defeated guitar solos, and with repeat listens, the stripped down composition and [initially] boneheaded lyrics started to, surprisingly, make sense. The progression of the song is a little on the cookie-cutter end of things, but either way it’s exciting to hear Queens dabble with this style. It’s something new for them, and that alone gives it merit. Right? Right.
“If I Had a Tail” reigns it back into the comfort zone with its familiar mix of darkness and pop hooks. Homme’s words are awkward, but clever. Mark Lanegan’s raspy backing vocals make their first appearance since 2005, and really tie the song together. It’s pure Queens of the Stone Age. “My God is the Sun” hits hard; harder than anything Homme has done in ten years. It’s a strange (almost bad?) trip in the scorching sunlight. The chorus is massive, and the song has the pedal pressed so firmly to the floor that without paying proper attention it’s easy to miss just how varied the structure of the song actually is. Smalls breaks and bridges are littered throughout, breaking the cookie cutter mold that songs with this kind of huge hook usually fall into.
“Kalopsia” opens delicately. After the sun-scorched “My God is the Sun,” it feels like a breath of fresh misty air. There’s a faint beat drenched in reverb keeping time behind peaceful guitar picking and keys. Homme’s voice is at ease. If the song’s initial atmosphere were a fishbowl, the chorus would be an inexplicable and sudden crack in the glass. Once that crack appears, the song never truly settles back into rest. It tries, but there’s something else there, lingering in the air. By the time the track closes, any sense of security has vanished. The final chorus trails off with screams before settling into madness.
“Fairweather Friends” is absolutely anthemic. It starts modestly and climbs, then just keeps climbing. There’s a moment of peace later in the song that exists solely to be destroyed. QotSA have never sounded quite like this. “Smooth Sailing” is fun as hell, with sleaze that’s cranked well past the breaking point. Homme’s falsetto is on full display, and there’s a genius one-liner or two to be found. It may, however be a little too reminiscent of “Gunman” from Them Crooked Vultures debut, and “Broken Box” from Lullabies to Paralyze
“I Appear Missing” finds the band back in the dark. The songs starts dazed, confused, and disturbed, like the band is looking for something they don’t want to find. Suddenly, the chorus crashes in like a tidal wave of catharsis. Like “My God is The Sun” and “Kalopsia,” “I Appear Missing” has an almost uncharacteristically giant chorus. The song twists and turns for a while, finding its way back into a verse, then teases at another chorus with a bridge before letting the chorus hook take over again. The second half of the song recycles and rearranges all of the musical motifs of the first, twisting the dynamics around before a shrieking wah-wah guitar solo spins the song out of control and into the ranks of “No One Knows” and “Better Living Through Chemistry” as one of Homme’s most impressive musical works. A breathtaking song.
In the wake of “I Appear Missing,” the album closer “Like Clockwork” crawls out. Battered and broken, the song methodically unfolds. Homme once again finds himself in a vulnerable space, without even a glimmer of confidence or swagger. “One thing that is clear: it’s all downhill from here,” he sings softly, and then the song kicks in with a simple beat and guitar solo. The song winds up, intensity and grandiosity mounting on top of each other, and then settles back into a verse, with a newfound bassline. Like “Kalopsia,” baggage is picked up and carried throughout the song. The same vocal melody is present, but backed up by so much more instrumentation. “One thing that is clear: it’s all downhill from here,” the songs descends and the album ends.
. . . Like Clockwork
is a worthy addition to the QotSA discography by all accounts, as far as I’m concerned. It stands tall next to their best work, and even pushes the Queens envelope in more than a few ways. If Era Vulgaris
left any doubt in your mind that Queens of the Stone Age are one of the best rock and roll bands of the last 20 years, . . . Like Clockwork
might put them back in your good graces.
Personally, I liked Era Vulgaris
, so *** off. Long live the Queens of the Stone Age.