Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

 Since getting together in 1996 and releasing their self-titled debut two years later, Queens of the Stone Age have been one of the most intriguing bands out there. A revolving line-up, many side projects and a 6 year hiatus have ramped up the excitement for this weeks release of …Like Clockwork, the bands 6th studio album.

A difficult band to categorise, Queens… fall somewhere short of metal and are a bit too heavy for indie and don’t have the guitar heavy stoner rock sound of Homme’s previous band Kyuss. It’s difficult to say whether it’s in spite of this or because of this that they’ve managed to achieve commercial success worldwide whilst remaining at the cutting edge. To me, trying to sum up QotSA is difficult – the best I can come up with is their sound is akin to a guy walking into a pub, stealing your seat, downing your beer then taking your girlfriend. And, because he’s so damn cool, you almost thank him for it!

The album kicks off with ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’, a sinister, de-tuned, sparse track that seems to tease the listener as if it’s about to kick into life at any second. It also throws in the first guest star, a bit of a shock, with Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters on backing vocals. Next up, ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ does exactly what frontman Josh Homme wanted when starting the band when he said he wanted to start a band that people would recognise within 3 seconds. A distinct change of pace for ballad ‘The Vampyre of Time & Memory’ next, but whilst it slows the album down, it maintains the sinister edge felt with the opener.

‘If I Had a Tail’ really ramps things up again and introduces the first guests in former Queens bassist Nick Oliveri, long-time collaborator Mark Lanegan and Arctic Monkey Alex Turner. ‘My God is the Sun’, the first single from the album is just what you expect from them – a jagged riff, frenetic Dave Grohl drumming and a hard, pounding bassline. Next up, ‘Kalopsia’, sees Homme channelling Bowie, with help again from Turner and Trent Reznor of Nine inch Nails and is a song that switches from an almost nursery rhyme melody before crashing in with the heavy chorus.

‘Fairweather Friends’ also boasts its share of guests; Reznor again, this time alongside Elton John and not the ballad that could’ve been expected and again has a distinct Bowie feel to it. ‘Smooth Sailing’ is a brilliant little slice of sleazy funk, the kind that only Queens could pull of and Homme’s vocals are superb on this. Penultimate track, ‘I Appear Missing’, returns to the sinister feel at the start of the album, again sparse and menacing and leads perfectly into ‘…Like Clockwork’ which introduces new drummer, Jon Theodore, to the band. A piano-lad ballad that leaves the listener with a touch of melancholy.

This is a superb album. Understated it may be but it is a beautifully paced and put together record that shows a development in Homme’s songwriting since the last Queens release in 2007. Whilst it maybe doesn’t have the immediate standout tracks like ‘No One Knows’ or ‘Go With The Flow’ the album feels more cohesive than previous efforts. All in all, fantastic.

Graeme Campbell

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