Review Summary: ...Like Clockwork shows a band not afraid to take their characteristic sound and push it into new directions, experimenting with new things, and actually evolving in the process.
So, after 15 years since their first release, and a 6 year gap since their last album, Queens of the Stone Age brings us “...Like Clockwork”.
Being a huge QOTSA fan I found myself overly excited for this record, in a way that I haven’t been in a long time for new music. The thing that was bugging me was not knowing how the album would actually sound like. Would it be more straight-forward like Queens’s earliest efforts (“Self Titled” and “Rated R”); would it be a heavy hitter like “Songs for The Deaf”, or would it be more experimental like “Era Vulgaris”? The answer is that, in a way, the album is like with EV; it tries to do things differently, but while in that record they tried new ways of doing the “QOTSA sound”, this time they’re trying to make a new, fresher sound. Even though this is not a complete reinvention of the band, this is, for most of the time, a darker, slower and more beautiful Queens of the Stone Age.
During the production of “…Like Clockwork” there was an interview in which Josh Homme (lead singer and band leader) said that while they were rehearsing for the 10th anniversary tour for their debut album they started composing most of the songs for the new record, and that playing the old songs certainly influenced these new songs. Knowing about that statement it came as no surprise that earlier this year, when I was in Lollapalooza Brasil watching their performance and they presented, for the first time the first single from the record (“My God Is The Sun”) and it was a rather ordinary QOTSA song, pretty much in line with the overall feeling of their first album mixed with their sound from the Songs for The Deaf days; but as they started releasing new material from “…LC” it became clear that this would be a different kind of QOTSA release.
There are some pretty standard QOTSA songs in here, like the aforementioned “My God is The Sun”; “I Sat By The Ocean” sounds like a modern “The Lost art of Keeping a Secret” (classic track from “Rated R”), and “If I Had a Tail” retains some of the sexiness that was seen in “Make It Wit Chu”; but where this album start to shine is when we see Queens straying off of their comfort zone. Standout tracks are “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” with it’s beautiful piano and voice intro, and its Pink Floyd-like guitar solo by the midway mark; “Fairweather Friends”, which features Sir Elton John on the piano (and some vocals) and truly feels like a fusion between both of these artists sounds; the strange “Kalopsia” and its 80’s-like synths and theatrical feel to it; “Smooth Sailing” which sounds as if “I’m Designer” from Era Vulgaris was a bottle of wine that matured for another 6 years, and last, but not least, is “I Appear Missing”, this 06 minute beauty in which Josh Homme gives his best vocal performance yet, not to mention the incredible crescendo of the latter half of the song that explodes in some beautiful guitar work.
It is also important to discuss the guest appearances in this album. The eclectic roster of artists ranges from punk rocker and Homme’s wife Brody Dalle, Foo Fighter’s frontman and rock ‘n roll superstar Dave Grohl, Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner to pop rock legend Sir Elton John and Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor. I do believe that each one of them may’ve had some influence in the process of writing the songs in which they are featured, but for the most part, these guests appears as backing vocals, or playing some instruments in a way that, almost every time you have to really be paying attention to notice them (eg.: Alex and Broody’s participation in the end of “If I Had a Tail). The only great example of the guest taking some “center” role in a song is the case of Elton John in “Fairweather Friends”, but, even in this case, his participation is mostly limited to the incredible piano work of the song.
“…Like Clockwork” works really well as an album. Even with its diversity in the sonority of each song, it is pretty cohesive as a whole. Each track flows nicely in to and out of one another, and sometimes you may even get the feeling of something similar to a concept record (which this is not).
This album, besides being another incredible addition to QOTSA discography and the best rock album I’ve heard so far in 2013, serves only as more evidence that Queens of The Stone Age is one of the best bands in rock n roll nowadays. This is a band not afraid to take their characteristic sound and push it into new directions, experimenting with new things, and actually evolving in the process.
The Vampyre of Time and Money
I Appear Missing