Review: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Published on June 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker doesn’t care what you think; Queens of the Stone Age’s 2007 album Era Vulgaris was and is superb. Find us a more imperious opening track than “Turnin on the Screw”, for instance, or a more peculiar and splendorous QOTSA moment than “Into the Hollow”. It’s that latter song and the likes of “Make It Wit Chu” that arguably point the way towards …Like Clockwork, which, once the pulverising first few tracks have had their wicked way with you, unfurls with no little grace.
Josh Homme’s near/actual-death experience informs much of …Like Clockwork, supposedly, and this is most evident in his self-explanatory exclamation of “I’m alive! Hooray!” on “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, a melting pot of joy, relief and caustic understatement that tallies with the simultaneous savouring and decrying of the senses within “If I Had a Tail” (“I wanna suck, I wanna lick / I wanna cry, I wanna spit / Tears of pleasure, tears of pain / They trickle down your face the same”).
Musically, Queens of the Stone Age continue to forge creative new shapes out of their scuzzier-than-thou portentousness. The distorted groans of bass in opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” must be damned near “the brown note”, making for a tremendously effective counterpoint to the synchronicity of piano and Homme’s voice overhead. “I Sat By the Ocean” is almost good time rock and roll by comparison, albeit it would probably be the ‘weird’ track on most good time rock and roll LPs, unravelling with consummate psychedelia and going from strength to strength while throwing in surprises at every turn, sufficiently melodic ones as to no doubt alienate some existing fans. If you ask us, though, they’ve every right to evolve when they do it this masterfully.
“I Sat By the Ocean” suddenly falls out for the piano lament of “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, which lightens the mood by zapping some cheesy retro synth at us then skipping into an easy-going, minor-key, late-Beatles-meets-Nina-Simone sort of thing with a wicked subtle shift into its chorus. Homme’s “Does anyone ever get this right?”, followed by an entirely excusable wailing guitar solo, answers its own question. “If I Had a Tail” is a mid-paced Who/Zeppelin/Sabbath-y romp with vast shoves of fizzy bright distortion, “My God is the Sun” decent enough fare, and then …Like Clockwork makes a beeline for the scenic route on “Kalopsia”.
Such a gorgeous soft sweet unexpected pretty little nighttime soft sweet gorgeous thing, “Kalopsia” could conceivably have slotted right into Blur’s Coxonless 2003 album Think Tank, not a reference point we’d anticipated calling upon. It breaks into anthemic-in-the-good-way sludge rock then reverts back to its gorgeous soft sweet unexpected pretty little nighttime soft sweet gorgeousness, a simple idea so brilliantly and arrestingly executed that you’ve just got to ruffle its hair and toss it treats.
“Fairweather Friends” continues in this vein, prompting this reviewer to openly ask: is this closest that QOTSA have come to sounding like Abbey Road-era Beatles? Guitar screeeeeches as it wigs out fantastically, before a gleefully abrupt ending which we shan’t spoil for you, albeit we sort of already have done just by mentioning it. “Smooth Sailing” is anything but when, approximately four minutes in, it starts to squeal righteously, dazzlingly and – to coin a term, or at least take a grammatical liberty – alienly.
“One thing is clear, it’s all downhill from here” falsettos Homme on the faintly Floydian closing title track, and it would be remiss of us not to whittle some manner of reassuring conclusion out of it. So, here we go: …Like Clockwork, we are delighted to report, ‘trends upwards’.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
…Like Clockwork is out now on Matador.