After 6 years of Hiatus and “studio work”, the latest effort from Josh Homme’s desert-rock outfit Queens Of The Stone Age is an alluringly dark record. With a modest 10 tracks in total, Homme has forgone the typical “filler” that lengthier albums endure and produced something that is well crafted, focused, and more importantly – full of of bloody good anthems.
At least musically, …Like Clockwork follows the trajectory of QOTSA last album Eva Vulgaris. (2007) Whilst sonically it is a bigger, less compressed sound, it is a clear progression stylistically from their earlier efforts. In fact, fans of the detuned noise of Rated R (2000) or Songs for the Deaf (2002) may find ..Like Clockwork somewhat alien. ..Like Clockwork is more experimental than it is brutal; with funkier, sexier undertones overshadowing the traditional “QOTSA Sound”. As a result, this will inevitably devide a fanbase who have grown to love a different sound. However, that is not to say this new record is a pop album or an insult to their earlier work. Clearly, ..Like Clockwork is a lighter sound, but a positive progression for the band. The opening track Keep Your Eyes Peeled establishes instantly that this is still a rock and roll record – however it is important to understand that the overall direction is considerably different to the stoner rock of QOTSA’s earlier records.
In fact, the standout tracks demonstrate this sonic change. I Stood By The Ocean is an surprisingly upbeat track with a slide guitar that seems a reminiscent of Eva Vulgaris. (3’s and 7’s comes to mind). By comparison, the more experimental tracks in the album provide a notable contrast. The eastern-piano of Fairweather Friends seems a step forward from the stylistic themes of the previous album and the slow moving ballads The Vaympire of Time And Memory/Like Clockwork prove diversity exists from within this tracklisting. Moreover, the disco beat of If I Had A Tail and funky riffing of Smooth Sailing furthers this contrast, with QOTSA heading into a direction that seems a complete departure from the likes of Rated R. That said, it is not to say that the band have forgotten their roots either. I Appear Missing is a 6 minute epic that encapsulates more or less everything that the band have become. Strong lyrics, intricate riffing and a catchy “with my toes on the edge it’s such a lovely view” hook in the outro. Above else, …Like Clockwork is a combination of progression and experimentation, building up an already well established foundation.
Moreover, influences are clearly prominet throughout the whole of this record. Most notably, there is a wonderful Bowie-esque vibe on a number of Homme’s vocals and melodies. The Vampyre of Time and Memory is a stripped down piano ballad that oozes with 70’s nostalgia, likewise, the vocals in Smooth Sailing are undoubtedly ‘Bowie’. In addition, Homme also called upon a number of collaborators during the writing and production of this album. For example, the contribution of ex-Stone Age Queen Dave Grohl, provides a drum track that really fills out the depth of the record, adding to this more immersive sound. Likewise, the backing vocals from Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) – If I Had A Tail, Trent Reznor, (Nine Inch Nails) – Kalopsia and Jake Sheers (Scissor Sisters) – Smooth Sailing introduce different elements into the overall sound of ..Like Clockwork. Whilst ultimately Homme’s vocals dominate, these collaborators evidently influenced the production and writing of these tracks, aiding the diversity of this record.
In fact, ..Like Clockwork also demonstrates the development in Homme’s ability as a musician and songwriter. A combination of thoughtful and sharp words underline the sheer craft that has gone into this album.
“It’s only falling in love because you hit the ground” – I Appear Missing
“I blow my load over the status quo” – Smooth Sailing
Clearly, this combination of wit and meaning is a reflection of ability. The songs are deeper and interesting because of this, and combine with the catchy hooks that the instrumentation provides.
Ultimatly, ..Like Clockwork is a textbook rock album. It infuses all the essential catchy hooks and choruses, memorable riffs and melodies but puts an original spin on them all. Clearly this is a monument to Homme’s ability as a songwriter and the bands ability to fuse his energy and talent into something focused. Moreover, there is an bizarrely alluring quallity to this album that is incredibly hard to describe. The dark undertones are almost hypnotic and the combination of nostalgic timbres with modern riffing makes it a compelling listen overall. Above all else, ..Like Clockwork marks not a departure from QOTSA, but a positive progression into a new direction, and undoubtatly one of the best albums of the year.