UG Team, on may 22, 2013 8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Sound: In June 2011, Josh Homme insisted a new Queens of the Stone Age album would be complete by the end of the year. It had already been five years since their last album "Era Vulgaris," but Homme assured fans not to worry; most of the new songs had been written, they just needed a short break to get in a studio and hit the record button. "We're at a weird moment where we really don't feel like we have anything to prove," he said at the time. And then we waited.
With every passing year, perhaps Homme found he really did have something to prove. Everyone knew he was off schedule, and that's before you count the pressure from legal woes with his former bandmates in Kyuss, or the birth of his second child with Brody Dalle.
Now we're in 2013, and "...Like Clockwork" is officially the most anticipated album of the year. Can Homme defeat these pressures and deliver the album of his career?
You've probably seen the lineup of musicians Homme drafted in for the new record, presumably to inspire progress in the studio. We've got Dave Grohl on drums (though he shares duties with ex-drummer Joey Castillo and a new recruitment fresh from The Mars Volta, Jon Theodore), Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor, Arctic Monkey's Alex Turner, vocalist Mark Lanegan, ex-QOTSA bassist Nick Oliveri, and even Elton John and Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears. You might expect them to be ushered onto the metaphorical stage for a moment in the spotlight, so it's a relief that they're not wheeled out in this way which would ultimately cheapen the album (save for Reznor's vocal appearance on "Kalopsia" - a jarring moment which sounds out of place). Still, you'd have to reach for the liner notes to know where most of these collaborators really feature.
Album highlights include the opening track "Keep Your Eyes Peeled," a deep cut which you'd normally expect to be buried later in a track list. Instead, QOTSA pull the genius move of setting the scene with this grim, dry song at the opening which warns that you're about to walk deep into the valley of death. Later, you'll be delighted by "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" and its dulcet tones inspired by '70s recordings. You've never heard a snare like this on a QOTSA track, draped here in brilliant brassy synth parts. Next, "If I Had a Tail" has one of the biggest album hooks in its chorus - listen out for the roaring title line and it'll root itself in your head for a week. Towards the end of the LP, Homme's desperate vocal performance in "I Appear Missing" is a triumph, though the 6-minute album version sounds indulgent compared to the snappy 3-minute video edit. // 9
Lyrics: There's little to say about Homme's clear high vocal style which you won't already be familiar with. He's the catchy centrepiece to every song, save for the energetic ballad "Fairweather Friends" which does the rare job of overpowering his with frantic piano and a high-energy rock jamming.
Elsewhere, Homme's songwriting is more introspective than ever; "Does anyone ever get this right? I feel no love," he sings on "The Vampyre of Time and Memory." On "Keep Your Eyes Peeled," the line "If life is but a dream, wake me," dares you to pull the headphones away before diving into the bleak terrain that you're heading towards. And yet, you continue.
QOTSA purists might miss the sheer hedonism of their early records, save for "If I Had a Tail" and its sleazy lyrical exploits (and lines like "Tears of pleasure, tears of pain, they trickle down your face the same" where Homme sounds most at home.) If you're wondering what prompted the shift away from this style, look to "I Appear Missing" for hints that the frontman could be going through changes as a family man: "Prisoner on the Lose. Description: spitting image of me, except for the heart-shaped hole where the hope runs out ... Pieces were stolen from me, but dare I say, given away." The armour on rock's iron giant has finally cracked. // 8
Overall Impression: Fans of the intense, fast-pacing driving riffs of the past should schedule time for a few listens before they pass judgement on "...Like Clockwork." There's little to hint at their stoner rock past on this album, but it never claims to be.
The variety of tone and pace is both this album's strength and weakness; there's not a dull moment as on every other QOTSA albums (and let's be honest, we're often keen to hit skip to get straight to the proper foot-stamping hits), but neither does it offer a storytelling arc that carries you through Homme's personal struggles. It's almost incongruent that they didn't make a full concept album with it.
This brings us back to our opening question: can Josh Homme defeat external pressures and write the album of his career?
The short answer: no. Instead, he's channeled the resulting energy into something more productive. The result is a near-flawless album which will probably remain the defining rock record of the year. Ultimately, "...Like Clockwork" is just the cocoon that Homme will leave behind after changing from rock's ultimate alpha male into the mature, emotionally intelligent songwriter that has waited years blossom.
