...Like Clockwork review by Queens of the Stone Age

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Jun 3, 2013
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (1,124 votes)
Queens of the Stone Age: ...Like Clockwork
8

Sound — 9
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.

Lyrics — 8
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.

Overall Impression — 9
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.

84 comments sorted by best / new / date

    verbal.ken
    I think it's their best album ever. Certainly my favorite. Takes bits of where they've been before and mixes them up with plenty that's entirely new. Sections reminded me of Floyd and Zeppelin, and even of Bauhaus and 80s goth. I think it's an incredible recording and I'm unlikely to stop playing it any time soon.
    mc92
    "QOTSA's best work is yet to come." It's hard to agree with this sentence, when they've recorded such great albums as "Songs for the Deaf" and "Rated R" which definitely have strong impact on modern rock. After listening to tracks they've recently released, I think that hype killed this new album because everybody expected huge rock anthems in vein of "Go with the flow" or "Little Sister" when band decided to record anti-pop robot record which resembles last album. Neither killer nor filler but it's strong album.
    Iommianity
    If you expected anything similar to the first three albums, that's 110% on you. There's nothing that indicated that direction, certainly not their last two albums. It's not QotSA's fault that people have hyped their newest album to the moon and back. All Josh can do is get together with some people, write some music, and call it Queens. Everything else is besides that and irrelevant.
    FERAL1975
    My God Is the Sun, the reuniting of the Songs for the Deaf Line-up, and the choice of colour scheme for the album cover all hinted towards a return to that direction.
    Iommianity
    So, press hype, more press hype, and one single? That sounds like projecting to me. The cover isn't that much different than any of the last 3 albums really, and they've been consistently previewing songs for it that sounded nothing like My God is the Sun. Hell, even that song was more Vulturish than tuned down to C Queens style riffing.
    Suitemike
    I hear what your saying, I love this album but usually when I hear a Queens of the Stone Age song I want to grab my guitar and learn the whole album because their riffs are always so captivating. I didn't get a sense of any really good riffs, it definitely has a sick groove and tone but none of the songs save for "I Sat by the Ocean" and "I Appear Missing" really made me want to learn to play. But I haven't really heard any good albums lately that I could just listen too and get lost in track by track without reaching for my guitar and playing along. I feel like how my dad must've felt when he'd buy a record and just listen to it over and over in his room when he was a kid. This album is definitely more of an experience than an attempt to rock your ass off.
    CoattailRider9
    Yeah, I definitely understand what you're saying, and I too was expecting a more rocking album. But, with it being Homme talking about his death and all that I could assume it would be kinda depressing. Be that as it may, I think the album is great, but not in the rocking sorta way. It's in more of a musical way. I'm thinking their next album will rock pretty well, but that'll be at least 2 years from now. lol
    mc92
    You know what, when Josh first had announced recording new album he said that it sounds "very bluesy" and then they had this QOTSA Anniversary tour which (according to Josh) was huge influence on new album. And to be honest with You, I don't hear any sounds similar to their first recording. Also I didn't say that I was expecting something like "SFTD" or "RR", I simply said that all this hype didn't help at all. Remember these headlines "SFTD-era lineup reunite for new Qotsa album"? That's what I'm talking about. Everyone's tried to pretend this is "next big thing", when this is something much deeper and harder than journalist predicted. This ain't no Songs for the Deaf when everybody (I mean journalists) thought like that.
    CoattailRider9
    I sure as hell didn't expect anthems like "Go With the Flow" or "Little Sister". QOTSA changes up their sound every album, and even with the last album they steered way away from anthems. (excluding "Make It Wit Chu" possibly. Always expect the unexpected from them. lol
    Burnzyburns
    I do agree that it's hard to believe that QOTSA's best work is yet to come. Those first two albums are classics in my book, and the next three are also absolutely great (I haven't heard the new album in entirety). I'm sure QOTSA will release quality material as long as it exists, but "best is yet to come" seems very unlikely.
    robo37
    I don't know, nostalgia is a pretty powerful thing, personally I'm finding every QOTSA album is better than the last.
