Queens of the Stone Age have come (somewhat) roaring back after six years since their last album of all new material, with Like Clockwork, out June 4 on Matador Records. The hype surrounding this release has already reached monumental proportion, and the fascination with whatever hydra head honcho Josh Homme touches in whatever conglomeration of players he chooses to be a part of, remains as a consistent chunk of his mystique.
I'm a super fan boy of Josh since Kyuss was kicking up desert dust, but I've also been respectful of his searing desire to rid himself of the stoner rock stamp branded on his forehead ever since the first riffs of Wretch... so although it has been very hard to be objective as I spun it around seven or eight times in the last two weeks, shouting profanity filled question marks out to a non living car stereo, then allowing some problem spot areas to properly? marinate, as it pertains to a band's, or musician's(whom of course I don't personally know) artistic progression. I was able to calm down, dig in, and dig..it. This is what I've come up with in short bursts of opinion.
-The first track "Keep Your Eyes Peeled"- Hmmmmm ,although it thuds and rumbles with enough balls to suffice...seems such an odd choice for an album opener after six years of waiting. Was the QOTSA fanbase hoping for something less midtempo, or gosh, more melodically singable as this album kicked off? Perhaps. Is catchy the word I'm looking for? Dunno...it didn't grab me and still doesn't. The first bridge comes in from the cold and leaves without any impact at all....
-Catchy comes calling with the second track "I Sat By The Ocean", with verses carried by a hypnotic doubled up slide guitar and tight crushing staccato drums.This song burns and returns..strong vocals for the most part, albeit for the strange overuse of falsetto which has become Josh's style for the most part. It is a recurring sting that pricked me, probably because I'm a vocalist and can tell when falsetto is used for artistic purposes and when its being used because the singer can't hit the notes he chose for his own vocal melody. It could be a combination of both. But man, he goes to that breathy well wayyyy to often on this record, sometimes switching it up from full force to breathy word or phrase in the SAME LINE . I really can't imagine how he'll pull it off live. " Silence is closer, we're passing ships in the night" is both a triumph in chorus and lyric......
More piano on this album than any other Queens record..not a bad thing if you lean towards the respectful of progression side of things....it can't hurt if Trent Reznor, Sir Elton and Queen's multitasking duo of Dean Fertita and Troy van Leeuen are manning the keys. It still comes a surprise nonetheless and starts off "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" A meandering heartwrung ballad, shit..".I want god to come and take me home cause I'm all alone in this crowd." "I feel no love" "Does anyone ever get this right" are some of the lyrics, but the reveal is startling, refreshing for someone with the evident, cocksure swagger of Baby Duck himself. It's the vulnerability that has replaced the smirk for the lyrical bulk of this effort. Most of the time it's presented as such a fresh wound, you feel like calling the guy up and asking him if everything's ok? Need a hug, bro?
"If I Had a Tail" has the most singable chorus on the album....but the rest of the song is glamorously overproduced and sullen, and a bit repetitive.
"My God is the Sun" is shall I say it..."classic" QOTSA, the ratatat RPM of Mr. Grohl lights a fire under this albums ass, a midnight blurry drive of a song, the barnburning single that should have opened this fucking record. Rocks Socks. Burns without sun block.
"Kalopsia" can be summed up by its excellent lyric "copycats in cheap suits are playing it safe, while cannibals of bad news consume the parade." A punchy tussle between the sounds of opiate aftermaths and the ferociousness of the clearer picture. Stunned and gunned.
"Fairweather Friends"...is melodically perfect, everything fits, like your best girlfriend on a blue ball free night, a perfect mesh of guitar, piano and Grohl's pleasant bash. The highlight of the album for yours truly. Even if you can't quite figure out where Josh is going with the lyric, it feels right. It feels like he wrote it for you or about you, which of course he didn't . But sometimes the best songs allow you to slip right in, leave your understudy position and take over the role. "So what's it gonna take?" If you listen verrrrrrrry close with headphones on, sans distraction..you can hear Lanegan give his three words for the album, and Elton give his two.
My non-musical picked bone for the album, and the blame may fall with the hypemongers at Matador, is the laundry list of all stars who " helped" with the recording. Elton John, Reznor, Lanegan, NICK OLIVERI(holy shit,they're getting the BAND BACK TOGETHER, wait, didn't Josh sue Kyuss Lives?????, dude from Arctic Monkeys, dude from Scissor Sisters(double who? for most of you) Jon Theodore from Mars Volta!!!-Barely drums on the last track, but how can you tell, or should you have been listening for him in the first place?...and that's the problem. I don't remember Josh hyping the guests this much in print while the album was being tracked. In fact, details were bled out unceremoniously with mysterious studio pics. Josh has a lot of hand in a lot of dirty cookie jars...and for the most part, at Rancho De La Luna, where Queens tracks primarily, whoever happens to show up, might get asked to shake a tambourine here, double a melody line there. Grohl showed up because drummer Joey Castillo was ousted, and Josh made a call. Dave seems to always answer Josh's calls. Elton CALLED Josh to guest. Queen meet Queens.. Lanegan was wandering the high desert looking for a pack of smokes and stumbled in...Reznor growled out half a chorus... Lots of weird coincidences with very little planning and a handful of seat of your pants run- throughs with seasoned vets has turned into huge guest star hype where it ends up being indecipherable and unwarranted. Nobody's rolled out on a portable oval stage here, people. Lanegan hasn't been in this band since 2005.
This album is a grower, not a shower. It has masterful highs where you'll feel asphyxiated with bliss as the return of this band falls over you like you've just copped a feel from God, and a clinging midrange of emotions that never really veer out of "what if?" or "what's this"? There are spots where it reads more like a soundtrack to a druggy art film than a rock record. Yet, the lyrics have never been stronger, and the reveal of a vulnerable and down but never out rockaholic like Josh Homme is a welcome surprise. Although it did make me think sometimes..."Shit, are things with Brody that bad?" Wonder is almost always good in rock, and this album is definitely a wonder.