2007 was an entirely different era of my life, as I’m sure, unless you’re very old and boring, is the case for you as well. I was still in high school, revving up the absurd blur that would become the next two years of my life. When Era Vulgaris came out, I ate it up with feverish intensity not only due to my well nurtured love for the band, but because its cocky, trippy nature matched my own at the time. Vulgaris was by no means their best album, but it was a great representation of where Queens of the Stone Age was at the time: at the top of the game. Remember rock radio back in 2007? Back when it still had some balls? Before fucking Mumford & Sons came along and RUINED EVERYTHING? It was a different era, and we were all different people.
Its been more than six years since Era Vulgaris came out, and up until a few months ago, all that’s been heard of QOTSA has been whispers. Six long years of mostly unaccounted time on behalf of the band – I mean, sure, Josh was busy with Them Crooked Vultures, but that was still like 4 years ago at this point. A sense of mystery has always surrounded this band, Homme in particular (read his interviews ((right???))), and the years leading up to …Like Clockwork have been the most mysterious aspect of the band’s existence thus far. Were they recording? Weren’t they? Is it true that Grohl and Reznor are on the record? Is it true that Sir fucking Elton John is on the record?! No one knew for sure, only Homme and the crew, locked away in Homme’s studio out in the middle of the desert.
I remember waking up that day a few months ago, turning on my internet and seeing that giant slashed O on my screen that announced the arrival of the new Queens of the Stone Age album. I had honestly pretty much given up hope on a new record so seeing this inspired a lot of feelings within me..not all of them great. It can never really be a good sign that a record took so long to make..either the inspiration is there or it isn’t. And as good as Era was, it showed that they had potential to not be “The Greatest Rock Band On The Planet” anymore. That being said, this band has proven themselves incapable of making bad music, so regardless of how good it was gonna be, you could count on it to at least rock really hard in that dependable Queens way. But fans of this band know their potential, and it really is a shame to see it wasted.
Listening to this album for the first time was a bizarre experience. I was expecting it to be weird, because that would be normal, but it initially seemed so normal that it was weird. Make sense? …Like Clockwork is comprised of 10 incredibly concise songs that initially blow by without leaving too much of an impression, other than ‘yup, this is definitely a QOTSA record’. Subtlety has never exactly been a defining characteristic of QOTSA, what with Homme’s swagger and blender-like production. But …Like Clockwork is an intricate piece of work that takes a while to pick apart. For instance, it turns out that yes, Reznor and Elton John are on the record, along with a literal slew of other guest collaborator, but unless you knew where to look you would never find them. Homme has always been a genius collaborator in how non-obvious they always are, but …Like Clockwork definitely takes the cake for ghost collaborations. The swagger of past works also still lingers, but it’s overcome by something that we’ve never seen before with Queens: insecurity. The title of the record is a shout out to the tumultuous studio sessions for this record, and how just when things seemed to be going well, something would go wrong, just like clockwork. This difficulty is reflected in the lyrics to the title track and “Vampyres of Time and Memory”, where Homme seems to doubt himself as a musician and a man. Doubt lingers throughout the record and it all comes to a head on the final track, an all out piano lead ballad which sees Homme emoting in a mournful falsetto. Its a side of the man and the band that we’ve never really seen before, and it opens up a lot of verrrrrrrry interesting potential opportunities for the band.
The more unstable nature of the album would point towards an uncertain future for the band if not for the fact that the approach merely feels like a different facet of the band that they are choosing to explore, instead of sounding like a swan song. Not to mention that the record isn’t all doom and gloom, and the more upbeat numbers kick ass harder than ever before (see the aggressively sexy groove of “Smooth Sailing” or the raucous nature of “I Sat By The Ocean” and lead single “My God Is The Sun”). It’s the sound of triumph intermingled with doubt, a very human feeling that permeates the record. You really get the sense of the mortality and human nature of Homme, a step away from the rock god mystique that’s always surrounded him before.
The future moves quickly, and 2013 is a much different time and place than 2007 was. A lot can happen in six years, and while I’m sure we’ll never know exactly what happened to Homme, he is undeniably a changed man and Queens of the Stone Age is a changed band. What sets QOTSA apart from most other ‘changed bands’ is that nothing has been taken away from their sound, only added. Because of this, any fan of QOTSA – and rock in general – would be hardpressed to have anything negative to say about this next, stunning, if overdue, installment in this band’s career. The more you listen, the more of just how much you missed this band sinks in. Six years can change a lot, but it apparently it can’t change the fact that QOTSA fucking rules. Bow down sissies, the Queens are back.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: peyote rock
Purchase …Like Clockwork here
Rating: 4.6 / 5