    ZomBBoognish
    It's hard for me to think of what their best album would sound like. I love Queens and I love that their sound changes a little from album to album. I like to listen to music that reflects what mood I'm in, so bands that try new things just insure that I'll be listening more often. Each time they've put out an album they've added some range to their discography and all I want is more.
    CultofSG
    Good review. I am confused by comments like "rock's ultimate alpha male" though. Not that Homme is wimpy or anything, but I've never really listened to his stuff and thought "That's so alpha male!"
    Burnzyburns
    I've never that from the music, but in interviews and such he has acted that way quite a bit, I think. Not in a dumb, beat-my-chest kind of way, though.
    ZomBBoognish
    When I think "rock alpha male" I think sleazy sex, drugs, rock n roll. Pretty much Josh, especially Eagles of death metal Josh.
    johanaw91
    I like the transition from the raw and more pumping records (St, Rated R, SftD) to the more sophisticated and odd records (Lullabies, Era Vulgaris, ...Like Clokcwork). It would be boring to stay in the same dimension for 15 years or so. I haven't heard the full record yet, just waiting for the official release, but I already love the broadcasted songs.
    Good Ol' Ramos
    I love the album. I had no expectations. Hell, listen to any two previous albums and besides certain giveaways, there's a contrast from one to the next. Songs For The Deaf and, say, Lullabies To Paralyze? Incomparable. Both good, both QOTSA, both listened to often. I steered away from expectations, and trusted Homme & co to do good things. They did great things. "...Like Clockwork" (the track, not the album) deserves so much attention. Lyrically, it's beautiful.
    Hungry_Hameds
    This is a phenomenal album, an evolution from a band that doesn't stand still, or repeat the shit out of a successful formula. I liken it to the 70's when Zep were seemingly off the boil after Houses of the Holy, and then BOOM Physical Graffiti blows the minds of the doubters... you cant compare this to Songs for the Deaf or Rated R, just like you cant compare those 2 albums to each other. Plus QOTSA, Lullabies to Paralyze and Era Vulgaris, all great albums too. These guys have to be the most consitent band on the planet.
    M4jestyace
    Honestly, this is my favorite album to date. Every album they've released sounds better than the last, and this one hit home for me. It's a bit closer to me, I guess, because of personal events of similar circumstances have occurred in my life recently, but that's the thing about these guys - always put out an album I need to hear at the right time. QOTSA forever, also happy they made Misfit Love pt.2 (Smooth Sailing). Great stuff. Josh can play new stuff whenever he wants!
    third(-)eye
    I think the reviewer may be a bit biased towards the more hard-hitting, "First it Giveth" moments which this album clearly lacks. I think what the band set out to do, they achieved brilliantly. In fact, I think the best songs on the album are the ones that capitalize most on their new dreamy sound, such as Kalopsia, I Appear Missing, and the title track. Also, I don't think QOTSA will ever top Songs for the Deaf, so if this guy's still waiting, he'll probably be disappointed.
    duncang
    Is it bias or is it having a preference which informs your writing? One's okay, the other's not. I'd say this review is perfectly fair.
    third(-)eye
    Fair enough. I just think he shouldn't let that get in the way of analyzing what IS there. And what's here is pretty damn well executed.
    dewitt
    He still gave the album an 8.7 overall, regardless of any bias (which I think would be in their favor, if anything). Every album shouldn't be given a ~10. I know most of the users and reviewers here would prefer it that way, but it really defeats the purpose.
    third(-)eye
    I never said that, I just think it should be a tad higher. Believe me, I'm not a frequent 10 giver, I just would have given it something between 9 and 9.5.
    Iommianity
    To be fair your post does come off like that. I mean, there's only, what, a difference in a point and a half between your score and his? I think it's a copout to say someone disliked something because of a style change or that they didn't judge the album on what was there. I see people make those arguments with bands all the time, and it's a shame. Sometimes people do look at what's there and just don't like it. It's not like Queens took a left turn and wrote a hip hop album or something, people are judging it on what it is.
