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Jun 08

QOTSA – ‘…Like Clockwork’ – Album Review

Queens Of The Stone Age - '...Like Clockwork'

QOTSA – ‘…Like Clockwork’

When it comes to hyping up an album, the Queens Of The Stone Age are masterful. About a month ago, excited and enthused I wrote about the upcoming release of their latest effort ‘…Like Clockwork‘. I was hopeful after hearing all the teasers, that it would see a return to form for the band, who since the release of 2003’s ‘Songs For The Deaf’, had been accused of perhaps losing a little focus and direction. That’s not to say that 2005’s ‘Lullabies..’ and 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’ were in any way weak efforts, both had the QOTSA DNA running right through them with some great tracks on each. But like every band, living up to the albums that change boundaries, such as ‘Songs For The Deaf’ and ‘Rated R’ can sometimes prove a difficult task.

Well QOTSA just changed the boundaries allover again. ‘…Like Clockwork’ is a masterpiece. It’s truly, truly brilliant. For me it’s the best thing the band have ever produced, by a margin. Die hards might recoil in disgust at the suggestion that anything could eclipse the vibrant creativity of ‘Songs For The Deaf’ or the majesty of ‘Rated R‘, but this record does. It really does. It may have taken a near death experience and a bout of depression for Josh Homme to really find his mojo again, but fuck me has he, and it’s dark as fuck! This is QOTSA for grown ups. The rash, brash, carefree nature of past classics has been cast aside for something wholly more thoughtful, considered and mature. This record is deep and introspective, dark and brooding. It sees the band and more namely Josh Homme in a place we have never seen him before. Clearly the events over the last few years have had an effect on him, and he has conveyed this to his music. I’ve always maintained that sad music is the most powerful of music. Music fueled with genuine angst and emotion always leaves a bigger imprint on your soul and your psyche. Look back at records like ‘Dirt’ by Alice in Chains or Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ These are records penned with the blood, sweat and tears of the writers. Raw emotion, bared souls turned into chords and melodies that strike at the very core of the listener. This record does that.

And it does it from the very start, opening track ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled‘ a slow, lilting stomp shrouded in darkness, rumbling like an oncoming storm, a flash of wailing guitar breaks like lightning on the horizon as Josh sings, ‘And I know you will never believe, I play this as though I’m alright’, hinting at his state of mind before the song morphs into a spiraling whirlwind triggered by the lyrics, ‘If life is but a dream, then WAKE ME!’  Straight off the bat it’s clear the band have veered onto a different path, hinting at the past but looking to the future through cynical, desperate eyes. Next up is ‘I Sat By The Ocean‘, this track is pure Queens.. A strong bass line drenched in melody and lyrics that sing of love broken by a lie. It should be sad, but the feel of the song is the opposite. As I said, classic QOTSA. The third track is where things get serious. ‘The Vampyre Of Time and Memory’. It opens with a slow piano, and a somber sounding Josh eventually singing of loneliness and questioning his purpose in this life after emerging from the darkness of a near death experience, possibly? I dunno, lyrics are subjective, but that’s what I take from it. The track builds slowly to a fabulous guitar solo steeped in dark emotion. This is the track that confirms that Josh and this band have matured possibly in a way that nobody really expected. An awesome piece of music. Next comes ‘If I Had A Tail’, this is another pure QOTSA track. It lightens the mood after the previous number, mid paced, catchy, another one that gets your head nodding and your face smiling. Effortless class.

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Awesome artwork courtesy of Boneface

Track 5, and already signalling the midway point of the album  is the awesome single, ‘My God Is The Sun’. This track hits the ground running with wailing guitars and crashing cymbals. The bass line kicks in with a groove of epic proportions and I can’t help but think classic Mars Volta, and considering they are my favourite band ever it’s no bad thing! I really don’t have a clue what this song is about other than the obvious, that without sun there is no life, but it doesn’t matter, it kicks arse! Next is ‘Kalopsia’. Before making this album and during his recovery from death and depression (yeah I know it sounds stupid but it’s kinda true, he died and got better), Josh made it clear to his bandmates that if they wanted to make a record with him, they had to ‘come into the fog’. This track is the fog. It’s beautiful, it’s sublime, it’s a little bit crazy, it’s a stunning piece of music. It makes no sense yet makes perfect sense. I could listen to music like this forever and once again it shows a different, more mature side of this band, even in its eccentricity. ‘Fairweather Friends’ follows. This is another accomplished piece of music, with a strong riff  and some fantastic guitar work. Josh is really on fire throughout the entire album on guitar. But this is another heavyweight track that’s slick, clean, concise and powerful. No QOTSA record would be complete without it’s sexy track, and ‘Smooth Sailing’ fits that brief to a tee. I kinda stole that description from somebody close but she wont mind. Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears features on this one and it almost sounds like they could’ve written it. It’s groovy, and yes it’s sexy, it just makes you wanna move! It’s like a ray of positivity piercing through the fog. Get up and dance cos everything is gonna be okay. Or is it? Track 9, the absolutely perfect and poignant ‘I Appear Missing’, is quite possibly the greatest track the band have ever written. And yeah, I know, the die hards. Fuck’em, this track is pure, fucking brilliance. The band gave us a little teaser of this track before the album was released, posting half of it with a video by the awesome Boneface up on the web. It was the first half of the song and it was clear it was something special. The full length version is just sublime, with the mainly instrumental second half section completing a thing of desperate beauty. For me this song harks to Josh’s near death experience again and the turmoil within when he realized just how close he had come to leaving this earth. I really do not know whether that’s the case, but who the fuck cares, it’s amazing. It is however the penultimate track and leads into the finale, the title track, ‘…Like Clockwork’. How many QOTSA songs make you wanna cry? This track makes me wanna cry. It’s a sad song with a frank message. Josh sings beautifully, the structure is sublime, the musicianship is second to none. Another thing of pure melancholic beauty and a fabulous way to end an amazing record. True perfection.

If I ever had any criticism about this band’s previous albums it was that they tended to lose a little focus towards the end, and that’s where this record stands tall above all the rest. This album hits the mark from start to finish, there isn’t a track on the album that shouldn’t be there, the track listing is perfect. Yeah it may seem a little bit short but anything more would have been too much. I cannot imagine Queens Of The Stone Age putting out a more complete, more focused piece of music. Even the artwork is perfect. This band have delivered us an astonishing piece of music, after 15 years as an entity, this band have delivered us their masterpiece. You can check out the vid below to get a taste of the album but really don’t fuck around, just buy it!