Queens of the Stone Age
In general, LxL tends to be pretty light on our heavy metal coverage. That being said, I am always looking to stretch myself (especially after reading more on metal with Fargo Rock City) and to be honest, Queens of the Stone Age is about as accessible metal as it gets. So instead of pretending like reviewing the Queens is that out of character, let’s just get to talking about what a wonderful surprise …Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age’s first album after a six year hiatus, is.
But wait, one more detour. This has been a big year for band’s reuniting after breakups or hiatuses. My Bloody Valentine had the most noteworthy return with their first album in 22 years which knocked it out of the park. Daft Punk had probably the most widely anticipated and well-marketed return (first studio album in 8 years) which wasn’t too bad itself. Not to mention David Bowie, Franz Ferdinand, Civil Wars, Fall Out Boy (woof), Raffi (creepy), and Nine Inch Nails (awesome) who have a new album coming this summer. Like Daft Punk, Queens of the Stone Age have enlisted a pretty impressive list of collaborators on …Like Clockwork, including Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, Artic Monkeyss Alex Turner, and even an incredibly out-of-place Elton John. Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters lead man Dave Grohl returns on drums for most of the album, as he also played on the Queen’s best album, Songs for the Deaf. The strangest part of enlisting all these guests is that unlike Daft Punk, you can barely hear their trace on …Like Clockwork, but rather the album in lead man’s Josh Homme’s through and through. The album struts, swings, swirls, and strikes at his command, with more swagger than any rock album this year.
“Keep Your Eyes Peeled” opens …Like Clockwork, an ominous dirge of a rocker featuring the Scissor Sister’s on backup vocals. “I Sat By The Ocean” brightens the mood a bit, as the bouncing mid-tempo rocker is a reminder of some of the Queen’s earlier singles. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, which is a great song title amidst a ghoulishly titled set of ghoulish-sounding songs, has a descending piano and grand opus feel that is reminiscent of the second half of Abbey Road, which pretty unusual for a metal band.
“If I Had a Tail” stands as one of the biggest highlights, a swanky strutting rocker which has Homme naming old girl group hits, counter-mixing cutesy and haunting lines on top of a deep disco beat as the guitar grows and grows like a werewolf at midnight. “Smooth Sailing” similarly grooves wonderfully with sleezy funk guitar riffs beneath Homme’s killer falsetto sort of like Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On” if the song partied like Skid Row or Motley Crue.
One of two heavily guested songs is “Kalopsia”, a song that feels distilled in another universe, being co-sung by Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner and featuring touches from Trent Reznor making for a strangely romantic and equally frightening ballad. “Fairweather Friends” ironically features the biggest group of guests, including Elton John, the Distiller’s Brody Dalle, Trent Reznor again, and former Queens’ members Nick Oliveri, Alain Johannes, and Mark Lanegan, but the song is actually a little too bustling and busy for its own good.
The title track drifts the album, and the band, back out to sea, as the distant piano ballad creates an incredible chasm of sound and longing almost as wide as the band’s last hiatus. It’s a fitting goodbye on an album that lands on a sweet spot island of accessible, tightly written pop metal for a fleeting moment. It’s a nice departure from the sunny pop records of the summer into a dark, grimy, and treacherously fun slew of rock songs.
Can’t Miss: “Kalopsia”, “Smooth Sailing”, “If I Had a Tail”, “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”
Can’t Hit: “Fairweather Friends”