…Like Clockwork is less of an assault than previous Queens Of The Stone Age records, which isn’t to say the band has divested itself of its considerable artillery. Guns still blaze, but the big man gripping the handle has learnt some trigger discipline.
Where previous QOTSA albums were ailed by cartoonish attempts at subtle vulgarity, a dog chasing its dick in circles, frontman, Josh Homme, is now chasing after his emotions, his thoughts and his opinions, which for once, don’t all just revolve around dirty parts. This painful, elegiac and exploratory album is about righting the wrongs, revelling in the rights and accepting the wrongs that will forever remain un-right.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled is built on thick, crunchy bass and disjointed drums. The chorus is packed with steely, wah-laden guitar that whips out quickly like tentacles coming out of an alien planet. Though the chorus of I Sat By The Ocean relies on the usual bait-and-switch of QOTSA’s more lacklustre choruses, the verses are awesomely groovy struts with Little Sister-like guitar licks. The Vampyre Of Time And Memory consolidates the album’s most emphatic themes while sweet, seductive piano is matched by Homme’s sly honeyed vocals.
If I Had A Tail is a honky-tonk excursion into the band’s token sleaze, “I wanna suck, I wanna lick”. It’s dimwitted, but it’s nice to know they still wanna get down. The album is always sonically interesting and even when it starts to rock, it never loses sight of the groove, handling it like putty and moulding it to its own fancy. The song ends with a thrusting breakdown of grainy guitars before My God Is The Sun reminisces on the insistent propulsion of Songs For The Deaf, with rapid fire guitar licks and sublime, winding riffs.
The danceable sex-funk of Smooth Sailing makes Homme’s weariness throughout the rest of the album more emphatic, on Fairweather Friends he’s utterly morose. The eerie winding at the end of the latter recalls the schizophrenia of 2007’s Era Vulgaris, but like everything else on …Like Clockwork is a far more precise and captained effort, handled with more wisdom and intelligence than feeling and cocksureness. The lush glory of I Appear Missing is a chase scene that goes over land and sea before ascending into the sky and disappearing from sight.
…Like Clockwork is a definably Josh Homme record. A man driving a muscle car through the twilight of his mind, his ego and his id twin highways through which he snakes and veers. The man is wiser and his band, ever the deft ones, are wiser too. The record is, for all intents and purposes, a distillation of previous outings like Era Vulgaris was, but …Like Clockwork is far more congruent and as a result reaps far more satisfaction. Homme mobilises his own strengths and the strengths of the band he’s been in for over a decade.
The album closes with the title track, “And I’m swimming in the light, chasing down the moon / Deeper in the water, the more I long for you”. Homme stands alone in the spotlight accompanied by fuzzy, velvety guitars. The song closes the album with a piercing web of strings that end abruptly, snuffed out by silence.
Sharp, precise production, slinky, crunchy guitars, thick, booming percussion, every song is lean and on-point. Where previous QOTSA albums echoed with laughter, fat on their own excesses, …Like Clockwork is lean and studied. It isn’t a collection of feel-good-till-you-feel-sick jams that you pass the bong around to, it’s a slowly unweaving suite that cradles you with one arm, while it toys with you with the other. The lack of sex-obsessed, diesel-fuelled stoner rawk might disappoint some habitual fans. When it’s time to spark many will assuredly defer to Rated R or the self-titled debut, but none of this means that …Like Clockwork isn’t QOTSA’s best album to date.