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Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

2013 Matador Records
Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

To understand why there is so much darkness on the latest album from the reigning kings of sun-baked desert rock requires a look back at the circumstances that shaped it. As band nucleus Josh Homme himself has stated, he “died” on the operating table as a result of complications during a 2010 knee surgery.

So while the brush with death and the lengthy three months of bedridden recovery that followed gave him hope, it also appears to have given him further clarity on the bigger picture. In that sense, “…Like Clockwork” feels very much appreciative of one’s own time on this earth and how they choose to spend it.

The slinky anthemic rock n’ roll hooks and paper cut sharp guitar licks are no longer the primary currency; instead replaced by dense plodding ballads and introspective excursions through the psyche. Aiding the band on this journey are not only an army of friends, but a penchant for more obscure instrumentation in the form of strings and such that give the songs a foreboding emotional heft.

In many ways, ‘…Like Clockwork” is reminiscent of a mid-career record from one of the 70′s classic rock behemoths. An undertaking where the damage from the hard partying ways and recklessness of youth has begun to catch up and the impact of one’s legacy becomes a key consideration.

Boasting a diverse collection of songs and slow burn tempos, “…Like Clockwork” is not exactly inviting through its initial spins. In fact, given the ground covered it almost feels impenetrable, reluctant to cough up its secrets. It may take some effort on the listener’s part to digest, but if they persevere there’s a ton of subtle complexity and beauty to be found in the relative bleakness the band present.

Take a song like “I Appear Missing“, which sounds like a slow-motion freefall through purgatory. It’s a haunting endeavor with stark lyrical content and a reluctant sense of acceptance, yet its tone is surprisingly hopeful. “Kalopsia” wades through the tropical sunset of emotional afterthought, contrasting bleak lyrical delivery with an almost ironic quirk.

Songs like “My God Is The Sun” and “I Sat By The Ocean” pay homage to the groups rocking past; while the slick squeals and bizarre bombast of “Smooth Sailing” could fit right in on “Era Vulgaris“. Perhaps one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable tracks on the album though is “Fairweather Friends“.

Despite having underpinnings that could find it a home on a Chicago record; its lively keys and guest turns from Elton John, Trent Reznor, Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri showcase the bonds of friendship while seemingly decrying the lack of loyalty its title suggests.

It’s this kind of tongue in cheek twist that has always made Queens Of The Stone Age‘s material stand out. “…Like Clockwork” is well aware of this and pays many a moment of fan service in this regard.

But where the bands past albums have often been playful and bright, there are few moments on this opus where the sun gets in your eyes. This is the cold night spent in the desert after the blazing heat of a career’s worth of success.

Leave it to the Queens Of The Stone Age to enlist a cadre of artists that includes Dave Grohl (who handles a wealth of the studio drumming,) Trent Reznor, Elton John and more, and for the most part, outshine them all while at their darkest.

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COMMENTS

24
    • avatar
    • Tortilla Man     June 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Great CD. Yeah it’s different, but if you had a chance to watch the NPR recording it translates well. These songs are more complex than the ones before it and still rock. Hope to catch them on tour!

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    • BlueMoonRising     June 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      “This is the cold night spent in the desert after the blazing heat of a career’s worth of success.”

      I think this line depicts what this album is perfectly. It is absolutely one that you need to give a couple of spins. After hearing most of the songs on it the first few times I thought I would be disappointed, but it is far from disappointing. In fact, I think it might be their most ambitious and their best work yet.

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    • Stereotypical Evil Archer     June 9, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      I’ve only listened to this 6 times and it’s not working for me. This might take a few months to get into. Considering how much I love the rest of QOTSA’s catalog as well as The Desert Sessions and Them Crooked Vultures, I’m surprised how disappointed I am.

      I guess I’ll just drink wine and screw.

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    • BlueBalls     June 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      Well I’ve had around a month..err…I mean 6 days to digest this album. …Like Clockwork is not at all what I expected but I love it. I don’t see myself taking it out of rotation for a while. Tracks 6 through 9 are the highlights for me but I think it kind of has that Dark Side of the Moon quality where the full effect is achieved when you listen to the entire album uninterrupted. It’s an experience.

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    • wearesorta138     June 10, 2013 at 7:25 am

      The last two songs are alright but it all seems too calm. Like QOTSA lite. So much so I actually got bored listening to it. Maybe it’ll grow on me later with some more spins or being in a different mood or on something other than cold beer. Till then I’ll stick with the rest of the Queen’s catalog and wait for the new Truckfighters album.

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    • MyDarkPassenger     June 10, 2013 at 11:23 am

      I also am a LONG time QOTSA fan and haven’t found a fondness for anything on this record as of yet. Being such a dedicated fan, I do believe I will find at least some respect for this record, so I won’t be giving up too easily. One thing I do appreciate is the vocal production. It sounds almost like an old 45, kind of scratchy and distant. Nice touch.

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    • G Scotty     June 10, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Haven’t stopped listening since it dropped on spotify, completely hooked on this record. Its hypnotic in a way. I definitely agree with that mid-career 70′s vibe. There are many moments that I can’t help but recall Bowie, and I love it.

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    • Totally agree with the review, this is album it absolutely haunting and beautiful. It strikes a nerve because it brings back some old memories from a few years back in my life. Josh is such a beast of a writer and his crew add all those extra flavor and stylings on this excellent release.

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    • They Ate Their Macaroons in Silence     June 10, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      This is a greatest hits cd consisting of all new material.
      Fairweather Friends is the only track I get your Chicago reference. To any who might not have liked Chicago, it’s probably because you heard material after VII.
      Thanks to this, Tesseract and Dillinger, I’m madly in love with new music this summer.
      I hope this grows on those who haven’t gotten into it yet. Not one to miss!

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    • j from nj     June 10, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      I was a fan of “Era Vulgaris”, but not as a whole. There were some really good tracks, but not from front-to-back. This is a complete album, like “Songs for the Deaf”.

      This is an absolutely awesome album.

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    • I know I’m in the minority here, but haven’t been able to get into any QOTSA since “Songs for the Deaf” and wasn’t planning to even give this a listen–changed my mind after reading this review and a few other supporting comments.

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      • Stereotypical Evil Archer     June 13, 2013 at 8:30 am

        Fuck yeah, it finally started kicking in for me this morning!

        The last QOTSA album that took me this long to enjoy was the self-titled; but I blame that on my expectations for a new Kyuss album. Shit, that was like 15 years ago…

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    • The best thing about queens is they know how to lay down the hooks and grab us. They know how to take the simplest riffs that we’ve heard 100 times before and still make us flip out over them. Throw in a couple of drum fills from Davey G and………look who these guys collaborate with!!! Fucken Gibbs, Lanagan, reznor, Elton fucken john; john Paul jones believes in Homme!!! Every thing QOTSA touches is worthy of attention.
      Just think, the first album was idiot proof, rated r had the hits, hooks and a little weirdness . Songs for the deaf let in all walks of life, lullabies filtered out the morons, eras vulgaris and like clockwork are for the fuckers that get it! Keep listening……I swear this shit will hit u like a ton of bricks….if not, then fuck off!!!

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