Album Reviews

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …LIKE CLOCKWORK – REVIEW: EXCELLENCE OF EXECUTION… THEIR BEST YET?

...Like Clockwork. Is it QOTSA's best yet?
…Like Clockwork. Is it QOTSA’s best yet?

Amongst all of the anticipation that’s the thoroughfare when a band like Queens of the Stone Age announces an upcoming release, there’s always a skepticism that acts as your own insurance policy, just in case you are disappointed. With …Like Clockwork, there is the added lashing of skepticism that comes when considered the array of outrageously giant names collaborating on such an eagerly anticipated album, and you’re wary of the personal obstacles the band has had to overcome in order to create a new record. You doubt it yourself. You ask a number of rhetorical questions. For example, how can Scissor Sister Jake Shears work on a dirty, desert stoner rock record? How will all of these cameos keep …Like Clockwork’s identity as a QOTSA record? Can you imagine Sir Elton John rocking up to the studio with Josh Homme and co.? Perhaps most pressingly, how on Earth did Homme’s recruitment process manage to produce so many larger-than-life names willing to add their own spin to …Like Clockwork?

 I asked myself all of this, and am pleased to say that by the time I’d listened, I had answers to all of the questions aforementioned and more. Despite my eager anticipation, expectation and apprehension, I was not prepared for just how huge this record is. It hasn’t let me down in the slightest, and I’m questioning why I had the slightest reluctance at all. QOTSA have delivered a fantastic record where the self-production shines through, Homme’s own enthusiasm, popularity and astuteness within the industry is plain for all to see simply in the execution of the record, and it really has been worth the hype and the build.

First and foremost, this is a suitably solid QOTSA record. The fact that everything sundry works strengthens it via a testament to the shrewdness of Homme himself. The accredited line up (Homme, van Leeuwen, Fertita and Shuman) is joined by a variety of cameo-roles and a handful of drummers, including, for the most part of the album a certain Mr. Grohl, who simply confirms throughout the record his status as one of the best drummers on our planet. The record is raw. It is real, and with an insatiable amount of texture. It’s filthy in areas. The toxic riff that is the centrepiece of opener Keep Your Eyes Peeled crawls and infects, and dares you to fasten a seatbelt before you’re taken for a journey that screams foreboding, but you know it will be much better if you leave it off. It carries you over a threshold, and you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. It’s chilling, but it only succeeds in whetting your appetite. Jake Shears is in there somewhere, and his disguise is as telling as it would have been if he’d started piping up with ‘I don’t feel like dancing’ mid-track. Bursts of guitar arrive in tangles and swirls; trapping you in a vortex you’re all too happy to be a fixture in… (I can already tell I’m gonna have to put a word limit on this).

I Sat By The Ocean is a soild QOTSA track – radio friendly but as enticing as ever with a central riff that provides a stomping ground for Homme to wail and urge in a light-hearted, carefree manner. Things get serious with The Vampyre of Time and Memory, before Dave Grohl makes his first appearance in the way of a simple beat with enough bespoke to confirm it’s him with If I Had A Tail. He leaves you under no illusions with subtle, harmonic backing vocals that tailor the twilit, pensive track, emphasising the dynamism of the record even within the first few tracks. If I Had a Tail is a meeting point for a plethora of cameos, and a superlative groove advances with a swagger. A subdued, insolent provocativeness is the cue for Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner to weave his way into the record. Again though, there is so much disguise. This is the recurring motif of the record. A plethora of superstars are blended into the record as opposed to having huge vocal solos, or stand out moments. But let’s face it. These ‘guests’ don’t need a moment in the limelight; it follows them like they’re prancing on the stage in Victoria Palace. It, in my opinion, is a true reflection of the respect and popularity Homme and Co. have in the industry, and the pull he and his band have, that names such as Alex Turner, Elton John and Jake Shears want to collaborate for a reason other than boosting their own stock. This keeps …Like Clockwork 100% a QOTSA record – something I feared it wouldn’t be.