QOTSA's best work is yet to come. And until then, we'll have "...Like Clockwork" as a reminder to dust ourselves down when we fall off the horse - even when we fall into the shadows.
mattiscool7337, on june 03, 2013 5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: If you've been on UG at all in the past, oh, four or five months, you've probably heard quite a bit about the new mega-hyped Queens of the Stone Age album. First a rockin' single first heard live at Lollapalooza Brazil, then some creepy phone calls and a bloody musical cartoon followed by new songs dropping nearly every day. Now, after a considerably long wait, the album can finally be heard in its entirety. With so much build-up, one will have to decide if the album stands up to expectations or topples under the pressure.
Early reviews of the only song that was truly released as a single, "My God is the Sun," compared the track to earlier QOTSA work, like something one might hear off of "Rated R." As the album began to unravel, however, through live leaks and cartoon snippets, the sound was revealed to be much broader, wherein a comparison to later Queens albums, particularly "Lullabies to Paralyze," have become more appropriate. The album is cohesive in the sense that the tone is consistently darkly sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek, yet expansive due to the fact that nearly each track has something unique. Homme's signature chant-like vocals and Shuman's often tightly hypnotic bass lines miraculously work to tie sometimes thumping, sometimes slippery, but always layered guitar work with schizophrenic drum beats and various other vocal or instrumental contributions, often from guest artists. With such expert, seasoned musicians, one is likely to expect "...Like Clockwork" to be pretty damn good. And it is.
1. "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" - This track starts out with a pulsating, uber-distorted bass note that lays the heartbeat for the rest of the album. Darkly mechanical and almost industrial, the track drudges on under Homme's voice, which never seems to resolve as a piano echoes hauntingly somewhere in the framework. The machine speeds up as wah-guitar chimes in, only to die out into an ice-cold silence.
2. "I Sat By the Ocean" - Most reminiscent of "Era Vulgaris," this track is much more upbeat than its predecessor, but retains the satirical vibe one has come to expect from most QOTSA songs. A chugging guitar line is complimented by a warbling slide guitar quite nicely, and although it comes early, makes for a retrospective break in the doom and gloom of most of the other tracks. The '70s style drum beat and guitar arpeggios in the chorus are even almost uplifting. Not a quintessential track by any means, but still very enjoyable.
3. "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" - This track opens in a nearly musical theater-style lament, with a hollow but longingly repeated piano riff accompanying Josh singing about uncertainty and self-doubt. The synths welcome in a bluesy guitar solo, and the track only builds from there, ending with a satisfying call-and-response guitar solo with cascading tom-rolls and cymbal crashes, ultimately plummeting into the middle of a tepid sonic ocean.
4. "If I Had a Tail" - Those of us waiting for Alex Turner's voice are going to have to look a little harder than we might have expected; he only sings back-up (along with Nick Oliveri and Brody Dalle), but is also credited with guitar work on the track, and there's a good amount of it (Josh is always into layers), though it's hard to see who's who. That aside, this track does not stand out a whole lot, but its certainly not bad. One is likely to think "Lullabies" again, here, as the track feels a bit sluggish, but perks up with the chorus. The real surprise comes in a short interlude at the end, where the songs spirals into harmonic oblivion as Homme and the guest vocalists hiss like ghosts to bring in the single.
5. "My God is the Sun" - Filled with calculated but unpredictable guitar lines that only Homme could write and a drum track few other than Grohl could produce, one can see why the band chose this song as a single for the album. It really is an introduction to what the band seems to be going for on "...Like Clockwork," but is inclusive enough to bring in the more casual listener while retaining the detached and dark tone. Certainly a stand out track, and a great jam overall.
6. "Kalopsia" - This is where things really start to get interesting. Similar to the heartbeat heard in the opening track, but certainly much more lighthearted, this track begins as Homme harmonizes with himself over a floating guitar melody and belching, almost obtrusive synths. One can feel the dismal cloud setting over the track, knowing it really is too good to be true, and the storm hits with a scratched string like lightning, soon followed by thunderous drums and heavy power chords while Trent Reznor enters stage right to sing a powerful duet alongside Josh. The track weaves in and out of the light, wilting A-section, which is always pulverized unexpectedly by the stabbing B-section. It all culminates in screams and cymbal crashes, and the song limps off to die under Homme's groan.
