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31 May 2013

Review: The New Queens of the Stone Age Album Is an Innovating Masterpiece

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It’s been six years since Palm Desert’s Queens of the Stone Age released its previous album, Era Vulgaris; however, that does not mean band founder Josh Homme hasn’t been busy.

He started the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. He’s contributed to a number of other projects. And, thankfully, he hasn’t forgotten about Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork (Matador Records) will be released on Tuesday, June 4—and it’s well worth the wait.

As with previous albums, there’s an impressive list of guest appearances, by Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys), Alain Johannes and even Elton John, who reportedly told Homme that the band needed a “real queen” on the album. Former bassist Nick Oliveri plays on some tracks, as does drummer Joey Castillo, who recently quit the group. (Dave Grohl wound up playing drums on several songs.)

“Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” featuring Jake Shears, is a perfect opener: It hints at a chaotic, darker side of the Queens, a theme that holds throughout the album. Shears and Homme sound great together, even if the result is far different than Shears’ normal sound.

“I Sat by the Ocean” has a catchy hook and puts a fresh, invigorating spin on the heavy psychedelic rock and bluesy guitar riffs upon which QOTSA built their desert-rock sound. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” starts off with a beautiful piano arrangement accompanied by synth accents in some places. The Brian May-sounding guitar solos and the dark choruses make this one of the best tracks on the album.

“If I Had a Tail,” featuring Alex Turner and Nick Oliveri, offers a dark guitar sound that resembles the output of a horn section. It’s unlike anything the band has done in the past—a song that would make Pink Floyd feel envious. “My God Is the Sun” offers more desert-rock-sound goodness.

“Kalopsia” features Trent Reznor on what starts out as a mellow, beautifully crafted tune, with melancholy lyrics; the song then gets chaotic and loud before settling back into mellow. Sounds spanning several genres show up on “Kalopsia”; while it sounds eccentric, it’s also experimental and distinctive.

“Fairweather Friends” is a mass collaboration, featuring Elton John, Reznor, Johannes and even Homme’s wife, former Distillers vocalist Brody Dalle. Elton’s scattered piano and backup vocals make it hard to determine who’s doing what, and who’s playing where. Nonetheless, it’s a decent track that fits in nicely toward the end of the album.

“I Appear Missing” was the first track to be previewed online. It’s a dark, intense song that’s heavy on psychedelic influences. Homme (who declined an interview request from the Independent) has said that he wanted to feature dark characters on some of the songs—and that’s exactly what he does here.

The title track concludes the album—and as “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” was a perfect opener, “… Like Clockwork” feels like it should be played as the album’s credits roll. Hypnotic bass lines and a dark piano composition aptly conclude this gloomy, loud, trippy, fucked-up masterpiece.

The band went through a lot of chaos while making this album, including the departure of Castillo, and the fact that Homme was unable to secure Reznor to produce, as originally planned. However, it all worked out—beautifully—in the end. While the Queens have been hailed as pioneers for their earlier work, … Like Clockwork proves that Josh Homme is still innovating and striving to stay original.

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