I've had a flitting relationship with Queens of The Stone Age, their 2002 album Songs for The Deaf was a welcome blast from all the dross that seemed to account for rock and roll. Then I drifted away seemingly finding my rock elsewhere, and now I'm back with the release of their new album Like Clockwork. This album to me has it's musical genesis in the 70's, it's an album that has several layers and is deeply textured it has some prog rock tendencies but with a darker side. There are slabs of synth and electronica that add greater depth to each song, but that unmistakeable QUOTSA sound is still there. In true QUOTSA form there was plenty of upheaval prior to and during the recording sessions, drummer Joey Castillo was sacked after ten years service and Josh Homme nearly died during surgery.
There is a sense of trepidation as the opening track unfolds, sounds of breaking glass create a tense atmosphere, then those Josh Homme thundering riffs kick in, repeating and floating, anchoring and dispersing. Keep Your Eyes Peeled as a dreamlike quality with a sense of reality slipping, it's ominous, dark and dense. I Sat By The Ocean is a gem, another tragic vignette with a great bass line, it starts off like it's going to be more stripped back but in the chorus the music expands.
I sat by the ocean and drank a potion to erase you
Face down in the boulevard I couldn't face you
There ain't no use in crying, it doesn't change anything
So what good does it do
Your friends, they all sympathise
Maybe, I don't need them too
The Vampyre of Time and Memory sounds like it was lifted off the Beatles White album, disconcerting synths shroud a despondent piano melody. It's a song of a doubt, questioning one's existence Homme asks desperately "do we ever get it right". Homme suffered a near death experience during an operation prior to the band going into the studio and this brush with death has shaped a lot of the songs on this album. If I Had a Tail showcases the darkness of L.A, underneath the glamour lies something else, the devil's lair perhaps.
It's how you look
Not how you feel
A city of glass
with no heart
My God Is The Sun is QUOTSA at it's menacing best, loud thunderous rhythms and riffs that place you in a chokehold. It's a song of space an ode to the desert of Homme's youth, where he built the foundations of his sound. Fairweather Friends is a collaboration with former member Mark Lanergan and also features former bass player Nick Oliveri on backing vocals. Smooth Sailing in an unswerving statement of intent, it's Homme facing all his tribulations and giving a raging middle finger to it all,
It's all in motion
No stopping now
I've got nothin to lose
And only one way up
I got bruises and hickies
Stitches and scars
Got my own theme music
It plays wherever I are
What I love about this album is each song seems to connect with a deeper theme, uncertainty, loss, despair, the fleeting nature of existence, all framed with a sound that jolts you but then spreads far and wide. The band needed to take a leap and I think this is the album that has seen them take a giant step.