7. "Fairweather Friends" - Epic and punching, this is one of the best tracks "...Like Clockwork" has to offer, if not the best overall. Homme begins singing "Is there anybody out there?..." and the song seems as lost as he, but in a really good way. The song takes off like a sputtering rocket with odyssean guitar work, and Homme's soliloquy is soon overtaken by melodic fireworks, with plenty of instrumental breaks to go around, each as exciting as the last. It's a track that one really has to hear to believe. Oh, and if Elton John wasn't enough, it's also got Reznor and Mark Lanegan.
8. "Smooth Sailing" - So Queens of the Stone Age walk in to a discoteque... The second half of this album is very diverse, and that doesn't stop here. This track is exciting, thumping, but still has enough of that sludge 'n' drudge to keep the seasoned Queens listener's attention. As drums pump and guitars bump, Shears' vocals add a new element to the sound, and even though Homme proved he could do something similar on "Make It Wit Chu," it's fun to have an extra voice in there. The song is tight until the bridge, and begins to derail into a dizzying breakdown, only to regain balance and chug into the station with a final whispered "chik-a-pow."
9. "I Appear Missing" - As the penultimate track is reached, the album begins to settle back into its old ways, and the downer tone established in "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" is regained, though with an air of acceptance that makes it all the more depressing. As Homme trips around the fretboard and Grohl beats the drums to death, the song peters out only to be briefly reborn with a punctuated vengeance. As the song climaxes, so does the album, and with only one post-orgasm track remaining, you can almost hear a cigarette being lit and exhaled with a satisfactory sigh.
10. "...Like Clockwork" - This song begins quite unlike what we're used to from the Queens; it's just a piano and Josh, no black frills, and no haunting bass undercurrent. It's an actual, heartfelt lament, and Homme croons until a soulful guitar solo begins, building back up with strings and crescendo molto drums in an attempt to reignite... but, "Not everything that goes around / Comes back around, you know," and the big finish never quite materializes. The paranoia that can be heard on the earlier tracks is nowhere to be found, and it feels as though defeat has been truly accepted; thus, quite unlike clockwork, the album ends with gentle taps on a crash ride until the orchestra plays everyone out, the curtain already closed. // 10
Lyrics: Unlike many previous QOTSA releases, many of the lyrics featured on "...Like Clockwork" diverge from the abstractly sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek ramblings that many avid listeners may have come to expect from the band, though it is still present on several tracks, and quite clever, as always. Many are likely to agree this is welcomed change, as there truly seems to be some more tangible and less exclusive emotion behind Homme's pen, particularly in the latter half of the album. As always, Josh's vocals are calculatedly sloppy and unresolving, and he sings patterns that don't cease to impress. The vocals and lyrics complement each other in such a way that one might argue that the vocals couldn't really survive without the lyrics, and vice-versa. // 10
Overall Impression: There truly isn't much to complain about on "...Like Clockwork." It is just as chilling and epic as most of us have expected in the last few months before its release. In my opinion, the album really starts to pick up with "My God is the Sun," but that's not to say that the first half isn't worth listening to, as songs like "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" and "If I Had a Tail" seem to work to set up the overall tone for the remainder of the album. It is certianly QOTSA's most comprehensive and expansive release to date, with comparisons reaching as far as Rush, the Bee Gees, and (yep) The Beatles, and the end result is, I must say, very satisfying.
But does it live up to the hype? It's tough to say, and the answer will certainly vary from listener to listener. I'm not sure that ANY album could quite live up to the amount of hype surrounding "...Like Clockwork," with promos being dropped throughout May on the daily. It comes pretty close though, so I tip my hat to the Queens. I'll finish with this: there's a lot more I could say about this album, but I'd really rather just go back and listen again. Ciao. // 9
gateway01, on june 03, 2013 1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: "...Like Clockwork" has a unique sound never seen before in QOTSA's music. It blends the older style of the Queens that they formed on records like "Rated R" and the newer sound that appears on "Era Vulgaris" and "Lullabies to Paralyze." This may be the Queens' most diverse album yet. I'll break each song down, as each song really is unique from the others.
1. "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" - This song has to be the most creeping, menacing song on the record, and its the opening track. It begins with a ridiculous distorted bass and incorporates several haunting guitar leads. During the chorus, however, loud, high pitched wah-ed guitars join in to give it a faster feeling. And then, about 2:30 in, the entire mood lightens for a while, only to proceed to another dark chorus. If any song on this album will give you nightmares, it would be this one.
