QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)
Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.” I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me. Until now. I really …Like Clockwork! It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity. They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting. But now they are almost always melodic, too.
Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction. It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen. Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!
The most immediate song is second: “I Sat by the Ocean”. I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen. “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens). Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.
Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement. If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band. Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013. Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way. Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.
“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums. It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe. All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.
“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance. Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number. Great tune. “Fairweather Friends” has piano. O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John! There’s also lots of rich guitar. It even feels Zeppelin-y at times. Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit? Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto. Fucked-up Disco? Sure, why not. The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.
Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”. It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense. It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet. “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before. Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.
I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging. I know he likes the colour red. I got that part. But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits. It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”. I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.
Musically? 5/5 stars. With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.