So much has changed for Queens of The Stone Age since they set pulses racing with the phenomenal Songs for the Deaf. Not that they didn’t have two decent albums before and after that, ut the 2002 release saw the alignment of Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan and Dave Grohl – a hard album to beat. …Like Clockwork sees all those old members return, but if you were hoping for the same desert heat you’ll find your hopes dashed and stomped on.
The returning ensemble feel like they have been drafted in to plug the gaps. Most notably, Dave Grohl drums on about half the tracks in Joey Castillo’s absence but you wouldn’t know it. Only on ‘I Appear Missing’ is there a hint that Grohl is present, though it’s not anything near as good as Songs for the Deaf‘s opener. A personal gripe would be that the world’s best voice in Lanegan (or voice-for-hire as he now seems) is wasted on what is essentially just breathing on a chorus. QOTSA albums used to be a joy for the myriad voices of maniacs but Homme lets no one take over his solo vocal duties for more than a moment.
However, you can put all that aside and find something new to appreciate here, that’s the silver lining. Homme, claiming to have died for a few moments before being revived on the operating table, takes a much more personal tact lyrically and in the sound of this album. Lines such as, “If life is but a dream/ then wake me!” on ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’, and “Does anyone every get this right?”, crooned on ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’, give the impression he has had a hard time with his near-death experience and getting back into the game of music-writing.
A true genius (yes, he is a modern-day genius) like Homme could never truly give it up, though. He pulls the swagger of Eagles of Death Metal and the penetrating riffs of Them Crooked Vultures in to help mix things up, and it works well on tracks such as the saucy ‘If I Had a Tail’ and single ‘My God is the Sun’ . In actual fact, you won’t find a bad track on this album if you can put everything else aside.
As an album, …Like Clockwork is a great piece of work. Where Era Vulgaris was battery-powered machinery, this album feels more like a cosmic black sheet with neon paint spat onto it. The drop-D tuning has gone, and so has the motor generator from the desert. However, while it might be harsh to say this is Josh Homme & Friends, it certainly does feel like the QOTSA moniker could be done away with now to separate the two bodies of work. Homme must surely feel that now this cathartic effort is out of the way he can start to carve a serious name for himself, and not anyone else.