Queens of the Stone Age
Let’s say, for the sake of the argument, that Hell, as it has been idealized in the evangelical culture that is very prevalent across the South, exists with smoke, fire, sulfur, ashes, screaming and torment. Now, visualize right in the center of downtown Hell, there is a seedy bar, where the worst of the worst hang out. Hell’s biker bar, if you will. In this bar, there is a stage covered in cigarette butts, spilled whiskey and lost dreams. This is the type of environment where Josh Homme and his Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) thrive perfectly. With their blend of stoner rock and riff heavy ear ringers, QOTSA could be Hell’s house band. The Sulfur Lounge’s main act, and new album, “…Like Clockwork,” has sealed this gig for them. From the dull buzz that opens “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” to the closing line of the title track, “One thing that is clear, it’s all downhill from here,” darkness is an ever-present reality on “…Like Clockwork.”
This is QOTSA’s first full-length album in six years, but Homme is not one to rest on his hands. His musical stamp is all over the place. He is a constant networker and smart businessman, often filling in on other band’s works or starting his own side projects, and many of his more prevalent contacts appear on “…Like Clockwork.” Members of Scissor Sisters, Arctic Monkeys, U.N.K.L.E., as well as legends Mark Lanegan, Dave Grohl, and Sir Elton John, make guest appearances on the album, adding not only spots of notoriety, but also regality.
Homme’s “Devil May Care” attitude really takes center stage on this release, but it shouldn’t be confused as arrogance or a lack of concern for the listener. This album is very, very polished. Not in the sense that it has been over produced, but in the sense that there is utter, almost machine-like precision. “I blow my load over the status quo,” Homme defiantly growls around the midpoint of the album. At that moment, something is impossible to not realize. While this album is appealing to a broad audience, and will please QOTSA faithful, Homme is being self-indulgent.
When a performer can indulge himself and do exactly what he desires, while at the same time pleasing the people who buy his albums and pay for his art to continue, he has officially “made it.” He is no longer working for a living, but he is actually fleshing out his art, and the general public is consuming it in droves. This is no more prevalent anywhere else than the lead single, “My God Is The Sun.” Catchy, winding and, of course, riff heavy, “My God is the Sun,” is not the traditional radio rotation single, even in QOTSA’s case. There is plenty for the listener to grab on to, but not in the sense that one will be humming this for hours on end or even necessarily remembering it an hour later. In all honesty, it’s probably a forgettable track by itself. However, placed within the construct of this album, it’s a perfectly placed raging bender helping to connect the pieces of the puzzle. In other words, these tracks have strength in numbers.
Don’t let the fact that this album is rift with riffs and darkness fool you into thinking that there aren’t moving moments or peaceful, engaging moments. “Fairweather Friends” is a middle of the album twisty road of a song that spills over from poignant piano driven moments to angst ridden guitar flares. The swooning falsetto on “Smooth Sailing” is overtly, wickedly sexual, while “I Sat By The Ocean” rides a borderline between indie-pop shimmer and glammy garage rock, and made the case to be my standout track. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” is a slow burning, psyched-out apocalyptic vision, adding to the album’s more introspective moments. Sex appeal, stoner glam and the band’s traditional middle finger to contemporary, mainstream rock live and breathe within “…Like Clockwork.” Your ears and your aging punk rock attitude will thank you. “…Like Clockwork” is out now via Matador Records.