justin matchick writes like clockwork …
Here we have a band that hasn’t made an album in six years. It’s been their longest break between studio albums in their 15-year long career. They’ve had a revolving door of band members over the years with certain members having varying degrees of staying power. They’ve toured the world, had millions of fans, and made some of the more addictive rock songs of the past decade. So what kind of album can a band that’s already run the gamut of rock stardom make after such a long time away from the studio? For Queens Of The Stone Age, it’s a record that shows they are an ever evolving tour-de-force of rock that still maintains the same raw emotion their music has carried throughout the past decade and a half.
While the band was preparing to record …Like Clockwork in 2010, front man and Queens Of The Stone Age mastermind Joshua Homme had complications during a surgery that left him technically dead for a few minutes and required several months of bed rest. Homme claims the experience caused a profound tonal shift in the record, and the result is arguably the darkest and most expressive entry into the bands catalogue. Themes of death, alienation, and insanity are front and center. Focusing on just a few subjects makes for a more cohesive album that flows smoothly from song to song. The gloomy lyrics combined with Homme’s ever-haunting vocals make for some attention-grabbing moments that seem to creep through your headphones and right into your mind.
Homme has always described Queens Of The Stone Age’s sound as “robotic rock” with heavy, crunching, repeating riffs, driving bass and thunderous drums. …Like Clockwork still has all these elements, but the production and song structures are indicative of a band that has taken the last few years to really try and mature sonically. Moments of melodic pianos, sweeping vocal harmonies, and tranquil guitars show off just how far the band has come in terms of songwriting. Similar things have been done on previous Queens Of The Stone Age albums, but they’ve never sounded so good or blended so well with the pulse-pounding rock thank to Josh Homme’s growing flair for music production. You still get the same ass-kicking Queens Of The Stone Age you’ve loved all these years, but it’s nice to see the different ways they’re starting to branch out and develop their sound.
There are still a few hiccups along the way. Queens Of The Stone Age have always had a problem balancing their stronger songs on an album with the filler songs, and this is still true with …Like Clockwork although it is at least less noticeable than past efforts. Even though a select few are somewhat forgettable, this is overshadowed by arguably some of the best songs the band has ever released. Lead single “My God Is The Sun” anchors the middle of the album with a hammering riff that never lets up steam. “I Appear Missing” and “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” have a slower pace but are just as heavy and both equally spine-chilling, while “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” are in my opinion the best two songs the band has ever done. “Fairweather Friends” in particular has been replayed again and again on my laptop and in my car more times than I’d like to admit.
So after the long hiatus and near-death experience and several new band members, Queens Of The Stone Age has put out an album that not only recalls the raw intensity of their early work like Rated R and Songs for the Deaf, but even manages to surpass it. They’ve shown they can take a repeating riff and drill it into your head and make it the best damn song you’ve heard all year just as easily now as they did a decade ago. This year has been overloaded with amazing new album releases, and a lesser album from Queens Of The Stone Age would have just been overlooked amidst the ocean of other fantastic comeback albums. But instead …Like Clockwork has managed to elevate itself to a whole new level, and at this point is my frontrunner for Album of the Year.