Released June 3rd on Matador Records
It took me a while to come around to Queens of the Stone Age’s sixth studio album, …Like Clockwork. My interest in the band has always been passing at best; my ear turns toward their big, rollicking singles like “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, “Go with the Flow”, and “Sick, Sick, Sick”, and less toward their sludgier, stonier material (see their first 2 albums, and roughly half their material since). My first reaction on hearing opening track “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” was that it reminded me of “Make It wit Chu” from their last album, 2007’s Era Vulgaris, and that was a song I didn’t much care for. I’m glad I gave the album more spins in subsequent months, though, because it’s definitely grown on me.
“Keep Your Eyes Peeled” is now one of my favorite tracks on the record, a trudging number built around a slithering, sinister riff. From there the album goes on a serpentine ride through monstrous, grooving rockers (“If I Had a Tail”, “My God Is the Sun”), softer, subdued moments (“The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, the title track), and songs that alternate between a roiling boil and a simmer (“Kalopsia”, “Fairweather Friends”), yet somehow it all feels very cohesive. “I blow my load over the status quo” sings bandleader Josh Homme in album highlight “Smooth Sailing”, a line that reads as QotSA’s raison d’être. With its twisting, turning sense of weirdness, …Like Clockwork definitely lives up to this declaration.
The album also boasts quite a guest list, though that’s not too surprising considering that the Queens are less of a band than they are an ongoing musical collaboration masterminded by Homme. Former Queens Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan lend backing vocals to “If I Had a Tail”, while past collaborator Dave Grohl mans the kit through half the album’s tracks (he previously played on the group’s 2002 breakthrough Songs for the Deaf). Trent Reznor turns up in a backing role on “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends”, the latter song also featuring Sir Elton John tickling the ivories. In all cases the contributors are solely there in a supporting role without getting any spotlight, leaving Homme front and center through the whole affair.
With its dense riffs and slinky rhythms, ...Like Clockwork isn’t the kind of album you’d probably expect to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard 200. Yet it did, the Queens’ first record to reach the top spot. After giving it more than a few listens, it’s understandable why: It’s complex but also catchy, muscular but also restrained, and song-oriented in a way the band hasn’t really been since Songs for the Deaf. I’m glad I finally came around to it.