Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age-…Like Clockwork

MORE LIKE QUEENS OF THE BONER AGE!!! Because they give me a boner. Because they are so good. Excellent, in fact. Okay, I should go back a bit. QOTSA have just released a stellar new album, an album stewing in hibernation for the past 6 years, since the previous pyscho-drama of 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’. The anticipation that has been building in the collective rock community for ‘…Like Clockwork’ has been more twisted than a pigs dick. All the news of the guest stars, from Foo Fighter and Nirvana skinsman Dave Grohl to the Nine Inch Nail and human muscle Trent Reznor, from pipsqueak Scissor Sister Jake Shear to Arctic Monkey Alex Turner. Even Sir Elton John wanted some of that sweet, syrupy Queen action (Insert your own joke about Elton and Queens here). As the album drew closer to release, all the Homme fans in the house started to panic. Will it be a catastrafuck? Will all the guest stars crowd the record and turn it into a mess of mish mashed sounds? Will QOTSA go dubstep?! Holy fuck, they didn’t chuck a Muse did they!?. Luckily, no, they’re not that fucked up (except for Nick Oliveri) and, for the most part, every fans nightmares have been quenched, and the record remains a tauntingly morbid masterpiece.

Before ‘…Like Clockwork’s release, Josh Homme, lead singer/guitarist and my ginger ninja compatriot, described the album as ‘documenting the journey of moving forward, you know. It was a tough time and I thought, ‘I can run away from this, or I can run into it.’ Indeed, the album does present that sort of view. Howling maelstrom’s of horrifying sound swell and capsize, and there is a sense of moving down a never-ending highway, the conscious notion that pushing forward is the only option. Frenzied, buffed riffs tear through and shred undeniably, melancholy juxtaposing hope, torpedoing drums splinter a chaos, and, overall, the classic Queens of the Stone Age sound fills the entire record.

After that overtly pompous intro to the album, let’s get stuck into the great aspects of ‘…Like Clockwork’. It revels in that classic mysterious, doom vibe that has always separated Queens of the Stone Age from your average band. Explosions of sound have always worked in their favour, as well as cutting edge bass lines that  dominate the listener, and force you into a cowering fetal position, and all these elements are present. ‘My God is the Sun’, probably the first taste of the album for many fans, as the band premiered the song at Lollapalooza Brazil earlier this year, is an infuriatingly dense track, filled to the brim with confident sound. It pounds ahead with primal instinct, thumping with undaunted and god-like fever. Homme’s vocals quail, and the guitar hook manages to perpetrate every corner of the brain. However, it is definitely the drums that create that tidal aspect to the track, and no wonder, Grohl is behind the kit. It is a shockingly awesome display of power, as is the clunky ‘Smooth Sailing’. Homme’s trailing, seductive voice calls the listener like a siren before bashing them with harsh, snarled disposition. It’s a ghastly incantation of slime and spatter, a whole wave of personalities present on the song, and even the classic bouncy harmonica meets-guitar  sound solo making an appearance (A lot of fans might remember something similar on ‘3’s and 7’s’ or ‘Skin on Skin’, but this is much more intimidating and gruesome). The bouncin’, bopping rhythm makes me picture this: imagine John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, taking over the Splash Mountain ride at Disney Land, and then replace that ‘Skip-de-de-do-da’ with ‘Smooth Sailing’. Yeah, it’s fucked up, but that’s QOTSA for ya. Another stand out bomber is the slipping and sliding ‘If I Had A Tail’. The spectre-railing-against-your-window effect that chorus has is down right creepy, and there’s not many songs out there that can lay claim to a reaction like that. When Homme laments/accuses ‘IF I HAD A TAIL/ I’D OWN THE NIGHT/ IF I HAD A TAIL/ TO SWAT THE FLIES’ you can practically feel the buzzing drone of the guitar and bass combo needling away at your skin, breathing hotly on your neck.

Now all this is truly impressive stuff, and it’s mind-bogglingly good, but sometimes it’s hard not to wonder ‘Have I heard this before? On another QOTSA record?’. Sure, it stays diverse enough to be different, but it’s not a substantial difference to say, ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’ or ‘Songs for the Deaf’. That’s not the only thing on the  that puts a quizzical half-frown on my ugly mug. Some songs seem too big to fit their own shoes. Sure, Queens of the Stone Age have always had a penchant for the melodramatic, in fact, it would be strange to hear their music not pushed to the limit, railing against oblivion, but at points, such as moments in ‘Fairweather Friends’ and ‘I Appear Missing’,  and indeed the entirety of the maelstrom of ‘Kalopsia’, it appears as though the dusty part of desert rock is gone. Then there’s the tragedy of title track ‘…Like Clockwork’, which is a completely mistaken way to end such a jam packed album. Instead of going full throttle, QOTSA loosen their grip and let victory slip off their dicks like the broken condom that led to the baby that led to your 9-to-5 clock examining job and the mortgage that has you by the balls, all for a house that looks like something a Star Wars Storm Trooper threw up.

Despite all this, it’s classic Queens of the Stone Age on display here. Instead of going all out alien, they’ve brought back what they know best: desert rock. They’ve proved that they can bust out an earth-quaking jam with the best of them, that their musicianship is nigh-perfect, and that their lyrical prowess for nihilsm and woe is next to none. This is an amazing record, and while not one of their best (I mean, who could top the genius of ‘Songs for the Deaf’?), it basks in an apocalyptic desert light, riding into the sunset on a skeleton horse, bound for fuck knows what. Nah, Queens of the Stone Age more or less fucking nailed it on this one.