Between the late nineties and early noughties, rock music seemed to be thriving. It was enjoying huge commercial appeal, driven by the success of nu metal with the likes of Limp Bizkit and KoRn regularly featured on MTV. Most of the bands have either have split, are on hiatus (although in the case of Foo Fighters, this is probably a good thing) or delivering diminishing returns.
Queens Of The Stone Age are one of the few left standing and stood out for truly embodying sex, drugs and rock n roll, exemplified by songs like 'Feel Good Hit of the Summer' and 'Go With The Flow’. They are a gang in the tradition of the great rock bands, an unstoppable, unshakeable juggernaut that steamrollered everything in its path. Most importantly, they've consistently delivered quality records.
However, the signs were not promising with '...Like Clockwork' with chinks in the armour all too apparent. Drummer Joey Castillo left the band during the making of the record while a myriad of guest stars on the album, including Trent Reznor, Jake Shears and Sir Elton John suggested the record may lack focus. Perhaps most worryingly Josh Homme suggested that this would be his most personal record and the last thing music needs is another whiny rock record, especially from the band who delighted listeners in detailing its hedonistic conquests. As Homme himself said “It's OK not to be macho. But it's not OK to be a pussy”.
Against this background, it’s a surprise that '...Like Clockwork' is the most cohesive QOTSA record yet with Homme successfully managing to expose his emotions in a way which never verges on being mawkish. Reznor talked of Homme experiencing both artistic and emotional vulnerability during its recording and there is an underlying theme of unease throughout. The album kicks off with arguably its weakest track 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled'. Although it doesn’t leave much of an impression, it does set the course for the album, an ominous song which threatens to lose control and descend at various points into a scuzzy industrial freakout but somehow keeps on its course.
It’s followed by my favourite song on the record 'I Sat By The Ocean'. The song starts out with a typically sleazy riff that builds insistently to a haunting, melodic chorus that finds Homme ruminating on the breakdown of a relationship “And I could have been your one and only/Instead I'm the lonely one/You, me, and a lie”. 'My God Is The Sun', the lead single from the album, is similarly memorable – a signature desert-rock anthem which no band does better than them. Given the darker themes explored, there is some relief provided by the biggest curveball on the album 'Smooth Sailin’', It’s the most danceable thing they’ve done with a definable groove and they successfully pull it off.
Naturally, there are a greater number of piano-led songs on this album compared to QOTSA’s work. 'Vampyre Of Time And Memory' is a despairing song that echoes 'Aladdin Sane' era-Bowie with Homme crying out defeated “Does anyone ever get this right?/I feel no love.” 'Kalopsia' plays initially like a sweet ballad before a heavy guitar comes crashing in from nowhere, a reminder that QOTSA still rock as hard as their pretenders. No QOTSA record is complete without an epic and this duly arrives with the penultimate track 'I Appear Missing'. The power ballad is the culmination of the record and the best compliment I can pay is that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as 'A Song for the Dead'.
'...Like Clockwork' is a record which grows in potency with repeated listens. In a year full of successful comebacks, it is among the best and opens up a new direction for a band that was threatening to become entrapped by its own mythology.
'Like Clockwork' is available to purchase from amazon.co.uk etc.