2. "I Sat By The Ocean" - This song is the polar opposite of "Keep Your Eyes Peeled." The upbeat rhythm guitar blasts the opening of this track with catchy leads and a perfectly fitting beat, as supplied by the great Dave Grohl. The entire song is so catchy that it brands itself into your mind. It also brings back some of the feelings of the classic, "Rated R." While not my favorite song on the album, it certainly delivers.
3. "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" - Track 3 brings back the feelings of haunting from "Keep Your Eyes Peeled," but in a very different manner. It begins with a long drone on a distorted synthesizer, but proceeds as a soft ballad played on piano. A strange synth is brought on later, which may or may not fit well with the song depending on your interpretation, and is followed by a short but sweet guitar solo. The chorus picks up a bit, but overall, the song is rather melancholy. I am a bit disappointed, personally, with this track, but the frequent guitar leads help bring it up a bit.
4. "If I Had A Tail" - This track is Queens' way of bringing back Lullabies to Paralyze. The low synths and guitars coupled with a catchy vocal melody push this song higher than expected. The chorus is the defining point in this track, as it really helps bring the track to life. Overall, an impressive song.
5. "My God Is The Sun" - The upbeat 3/4 rhythm makes this track stand out from the others, along with incorporation of outside instruments, like shakers and tambourines. The drumming supplied by Dave Grohl may be the biggest addition to this song, as each hit simply fits the song.
6. "Kalopsia" - This track is interesting. The main melody is a piano and synthesizer playing a major arpeggio, but when the vocals change in the second verse, they are in minor, giving the song a strange, but cool, feeling. The loud chorus also makes this song stand out, especially in the middle of such a soft song as this. Once the outro hits though, the original verse is forgotten. This is one of the few songs that has a completely new sound for Queens, along with "My God Is The Sun."
7. "Fairweather Friends" - Some may recognize "Fairweather Friends" from the snippets the band released before anything was known about the album. The chorus has a choir in the background that is very recognizable. The raging guitar solo in the first verse shows early on what kind of song this will be. The song is mostly guitar and piano driven, but still packs a punch. Definitely one of my favorite tracks from the album.
8. "Smooth Sailing" - I'm not exactly sure what to make of this track. It sounds more like a song off of a Them Crooked Vultures album. It has odd riffs, exemplified bass and lead guitars with little to no rhythm guitar, and falsetto, strongly EQ-ed vocals. I can say I enjoy it, but it is very different from all the other songs on the album.
9. "I Appear Missing" - Here it is. The track that everyone wanted to hear more from. I can assure you, the second half of "I Appear Missing" is even better than the first. This song features complex guitar melodies and heavily catchy lyrics. It is easily one of my favorite Queens of the Stone Age tracks of all time. They did not disappoint, nor were they lying when they said that this album was "a new experience."
10. "...Like Clockwork" - This track is the most unique on the album. It begins as a soft, melodic ballad, but quickly transforms into a full fledged power ballad, with choir-like vocals and melodic synthesizers. It is mostly instrumental, however there are points were Homme adds vocals, mostly falsetto. Once the synths die down, the song remains fairly soft for the rest of the time. It is a nice way to end such a glorious album. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics to most of the songs on this album are very catchy. I find some of the most meaningful lyrics, however, to be in "I Appear Missing." The opening lines go:
"Calling all comas,
Prisoner on the loose.
A spitting image of me
Except for the heart-shaped hole where the hope runs out."
Those lyrics, to me at least, were what hit home for the entire song. Most of the songs on the album, but this one especially, have lyrics that make you think "Why didn't I write that?"
Some of the little additions to the songs on this album are significant as well, such as in "Kalopsia" when you hear "Is it beautiful?" after the first chorus dies out. There are several of these things and each has deep meaning within the song.
My only criticism of the lyrics are in "If I Had A Tail." Some of the lyrics, such as:
"Get your hands dirty
Roll up them sleeves
Brainwashed or true believers
Buy flash cars
Expensive holes to bury things."
Don't make such sense. The lyrics have a similar sense to those of "Battery Acid" from "Era Vulgaris." // 8
Overall Impression: This could very well be one of Queens' best efforts so far. They have managed to integrate so many new aspects to their sound, in some songs, and in others tried to grasp their roots. It easily topples the last release, "Era Vulgaris," and may be able to do the same to earlier albums as well.
