The world of Queens of the Stone Age is still strange on 'Like Clockwork'
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
“I don’t know what time it is / I don’t wear a watch.”
It’s immediately obvious from the first notes of the first track of …Like Clockwork, the most recent Queens of the Stone Age album, that Joshua Homme and company are intent on making an intense statement: that there are no musical ensembles that can approach the distorted life and worldview that lives on record like Queens of the Stone Age.
It’s the slither of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” and the brooding self-assuredness of “Smooth Sailing.” It’s the way “Kalopsia” makes the listener feel trapped in a Paresian nightmare funhouse without also inducing claustrophobia. It’s the way these songs and all the rest work together to induce these bizarre feelings in a way that no other album of 2013 has.
The world presented within the confines of the best Queens of the Stone Age records is almost surreal, a twisted version of that stretch of Route 62 between Las Vegas and Indio littered with loaded ashtrays, failing casinos and discarded steer skulls, only thriving amid all the clutter and chaos.
It’s there in the self-assured swagger of “If I Had a Tail,” all waltzing stomp and supreme poise in this otherworldly adaptation of mythology and animal parts on the human body. The song rocks and repeats and blissfully trucks on without regard for the scars it’s inflicting on listeners. It’s creepy and weirdly seductive and can only end in tears.
The heavy stomp on “My God Is the Sun” gives us the quote that adorns the top of this review, and it presents a rhythmically robotic vibe to match that nihilistic view of time and space. It’s a classic Queens motif — the rapid-fire riff with diving vocals over the verses — but it’s most effective within the context of the rest of the album. Every track works together to create a hypnotic soundscape that embraces a desolate place that isn’t of time or space.
And it all stems from the ultra confident Homme, Queens of the Stone Age’s general and executor of this incredible realm. It’s his hybrid of blues, hard rock and robotic rhythms that’s created the swanky vibe that permeates through everything he touches, and on …Like Clockwork, the tensions and sweat and sensations are all amplified. Only Homme could put Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Elton John on the same side of vinyl and have them all feel organic to his codeine-soaked world. Their contributions are welcome, but they’re clearly sympathetic to Homme’s vision and working to enhance his message.
Without much more than some guitars, drums and the occasional weirdo keyboard splash, Homme has invented not just a template from which to work, but damn near a complete sub-genre that is commandeered by hardly no one but him and him alone. The common thread is that unending confidence wielded with such power as to be shocking.
It’s been six years since the last Queens of the Stone Age record, and six years is a long time for the senses to be dulled by the impact of hearing this music new. It’s also easy for the listener to be zapped out of consciousness and into the bizarre world of this band and, specifically, …Like Clockwork as its 45 minutes slink through to the end. It’s not 2013, it’s not 2002 and it’s not 1972. It might be the future. In this world, it’s amazingly difficult to figure out the time or day.
At least it was for me. But I don’t usually wear a watch.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com