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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork - ALBUM REVIEW

GENRES: Rock, Stoner Rock

TOP TRACKS: I Sat By the Ocean, The Vampyre of Time and Memory, If I Had a Tail, My God is the Sun, Kalopsia, Fairweather Friends, I Appear Missing, Like Clockwork

Rock music fans have waited years for this one and so have I. Queens of the Stone Age are one of the more respectable rock music groups to have hit the scene in the past 15 years or so. The group, fronted by musical mastermind, Josh Homme, boasts loud distorted guitar riffs, pounding drums, and other memorable aspects of rock music. However, what has set Queens of the Stone Age apart is their ability to appeal to music fans commercial and non-commercial. Obviously QOTSA have mainstream appeal as they did just finish playing Letterman and Jools Holland recently, however the band evens these appearances out by doing very strange things like showing up to random small record stores and perform shows like they did at Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ this Thursday.

Queens of the Stone Age turned heads with their breakthrough album Rated R in 2000 and gained even more attention when Foo Fighters frontman, Dave Grohl accepted an invitation to play on the follow up, Songs for the Deaf in 2002. However, it seems as if Queens of the Stone Age have not been heard from in regards to new music. Since the release of their fifth album, Era Vulgaris, frontman Josh Homme has played in Them Crooked Vultures with John Paul Jones and Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age toured for the re-release of their album, Rated R, this time in Deluxe form.

However, Josh Homme and the revolving door of Queens of the Stone Age members have been powering through over the past 6 years or so and in turn have made a record. ...Like Clockwork is the 6th studio release from Queens of the Stone Age. In addition to being highly anticipated based on time in between releases, Like Clockwork also features a HEAVY cast of guest collaborators. These include Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor, Musical Icon Elton John, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and the former QOTSA bassist Nick Olivieri. Of course the biggest feature here is Dave Grohl on drums for the majority of the record after drummer Joey Castillo was fired midway through recording. However, Grohl was too busy to tour so QOTSA approached John Theodore who is more than capable of holding his own. He did drum on the first Mars Volta record after all.

As for the music on here, it is spectacular. I will admit, that right of the bat I was worried from the opening track, "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" because it was very slow, the bassline was pretty monotonous and overall the track really didn't progress at all until the very end. However, my fears were forgotten with the song, "I Sat By the Ocean". This song is absolutely fantastic. Although it isn't classic Queens of the Stone Age, it is something new and it is incredibly hook-based just like everything Queens of the Stone Age do melodically. I love the verses on this track and Josh's singing is unbelievable. Immediately after, it was nice to see Queens of the Stone Age take a mellower path with "The Vampyre of Time and Memory". This piano ballad is soulful, solemn, and a bit dark. And that seems to be the theme with this album. Even the more fun songs have bits of dreariness somewhere in them. Most of the songs on Like Clockwork are a bit slower than QOTSA fans might have expected but they are still powerful, they are still raw and they are still very real and emotional.

For example, on songs like "If I Had a Tail and "My God is the Sun", Queens of the Stone Age take the tempo down a bit compared to their previous hits like "3's & 7's" or "No One Knows" but these are the fun songs on the album. They are bad-ass, they have excellent guitar leads especially the opening to "My God is the Sun". Both of these songs are really elevated by Dave Grohl's easily identifiable bombastic drumming.

One thing I do like about this album is that the collaborators (aside from Grohl) really find their place in limited spots on this album. For example, Alex Turner sings back up on "If I Had A Tail" but he is not openly noticed. On "Kalopsia" which is a bright stand out on this album, Trent Reznor programs some of the instrumentation and sings back up vocals. Elton John and Nick Olivieri are heard in "Fairweather Friends" singing back-up as well.

On "Kalopsia", the really beautiful, soft, and airier parts of the song are invaded by loud guitars which seem to forcibly break through the mix along with the drums. It is emotional releases like this that seperate Queens from other independent rock acts. The musicianship and songwriting ability that Josh Homme and his fellow bandmates possess is absolutely incredible. Who would have thought that a formerly stoner-rock band with heavy riffs and loud drums would ever be able to pull of something this dark, this elaborate and this epic.

 Overall, this album is very strongly written. However, this could not be more true for the final two tracks. "I Appear Missing" starts off slow and the elements of the song seem to wobble along almost losing their way during the verses but they are right on point for the strong and heavy chorus. This song has some awesome vocal hooks on the chorus and the break with the drum triplets was very unexpected but awesome nonetheless. As for the closer,"Like Clockwork". It's quite easily the most powerful track on the record. It starts off slow and it's a lonely, mournful piano ballad. You can hear the disappointment and sincerity in Josh Homme's voice, the pain within his lyrics. And instead of picking up the song with a loud build and adding the signature loud Queens of the Stone Age vibe, the band opts to keep it slow throughout until the end of the record. I'll tell you this, I was expecting this album's release for a long time but I did not think it would ever end this slowly. However, it was more fitting than any loud stoner-rock anthem could have ever been.

And it culminated this album very fittingly. This record is dark. It's about isolation, it's about time and it's about people. All of these these issues had potential and it was tapped well by Homme and Queens of the Stone Age. The execution on Like Clockwork was well worth the wait. And it is easily one of the best rock records to release so far this year. I definitely recommend it.