My favorite tracks on the album must have been "Smooth Sailing," "I Appear Missing," and "Keep Your Eyes Peeled." These tracks were both fresh material while still having a connection to QOTSA's past. My least favorites were "If I Had A Tail," "My God Is The Sun," and "...Like Clockwork." "If I Had A Tail" mostly because of the mostly senseless lyrics, "...Like Clockwork" because it was mostly a soft, and rather boring ballad, and "My God Is The Sun," not because something was wrong with it, but because it simply was not as good as all of the other songs. Overall, one of my favorite QOTSA albums thus far and I hope for more in the future. // 9
shortikid12, on june 03, 2013 0 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Chance's are if you're a QOTSA fan, you've listened to "Songs for the Deaf" (an album that some consider to be their magnum opus) all the way through a couple times. The album had a nasty driving sound to it, fitting as it was a loose concept album based around driving through the California desert. "...Like Clockwork" has the same driving force to it, although lacking the concept and spiced up with a filling serving of space-like songs to really get your man/lady parts trembling.
Five out of the ten songs on the album have been previewed through the animated music videos released throughout the week. However, these previews do little justice to the album as a whole. "...Like Clockwork" has a lot of content fit into only 45 minutes of music. When you listen to an album, it's easy to categorize the entire album into one genre of music. On a second listen, you can start to flesh out songs and start putting them into the filing cabinet of sub-genres. What makes "...Like Clockwork"'s track list so unique, is that within the first three tracks, you'll realize that this album is simply a coin; one side is the dirty hash smeared side you found in your basement while looking for meter money, the other side is one that speaks to you prophetically, wondering of its identity as a coin while you sink into your chair in a haze of LSD and weed.
This was my initial feel as I jammed to the sludgy "Keep Your Eyes Peeled," the "Songs for the Deaf" callback "I Sat By The Ocean," the stoner ballad "The Vampyre Of Time and Money," the riff-tastic jam "If I Had A Tail" and onto premiere single and only full released song, "My God is the Sun." As I continued through the album though, it didn't feel like I was simply flipping this strange coin and wondering what would come up next. The album is well paced, pumping you up and getting you head banging along. And once you start to feel your neck get sore, it busts out a sexy atmospheric tune. It's this album progression that made even the tired My God is the Sun feel new and fresh. This song is also the climax, but like a massage from the flexible and young mei-mei, its not an ending you won't love.
The three songs not yet heard, "Fairweather Friends," "Smooth Sailing," and title track "...Like Clockwork," keep whats been good going. Friends has the legendary Elton John making the song his bitch with some great piano riffing. Sailing smells of influence from Homme's contemporaries, sporting a hip-hop feel with his signature fuzzy guitar and croon. "Clockwork" is the ending ballad in the likes of "Vampyre" that puts the focus on Homme's lovely vocals. Its a fitting end to the album that doesn't sound like anything else on the album, or really in QOTSA's discography (at least to me). // 9
Lyrics: I'm not one to focus too hard on the lyrics, so this section may not be a good representation of the lyrics on the album. They're pretty good. NEXT. Oh f--k a minimum? Well okay...
Joshua Homme isn't a songwriter that I would think of if I was asked about deep mature lyrics. Then again, I know as much about lyrics as I do milking cows, that is to say, I've practiced on other mammals, but this says nothing to whether I can do the real thing. One of the themes that definitely stuck out to me was... MINIMUM REACHED. Short and sweet: Homme showcases his signature, wide ranged vocals throughout the album, some great tunes are "...Like Clockwork," "Vampyres," and "I Appear Missing." // 9
Overall Impression: Overall, it's an album I can only categorize in one way: Sexy. QOTSA has done an amazing job with advertising and teasing listeners, which always leads to the worry of over-hype. Homme doesn't disappoint however, with the music videos providing an excellent tease of the album without giving away too much.
If there is one bad element to "...Like Clockwork," is the over hype of the collaborators. The likes of Jake Shears, Elton John, Trent Reznor, Alex Turner, and even Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan don't seem to add a noticeable contribution to the album. It's a sign, and a good one at that, that Joshua Homme has a good handling of these star studded musicians in the studio. Yet I'm sure these songs would sound much different without the collaborators; it's impossible to know unless we traveled back in time. It is a must-buy for any fan and definitely worth checking out if you're not a fan, yet. I will be actually buying it when it officially comes. // 9