Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

By David Buchanan

Published on Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The most wonderful and crucial element to any classic slasher horror film or work of ultraviolent fiction has always been the supernatural and mysterious vein of its central apathetic killing machine. Jason Voorhees, pre-Rob Zombie, was classified as pure, indestructible evil; Freddy Krueger was a slaughtering boogeyman of the sleeping mind, invulnerable to pity or remorse. Queens of the Stone Age — a modern stoner rock entity for radio and underground alike — always came across like a sonic boom of scary movies, marijuana, and grunge rock. Unfortunately, and overlooked by many a critic, the audience insisted upon a popcorn flick over a semblance of deeper meaning. The beast has a black heart, but suddenly harnesses a soul? This isn’t a Halloween reboot.

While each record in Queens’ oeuvre laces its signature sound with everything from remnants of lead vocalist Josh Homme’s previous act, Kyuss (Rated R, Songs For The Deaf), to blues rock and campfire tales (Lullabies To Paralyze, Era Vulgaris), one major consistency has always been the use of themes, vague as they might be. …Like Clockwork is the movie monster getting gutted on display to the public, before eventually mass-murdering the majority. Queens of the Stone Age is now doling out musical blood in the only fashion its black sense of humor knows: by the bucketful.  On one hand, songs like “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” don doom-riddled riffs from a place only three guitarists’ strain and static could muster. On another hand, QOTSA drifts into obvious Sound City leftover “Fairweather Friends”, where Sir Elton John, fresh from a ‘meh’ collaboration with Fall Out Boy, makes barely a peep beyond minor piano nuance.

Titular entry, “Like Clockwork”, proves some of Era Vulgaris‘ tongue-in-cheek twang was in fact sincere, utilizing string tension reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight material; proportionately, Talking Heads clone “Smooth Sailing” loosened the gait of this wonderfully muted crescendo just a couple of tracks prior, giving us material maybe Them Crooked Vultures might have grasped tightly to, had the act not fallen into the same abyss as Chino Moreno’s Team Sleep project and my missing socks from last week. Overall, in ten songs of swinging between gruesome awesomeness (“If I Had A Tail”, “I Appear Missing”) and whatever the hell “Kalopsia” needs to be without video accompaniment, you get the feeling that Platinum Dunes funded this record’s production.

It is well-known that pressures were high during recording, with Joey Castillo abandoning his station as drummer, Trent Reznor being relegated to guesting on “Fairweather Friends”, and an overall unevenness in the final cut. If this album gets packaged with the five animated promotional videos made by Boneface and Liam Brazier, I would say buy it post haste, because the whole of it is like Yellow Submarine, in a sense — absent visual cues to match more haunting snippets, the filler takes hold. QOTSA history is rife with devastating hits and surly misses, yet we always come back for the gore, the consistency, the meat of the matter, something missing on a panicked and diluted …Like Clockwork, which sounds delicious, but isn’t a true monolith like its predecessors.

And as Sidney Prescott so boldly proclaimed, “Don’t fuck with the original.”


...Like Clockwork

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