    UniformRecon
    This album is so ****ing amazing. Smooth Sailing is also one of my favorites. Really similar to the more robotic Them Crooked Vultures stuff. Also, I Sat By The Ocean is pretty catchy.
    third(-)eye
    I sort of think that I Sat By the Ocean would have been a stronger lead single than My God is the Sun.
    UniformRecon
    Definitely. My God Is the Sun is still a pretty solid track, but it seems so out of place when you listen to the rest of the album. It's just pretty "standard" compared to the rest of the tracks.
    daken_1
    I think Homme definitely achieved what he said QOTSA set out to make this album for though: To prove a point. I'm gonna assume musically and creatively because this is a kickass album and it shows that QOTSA and Homme for that matter have sorta grown up to write music that invokes thought in me and aspires to have a sophisticated direction of its own. The change in lyrics are an example - "I Appear Missing" is probably the only really melancholy QOTSA song I've ever heard, and the hedonism is sorta taken out of the picture, or at least used in a slightly different context. Bottom line: I think this is QOTSA's most ambitious album yet, and it is awesome. If this is an indication of the future, then we can certainly expect an incredible release later on. This album is at least a 9/10 for me
    lucassilvadeus
    so you've never heard "The Sky Is Falling", interesting, but i agree in most of this, as for i think QOTSA still has a lot to offer, and their greatest album hasn't been released yet
    daken_1
    Oh I have, and you are right, but I just felt way more engaged with "I Appear Missing". The tone set by the music probably helped I guess haha
    petruzh
    It is the best album of the year! Maybe even best QOTSA album ever
    kmister
    Great album. Different to SOTD but just as good in my opinion. His song writing has improved loads, decent melodies all the way through the album(the outro melodies of 'I appear missing' being the best of his career). Still I want to hear some brutal riffs on the next album along with stuff like ...Like Clockwork (Track not album).
    RocknRollRay
    im liking this album very much. its refreshing and has plenty of character. my fav so far my god is the sun and i appear missing, fairweather friends is brilliant. the production is classy, its got such a raw feel to it. love it
    mike.d13
    The album is pretty solid. It pretty much has every one of their previous albums vibe to each song. I honestly enjoy Keep Your Eye's Peeled the most tho, that riff is bludgeoning. Metal heavy soft to the core. However the album itself seems to short, maybe I'm clinging on to the idea that their is still more. This album just seems to be a teaser of more to come. I don't know, with all the cryptic messages they put out, the 999 significance? Is it any surprise that the album has 9 songs plus the title track? I could just be over thinking the entire thing, but I really feel as if this is only the beginning. Any thoughts?
    ZeppelinruleZ
    I hope that's true that there is more material but I don't think so. The band said in some recent interviews that they (I think maybe Josh specifically) said that they were very relieved to have the album done. To me, it seems like just coming up with these 10 tracks was tough enough, the thought of more seems unlikely.
    Stalk027
    I really love it. It's a strong album, dark as hell, with Homme's songs and lyricswriting skills improved. The collaborations are great, even if we can't put some names on one songs. I expected some verses dedicated to Lanegan, not back voices. Nevertheless, it's a really good record.
    ZeppelinruleZ
    It kind of reminds me of 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.' (Stay with me here) In the movie Pete (Jason Segel) wants to write a Dracula musical about heartbreak. He has writer's block until he realizes that it he should write it as a funny musical. To me, this album is almost like that musical, except if it was the dark, more serious one he was originally going for. He played piano in the movie as well, which I think reminded me of the album as well. The band obviously experienced some pain (maybe even heartbreak) during the recording of this album. With the album cover, spooky overtones throughout, and song titles like "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" I can't help but think of vampires and Dracula at certain points. For example: the riff at the end of "Smooth Sailing" where it gets pretty crazy makes me feel like a swarm of vampires are surrounding me with their fangs bared and then when the scream comes though and it reverts back to the original groove I feel like I burst through them all and keep on "sailing smoothly." Side note: I think I need a 12 step program for "Kalopsia", I'm addicted.
    thrash17
    if this is a concept album htne its great. i think though, when u come out with a new album, you should have a good balance. on this album it just seems like there isnt as much emphasis on those hard, heavy tracks that got them to this point. when i heard the opening track, my hope died a little bit. i usually expect an opening track to set the mood, and the mood i got from the opening track was that most of the songs are gonna be slow. i dont mond slow, as long as there is balance, and there just isnt good balance of this album. the album is still good, but i wouldnt call it better than SFTD, LLTP, or RR. but thats just me.
