By Chris Familton
Just over a decade after their defining and most successful album Songs For Deaf, Josh Homme and gang return with their sixth studio record in the highly anticipated …Like Clockwork. Since that 2002 peak the band have increasingly explored darker, more eclectic musical territory and while much of it was brave, genre defying and often fascinating there was always the nagging question of when they would get back to doing what they do best – making inventive, riff-based, slightly askew rock.
…Like Clockwork does reclaim some of that swinging brutal efficiency but only in small doses. The surprisingly concise album (46 minutes) takes a brace of different ideas and strips them back to their bare essentials. As well as the heavy riffing of album highlights My God Is The Sun and Keep Your Eyes Peeled Homme indulges in melodic balladry with the Floydian title track, the Guns ‘n’ Roses drama of The Vampyre Of Time & Memory, the Trent Reznor assisted prog-leaning Kalopsia and perhaps the most surprising guest appearance in Elton John who contributes vocals and piano on the Wings-esque Fairweather Friends. Even though the guest list is an impressive one on top of regular collaborators like Dave Grohl and Mark Lanegan, QOTSA still sound like QOTSA. The other musicians all add integral elements but there are no spotlit solos or grandstanding; their input at all times serves the greater good of the song, texturally and/or melodically.
While half a dozen of the album tracks are right up there with the best Homme has penned the standard of excellence doesn’t carry through the entire record. Smooth Sailing feels like a great riff stretched out to make a lesser song and Kalopsia is a hotchpotch of ideas that work individually but not cohesively as a song. Where it does work the best is on If I Had A Tail a song that incorporates Homme’s insouciant swagger and playfulness that feeds into a rock solid beast of a chorus before hitting a strange desert disco where truck drivers dance to ZZ Top covering the Bee Gees. It has a fluidity and maddeningly catchy groove that balances all the elements of Homme’s sun baked approach to the possibilities of rock music. He does the same thing on My God Is The Sun, largely built on Michael Shuman’s growling, pummeling bass lines. It is a much straighter song than If I Had A Tail but it still takes minor diversions into twisting mutant riff variants that keep it alive and kicking.
…Like Clockwork doesn’t match the wide-stance bravado of Songs For The Deaf or the wired ‘Kyuss through a pop prism’ rawness of Rated R but it does present an economical world view of Queens of the Stone Age and the range of Homme’s musical imagination. It is hard to think of any other rock band currently producing records that straddle classic and avant rock so seamlessly. For that they should be applauded and appreciated as a group still breathing life into the too often stale corpse of modern rock.
this review was first published on UnderTheRadar