Queens of the Stone Age have always loved cheeky rock and roll contradictions. Hell, it’s even there in the band name: Stone Age society was certainly not matriarchal, nor are any of the band members gay – but the band name sounds awesome, so who really cares?
There’s a ballsy irony behind the new album name too, with its allusions to punctuality and timeliness, because …Like Clockwork has been a long time coming; it’s been six years since the Palm Desert rocker’s last LP Era Vulgaris tested the patience of fans the world over. That patience was tested in more way than one too – though it was not a bad record, it was definitely challenging, and many a casual fan found it tough going.
It’s been an eventful six years though, with many fans wondering if front-man Josh Homme – one of rock’s most urbane tough guys- would ever return to the band that somersaulted him into rock ‘n’ roll’s elite. During that time he took part in side- project ‘supergroup’ Them Crooked Vultures, produced the Arctic Monkeys’ most daring long player Humbug, assisted with the creation of Eagles Of Death Metal’s last offering, as well as finding the time to be resurrected on the operating table (he had surgery on his leg and there were complications).
The latter Lazarus-style rebirth provide some context to the themes of …Like Clockwork: death, wrath, and the elusiveness of memory. The notion of identity looms heavily throughout, as does an over-riding preoccupation with mortality.“I want God to come and take me home / ‘Cuz I’m all alone in this crowd,” croons Homme on The Vampyre of Time and Memory, a trippy but gorgeous piece of piano balladry. Like Era Vulgaris, this is not an album that smacks you in the face with notions of its immediate brilliance, but it’s more personable than their previous outing and, despite the sometimes opaque lyrics, one senses that Homme is speaking from the heart. The songs reveal their brilliance over time – it’s definitely an album that rewards multiple play-throughs.
Bluesy Opening track Keep Your Eyes Peeled and the wonderful I Sat By the Ocean are the more immediate tracks on the album, both variegated mash-ups of sizzling fret-work and melodic hooks. A raft of big-hitters have been brought in to collaborate too: Dave Grohl’s passion for percussion graces six tracks, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters contributes vocals to Keep Your Eyes Peeled, while Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys can be heard on If I Had a Tail.
Whilst at a lean ten tracks it might be concise, these songs are complex and darkly emotive ventures. It’s mature, dense and rich – musically and thematically – and more than worth the wait.
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