    TryTheKetchup
    It could be not the best album in QOTSA discography, because it doesn't consist their signature sound at all, but it is the best rock album this year so far. It's quite eclectic, it sounds modern, but it is still rock album.
    johanaw91
    I think it does have their signature sound, but put into a different coat, maybe even in a new suit. It's not the same as before, but it shouldn't.
    Jozef23
    I like it, good strong rock album and one of the best albums of the year (behind Daft Punk, James Blake and Atoms For Peace)
    knifeboy
    "It would be boring to stay in the same dimension for 15 years or so."- Do you find AC/DC boring, I wonder?
    Iommianity
    I do. Slayer too. And yet Hell Awaits and Let There Be Rock are two of my favourite albums. They peaked, then milked their success and formula.
    johanaw91
    Yes I do. Like their style and I can understand why people love them so much. But I'm bored with them after say 4 songs. In perspective, I'm a progrock fan, I really dig Dream Theater, but their newer records are boring, because it hasn't progressed from the previous recordings, it's the same "trick" as before. Of course a new record should be recognizable as QotSA, but should not be a sheer copy of what they did. It makes every record stand out and surprising.
    knuw1
    Yep, AC/DC rocks but, I do find their songs blend together.
    guitarist5477
    I find them boring, but I love them. Nowadays I can only stand them when I need to get pumped up such as when I work out, drink shots, or be a couch potato. Those cases require Shoot To Thrill.
    Qotsa43556
    This is a great album but if it were to be the first Queens album I ever heard, I most probably would not be such a huge fan of theirs. There are no hard hitting songs I miss the Stoner rock queens.
    TryTheKetchup
    This is the first album I've heard from QOTSA, and I'm listening to the other stuff right now. This album is very good to introduce the band, so "Songs for the Deaf" is.
    Qotsa43556
    You should give "R" a listen as well as Lullabies to paralyze! Epic albums !!
    TryTheKetchup
    I've given "Lullabies..." a hit, but it didn't impress me as much as "Songs..." or "Clockwork". Rated R is kinda better, than "Lullabies", but I still can't catch the vibe properly. The hardest QOTSA albums for me are "Era" and self-titled. They're really junkie. I think I'll fell them one day, but it's gonna be another story XD
    Qotsa43556
    Yeah dude I agree. bought Era... on day of release and Im still kinda trying to get into it. Prob their worst album to date. Self titled is sweet, especially regular John, wish I was a teenage hand modle and give the Mule what he wants. Such a sweet groove to that song !! But either way, the Queens are the Queens and they are dam awesome. Have you given Eagles of Death Metal a listen?? Worth it.
    TryTheKetchup
    Oh, yeah, I have given a listen to both Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures, and Kyuss as well. Homme is damn awesome musician. F--kin' love his voice.
    Qotsa43556
    Yeah he is damn Awesome. I just cant get into Kyuss really. I have only listened to "Welcome to sky valley" though. maybe I should give their other albums a listen before making any judgments ?!
    Iommianity
    Don't bother. If you don't like their best album for whatever reason, the other albums won't grab you. I love Queens of the Stone Age, but to me, nothing they've down outside of the first three albums comes anywhere close to Kyuss' level.
    MusicMan24
    QotSA will never top Songs for the Deaf. Simple as that, BUT...with that being said, this is a solid album, I would definitely say it's their 2nd best after SftD. So, this is the best it's ever gonna get IMHO, not saying it's a bad record (Which it isn't) or their songwriting skills have gone down the drain, it's that SftD is just that good. ...Like Clockwork 8/10 though