Review Summary: The best rock album of 2013?
It certainly took long enough.
Six years after the release of Era Vulgaris, an album that seemed to garner mixed reviews, Queens of the Stone Age finally returned with their sixth album, ...Like Clockwork. After teasing fans for months with cryptic videos and written messages that served to ratchet up expectations for the album, the question simply became: Could Joshua Homme and company deliver an album that harkened back to the masterpieces of Rated R & Songs For The Deaf?
Yes, and no.
Fans expecting the heaviness of the aforementioned Rated R & Songs For The Deaf may be sorely disappointed. This time around, Homme and company mostly engage in slow-building, slow-burning balladry-esque desert rock that floats along instead of racing ahead. "My God Is The Sun" does mostly feature explosive action/grooves and riffing but is tempered by quieter verses that features maraca(!), and "Smooth Sailing" is one of the most bluesy stompers that Queens has ever written. But, many of the songs on ...Like Clockwork are quieter in nature that slowly build up into climaxes.
Indeed, it is in the quieter moments where QOTSA really shines on ...Like Clockwork. In particular, the closing tandem of "I Appear Missing" and the title track is simply stunning, as the former sounds almost country-rock in as Joshua Homme sings ominously about mortality. The title track on the other hand features haunting piano and some of the most emotional lyrics Homme has ever penned. The way he delivers the line "one thing that's clear, it's all downhill from here" will stay with you for quite some time. However, even the title track eventually builds into a beautiful wall of sound. A case could be made that many of the songs on ...Like Clockwork were composed like an orchestra, from the way that they build from quiet beginnings to powerful crescendos. Piano is very prominent on ...Like Clockwork, from the title track, to the quiet twinkling on "Keep Your Eyes Peeled", "The Vampyre of Time And Memory, and "Kalopsia" to Sir Elton John's contributions to the mid-tempo rocker "Fairweather Friends."
I'm not sure if it was intentional, but many of these songs ("I Sat By The Ocean", "If I Had A Tail", "I Appear Missing" and the title track, etc.) are tailor made for cruising down a desert highway in a convertible. Like I said before, anyone who comes into ...Like Clockwork expecting the raw heavy rock of Queen's early '00's output may be disappointed. On ...Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age have (mostly) reined in their mammoth riffs and instead created a set of quieter, more introspective songs. In the process, they have created what may be their best album since Songs For The Deaf. There is something darkly appealing about this album, but it may take several listens for some people who may come into this record expecting instant gratification to discover the seductive appeal. Like an onion, there are many layers to ...Like Clockwork, and on every listen I find something new to appreciate. It is really a stunning and beautiful album, and is a not-to-be-missed treat for rock fans.
However, I just hope that the last words that Joshua Homme sings on ...Like Clockwork do not turn out to be eerily prophetic the next time around:
"It's all downhill from here."
I certainly hope not.