There seems to be one golden rule in rock music: if Josh Homme calls, you better follow. As the driving force behind some of the most important records of the nineties and oughties, the mastermind of the QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE became somekind of the epicenter of modern rock. The hardest thing about that is, of course, you have to keep up with enormous expectations everytime you put out some music – and the expectations might be even higher if it’s a new record of the QUEENS. And so Homme seemed to be doing, what he did before in order to undermine some of the expectations: he fooled us. By teasing the fans for two years already, until he finally started to present the once more impressive, yet disturbing list of guest musicians for his new album. As I said: he used that trick before, denying that his band, by fact, always has been somekind of a supergroup, gathered and directed by the maestro: himself. So, of course, …Like Clockwork is no way back to the roots, just because Dave Grohl and Mark Lanegan paid a visit to the studio. This is a QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE-record – there is no time for repeating the past. Ultimately, this record even seems to be much more serious and reflective about Homme as an artist, than anything we’ve heard before of this man. Josh Homme – the incarnation of cool? …Like Clockwork finally starts to question this ideal, but it does so in a great and unique way.
The first impression seems to validate this theory: the album starts with the sound of bursting glass, anticipating some of the fragile moments. Keep Your Eyes Peeled, however, starts out as a song like a recalcitrant child; scuffling, stumbling but unwilling to fall, while anienct animals howl somewhere in the distance. It’s eerie, it’s dangerous, it’s somehow distracting, but, nevermind: “nothing is as it seems”. I Sat By The Ocean acts far more straight-forward, a melodious, dry riff in the middle and Homme’s voice above all – which seems to be the focal point on this record anyway. At least, that’s where The Vampyre Of Time And Memory seems to be pointing towards: “Does anyone ever got this right?/ I feel no love” Homme sings over quiet synthie (!)-structures, revealing a fragility and thoughtfullness, that’s rarely been witnessed in this man’s music. The – at times even painfully personal – lyrics on …Like Clockwork may be the most striking thing about it. A new side to Homme’s songwriting, that’s used to be based on dark hedonism and coolness for such a long time now.
Musically, however, there’s not much left of all the prominent guest-appearances: TRENT REZNOR‘s voice on Kalopsie might be the most obvious. But overall, that’s a good thing! Cause, seriously, with guys like Troy Van Leeuwen, Dean Fertita and Michael Shuman the QUEENS got a great line-up anyway; especially considering that the former MARS VOLTA-Drummer Jon Theodore will complete it for their upcoming tour. And so they groove on through these ten songs, confident as only excellent musicians can be. First single My God Is The Sun surely stands out in its directness, most likely the one song that sounds really familiar to old fans, while other tracks tend to fiercely freak-out. We hear psychedelic power-pop in Fairweather Friends (including the guest-appearance of Sir ELTON JOHN), in which Homme abruptly resigns to the sudden ending: “Fairweather fr..ah, I don’t give a shit about ’em”, just to quickly start some robot-dirty-talk in the following Smooth Sailing. All in all, this is a quite adventurous record, that needs to be explored slowly and carefully. Depressing imagery, fast mood swings and the overall vibe of morosity contribute to the impression: this is by far the most personal and sensitive QOTSA-record. Which in no case means, that this is soft, easy-listening.
In the end, let’s just put it this way: we all know those smartasses, preaching the end of rock’n’roll over and over again, convinced of their own theories just because of their pathological seek for innovation – well, they’ll never get it. The art is, to keep one’s vision of rock music young, although you’re growing old – a difficult balance indeed, and few ever held it. This album’s the ultimate prove that the QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE might be one of those few rock bands who are capable of growing old gracefully. Implying, of course, that there also might come a time to stop this project – “Most of what you see my dear, is worth letting go/ because not everything that goes around, comes back around, you know?”. But for now there’s still too much genius in HOMME’s songwriting, too much sex in his voice and manner, too much passion in this great and unique band.
You can stream the entire album over at iTunes