Each track is so strong I’m finding myself incorporating a blurb for each one – something I try to avoid at all costs when reviewing an album. But, ultimately, this is genius. It would be stupid of me not to mention My God Is The Sun. Another FM friendly track, and the first new material we heard when this album was announced. One thing is for sure though, this certainly will not be your typical single that is an anomaly in the context of a record, and will certainly not be skipped in accordance. It is a barnstormer of a track, with a fast, utterly Josh Homme riff and a bassline preceding the first verse that is just perfect. The lead single is an ideal choice for the album’s first public announcement, and a track I’m not going to get tired of hearing anytime soon. My God Is The Sun stops abruptly, and falls in suitable slow motion into the trippy, spacey excursion that is Kalopsia. A handful of frantic bursts of defiant assertion punctuate a sauntering space foray, and is the ideal track for Trent Reznor to infuse into, which he does with aplomb. Again, you know he’s there without him having to shout “I’m Trent Reznor and I’m doing my bit now”, and the only result is an increased sense of depth and substance to a superbly strong track slap-bang in the middle of a superbly strong record…

I’m going to have to start trimming this down, so I’ll dive straight into Fairweather Friends, which is Sir Elton’s soiree. The piano entwines with the QOTSA filth and his unmistakable voice is the perfect foil for Homme’s equally conspicuous tones. Again, there’s no focus on the guest, just an ideal amalgamation, but if you had to miss one track on this record, Fairweather Friends would be it. Smooth Sailing is another indisputably identifiable track; the guitar tones that I’ve tried so hard to replicate on my own amp are there in all of their glory, this time in the shape of another swaggering advance that is break-neck cool and will have your body responding to its march… And there’s that provocative air again… A voluminous discharge of testosterone from Homme is without doubt the most arrogant track on the record.

Don’t worry… We’re nearly finished. Don’t get me wrong, I could write reams and reams about this record. I don’t know if you’ve cottoned on by now that I’m a fan? Penultimate track I Appear Missing gives the first inclinations of finality, and the drum performance from Grohl on this, haunting, drawling, brooding number is sensational. Impossible fills, brash strikes and incredibly complex onslaughts of pace allow the track to saunter on its own, with more attention to detail given to the mind-blowing texture of this 6-minute memoir. This is a true QOTSA masterpiece; a haunting lullaby that grows into something much more sinister, evolving into a tormenting vortex that is the most demon-transmitting outpouring from Homme himself. …Like Clockwork, the title track, brings us to a candid, definite end, and provides the listener with a sense of closure. …Like Clockwork the album is an invigorating, exciting, domineering listen, and is a journey you will likely want to take again and again.

It’s safe to say that you’ll be glad you didn’t fasten the seatbelt during Keep Your Eyes Peeled. Homme frankly states in the bookend track ‘It’s all downhill from here’, and everything is seemed to be put into perspective. It’s an alarmingly ominous conclusion, that yearns large quantities of grief and a potent reminder of the most troubled of times. Josh Homme said himself that he left something behind on the operating table, but this is a conscious effort to retrieve it. The fact of the matter is is that this is a stupendous record. In both composition and substance, it ticks every box, fulfills the hype and answers any questions asked. This is an exhibition of execution, a masterpiece in production, and proof that the true elites of the rock music world are, in most cases, just that good. The array of guests that Homme has managed to assemble are knitted into the record simply adding definition to an album that is entirely Queens of the Stone Age. I’m going to listen to it again and again, and it will take a monumental effort over the rest of the year for anything to pip this to the top of our ‘Album of 2013’ list come December. Sensationally dark, malignant and foreboding, with punctuations of the strut and swagger of old, …Like Clockwork scores a comfortable 97%… I’m just trying to work out why I haven’t given it 100…

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4 thoughts on “QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …LIKE CLOCKWORK – REVIEW: EXCELLENCE OF EXECUTION… THEIR BEST YET?

  1. Amazing record. One of their best honestly, I had my reservations too but it delivered. Also sonically their deepest record, with perfect tracking. Its great all the way through which is rare, I even find myself skipping tracks on my favorite of their albums, but not in this case.

  2. It’s taking all my strength not to listen to the leak! Lines like “A voluminous discharge of testosterone from Homme is without doubt the most arrogant track on the record.” Aren’t helping my ongoing battle! I’m glad everyone else is impressed by it. Cool review.

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