By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Since their debut now 15 years ago, Queens of the Stone Age have refused to play by the rules. Josh Homme and Co. have taken from the rule book of good rock and roll; infectious grooves, hard-hitting riffs and sexy swagger, and pissed all over those rules, claiming their territory and re-writing them as they see fit. With off-beat time signatures and unconventional yet undeniably hard rocking anthems, QOTSA never fails to deliver unpredictable and genius rock and roll.
…Like Clockwork, their first album in six years, is by no means an exception.
The album showcases the band doing what they do best; rocking harder than anybody else unlike anybody else. They certainly march to the beat of their own drummer, or at least that of Dave Grohl, who returns to the fold for …Like Clockwork. Also returning are long-time collaborator Mark Lanegan (formerly of Screaming Trees) and founding bassist Nick Oliveri. Not since 2002’s breakthrough Songs For the Deaf, which featured the aforementioned musicians, have the Queens rocked so mercilessly hard. Evidence of this can be heard on the band’s first single, “My God is the Sun.” These Queens are again ready to rock!
Queens of the Stone Age first left scars on the face of music in 1998 with their self-titled debut. Although it wasn’t an initial success as compared to its predecessors, it firmly established the band’s sound. Led by front man, guitarist and chief songwriter Josh Homme, formerly of stoner rock icons Kyuss, their signature sound was like nothing of the time. Sure, the guitars were low-tuned as much of the music was in the late 90s, but it had a groove reminiscent of classic rock, the over quirkiness and unconventional songwriting approach set QOTSA apart from both their contemporaries and their mentors.
Their second album, Rated R, saw QOTSA poking their head through the mainstream, only for a peek, with rave reviews and modest success, only further laying the groundwork for their seminal masterpiece, Songs For the Deaf. The success of the quirky single “No One Knows” and the face-melting “Go With the Flow” saw the band riding high. Backed by Grohl on drums throughout the entire album, it was the first very powerful rock record of the new millennium.
…Like Clockwork again features Grohl behind the kit, as his playing is ruthlessly undeniable. Unlike the raw experimentation of 2007’s Era Vulgaris or the innovative yet over-produced Lullabies To Paralyze from 2005, this effort is more straight to the point. Cuts like the opening “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” “Kalopsia” and “I Appear Missing” are straight-forward rockers, yet unlike anything you’d expect from a modern heavy rock band. Finally, the closing “…Like Clockwork” leaves its listener on a satisfied yet slightly unsettled note, if you could imagine such a thing. QOTSA boldly dares to be different, letting the chips fall as they will.
What’s unique about …Like Clockwork is that there’s no shortage of wildly eclectic guest musicians, who despite their talents, manage not to one-up one another, but enhance this monster into a delightfully perfect beast.
Aside from Grohl and Lanegan there’s Oliveri, their founding bassist who was fired from the group nearly a decade ago. He lends his wit and sonic stomp to “If I Had a Tail” and “Fairweather Friends.” Arctic Monkeys guitarist Alex Turner, who is now part of the touring lineup, lends his craft to “If I Had a Tail” as well. Scissors Sisters front man Jake Shears croons on “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” while Nine Inch Nails Mastermind Trent Reznor lends vocals to the tripping and unsettling “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends,” which if you’ve heard the collaboration from Grohl, Homme and Reznor on the Sound City Players soundtrack, you know what brilliance to expect.
Lastly, the final high-profile guest musician may come as a shock. The legendary Sir Elton John rounds out the list of guests on “Fairweather Friends.” What’s remarkable is that if you didn’t know he was on the track, you wouldn’t know he was on the track. There’s no “take it away Elton” moment. His performance is subtle, blending in perfectly with the song.
Along with a host of large comebacks in 2013 from rock icons like Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails to name a few, Queens of the Stone Age’s might just be the most notable. They’ve taken six years off, aside from a handful of one-off festival gigs and Homme’s forays with the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures. …Like Clockwork is a monster of an album that can be summed up in one word: Epic! It’s intelligent and innovative, yet good ass-kicking rock and roll just in time to drop the top and speed down the highway this summer!