REVIEW: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

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.

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29 comments

  1. I could never get into these guys but I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this one. Glad you liked it! That packaging “extended credits” thing is a bit annoying! Great cover though…

    There was a Manowar album where all the credits and lyrics were in runes and you had to either translate them (!) or download the album sleeve in english to read them. Honestly.

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      1. It was a fairly neat idea but… it still means having to go onto my laptop if I want to check the lyrics (which, admittedly, isn’t something that happens very often!)

        I’m glad QOTSA turned things around for you! Sounds like you weren’t so fussed about the last few albums.

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        1. Well that’s the great thing about you enjoying the new CD. Now that you’re in such a QOTSA mood you might get more out of the previous albums than you did when you listened to them before.

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  2. Impressive and diverse list of special guests & nice point about artists maturing while maintaining integrity. I’ve been listening to the self-titled QOTSA this month, with my only complaint being the lack of Dave Grohl! Glad to hear he & Nick are both back for appearances here.

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      1. Sometimes when there’s so many cameos, the individual songs aren’t necessarily great, more just neat to see all those musicians together. Based on your review, it sounds like the record holds up nicely, guest stars or no guest stars!

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  3. I’m a casual fan of these guys. I’ve got 3-4 of their albums, and the new one is on order. Your review has me a little more excited about its arrival than I already was, so well done. Disappointed to hear about the packaging, but that seems to be the way a lot of artists are going these days. At least they kept the price down on this one.

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    1. Mrs. LeBrain bought this one for me with her Bingo winnings! I believe she paid $12 at Walmart.

      I hope you like it Rich. Everything with music is subjective, but I did like it a lot. And I will continue to like it this summer!

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  4. Another band I’ve heard, eyed in the stores, but never actually bought. Your review makes me curious. It’s only June and you have two contenders for Album Of The Year, already? Hot damn.

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    1. Of course that is subject to change, but it’ll be fun in January to see if these two albums made the list eh?

      Personally I think you should always go with earlier Queens as a first purchase. But on the other hand, I dislike the word “should” — if anything you should do whatever you damn well please, but I consider this album a return to form in quality.

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      1. I enjoy the year end lists. We’ll see when we get there!

        I do have the one QotSA album, courtesy of you yourself, the one with the white bikini bottom and pearl necklace cover. That one kicks some serious ass. Yup, I should have more. Add them to the list!

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  5. I’m not much of a fan of QOTSA – I once saw them play a really godawful gig in Manchester on their ‘Songs for the Deaf’ tour; apart from Mark Lanegan (a man who can do no wrong for me) they were just lifeless and dull. Apart from that I’ve liked the odd track but not many.

    I’ll give this a go though, lots of people I trust are raving about it.

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        1. Probably not a bad idea. Still hunting for the iTunes pre-order bonus track on that one, which was Gunman (Live). I have a 10″ single with a bonus track called Hwy 1 which is awesome. I hate missing songs…

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        2. That’s the thing with those darned iTunes bonus tracks. When they are only out for a limited time, you’re usually screwed if you don’t pre-order. I managed to snag the Def Leppard ones from the Yeah album after the fact, but most of the time once they’re gone they’re gone.

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