…Like Clockwork – Album Review

May 30, 2013 9:00 pm

…Like Clockwork is the latest release from one of the front-runners of modern rock music. Queens of the Stone Age have been hard at work writing, recruiting, plotting and producing as their follow-up to 2007’s Era Vulgaris is set for release on the 3rd June 2013. …Like Clockwork has also seen 3 cryptic messages sent to 3 different magazines as well as 5 animated videos released along the way featuring parts of the songs combined with an animated story that sporadically flows through all of the videos. Recently the entire album was made available to stream free online and this is my chemically enhanced review of it. 

The first track on the album is titled “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”. The introduction starts of with the sound of smashing objects before drums introduce us to a distorted guitar riff sludgier than a molten tar pit. Enter frontman Josh Homme’s poetic and somewhat haunting vocals and you have the first verse. the song continues through overdriven guitar licks into a ghostly psychotic groove that sucks you in immediately. With contributions from Scissor Sisters’s Jake Shears more adding to the song rather than being given the spotlight, “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” is a strong opener for the album and a definite sign of things to come.

Next up is a song named “I Sat By The Ocean”. The song started with those classic Queens of the Stone Age sounds and a slide guitar intro topped the whole thing of. Crunching distorted guitar and Homme’s trademark voice complimented the arrangement and made for a lot more familiar sound than the opening track. The kind of song that is best appreciated on an open road in a fast, preferably roofless car with A LOT of volume. It is the second of three songs (Keep Your Eyes Peeled, I Sat By The Ocean and Kalopsia) to feature drummer Joey Castillo who parted ways with the band during the recording of the record.

Queens of the Stone Age performing in 2007

Queens of the Stone Age performing in 2007

The third track on the album is called “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”. Its introduced with what sounds like a wasp extremely close to your ear before the piano starts and Homme’s soft vocals sing about a kind of melancholy vulnerability before overdriven lead guitar and a steady beat kick in and the verse plays through. The lyrics portray a kind of love sick confusion as Homme sings “Does anybody ever get this right? I feel no love” and the music features a progressive melancholy that is formatted into a chilled jam. This is the first track to feature Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame on drums. Grohl also plays drums on all tracks apart from 1, 2, 6 and 10.

Track number four is called “If I Had A Tail” and features Arctic Monkey’s frontman Alex Turner wielding guitar and vocals, Nick Oliveri the former bassist of Queens of the Stone Age from 1998 to 2004 and Mark Lanegan another former member who contributed to three previous albums. The song starts with quite strings that become increasingly louder before before busting into a slick rock and roll groove. Homme’s vocals almost sound as if they’re being sung through a megaphone and the chorus breaks down into more psychedelic riffage before a bluesy solo leads the whole thing neatly into the second verse. After the second chorus we drift into a more relaxed vibe but only for a moment as things get heavy once again for the outro.

Next we have the first single from the album “My God is the Sun”. First performed at Lollapalooza in Brazil, the track opens with loud, driven guitar work and the frantic drumming of Dave Grohl. This song again illustrates a more familiar sound from the Californian five piece resembling something that could well be found on some of their earlier albums. It is also one of only a few song to not include any guest artists in terms of lyrics or vocals although Dave Grohl does once again appear on the drums.

Kalopsia, the definition of which meaning things appearing more beautiful than they are, is the next song to grace our ears which opens with electronic samples and deep breathing before melting into a somewhat inebriated, rose-tinted lullaby of sorts. Dream-like vocals and soothing guitar accompany until breaking into a distorted, much “punkier” sound. In time this to melts away back into another soft verse that could only be described as floating on a cloud of absinthe. We then collapse into a crescendo of more punk mayhem with a soft rose-tinted haze before being eventually counted out by the fading drums and bass.

The seventh track on the album is the epic “Fairweather Friends” which features Dave Grohl on drums, vocals from Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan, Trent Reznor and none other than Sir Elton John contributing on piano and vocals. A progressive hard rock riff with an essence of Mastodon precedes the vocals that build into a fuzzy guitar solo before the piano kicks in and gives the thing an even grander feel as the chorus explodes into your ears. This particular track also allows Homme to show of his own vocal talent as well as the guest appearances are fitted to the song. There are certainly no “Take it away Elton!” moments. Another screeching solo accompanies the climactic build up towards the end before being unexpectedly cut off with Homme stating “I don’t give a shit about them anyhow”.

...Like Clockwork

…Like Clockwork album artwork

Next is “Smooth Sailing”. opening with distorted interference before being taken over by delicious jangly guitar work that you would have to physically stop yourself from nodding your head to. The track features what could be described as quintessential Queens of the Stone Age guitar work and the drumming from Dave Grohl can almost be felt inside your chest cavity. With lyrical genius such as “I blow my load over the status quo” this venture would certainly be a contender for best song on the album. The alternative musical equivalent of heroin, the more you hear the more you feel you need to hear. Doused in sporadic solos and killer vocals from Homme this is one to look out for. Reeking of carnival debauchery this one definitely makes you tick.

Number nine and the penultimate track of the album is extremely creepy “I Appear Missing”. Opening with a steady drum beat and a guitar that does its best to mimic a clock in its insidious yet playful way. The heavy, pounding chorus does more than produce a thick sinister atmosphere and vocal work is among the best on the album. After a psychedelic breakdown followed by a short pause we are taken back to original chorus riff with an alternate vocal rhythm leading into another chorus outing and a space-like solo sounding like something straight out of the heart of Alpha Centauri. The guitar solo fades and the vocals take the lead until all fades away and you are left feeling like you just got back down to Earth.

The tenth and final track of the album is the title track “…Like Clockwork” which is the only track on the album to feature new Queens of the Stone Age drummer Jon Theodore, formerly of the now separated The Mars Volta. Opening with more slow and melancholy piano and Josh Homme’s airy vocals.  The song could very well be mistaken for Bowie or even Pink Floyd with its exceptional instrumentals. The lyrics caress your ears as lines such as “Most of what you see my dear is not worth letting go because not every thing that goes around comes back around y’know” and “One thing that is clear, its all down hill from here” set the tone for what is an incredible piece of music. The ending is reminiscent of the music from the old Bond films and taps into the audio nerve the same way something by David Axelrod would. The album in my opinion is exceptional and if you are a long term fan of the band or want to see what kind stuff these guys can produce, I could not recommend it more.

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