QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork

queensofthestoneageQUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – ‘…Like Clockwork’
Six years on from the groggy slingshot Era Vulgaris, Josh Homme has re-grouped his Queens to throw back some dirty, blues-driven desert rock in our faces.  Its been a while, emerging via some Crooked Vultures and a self-titled re-issue tour; perhaps consequently album number six yields a few surprises.  Invariably a better record than its predecessor, despite a dubiously experimental edge, Like Clockwork is positively heaped with familiar riffs and sinister snarl.  With long time protagonists Grohl, Lanegan and Olivieri returning to lend respective prowess and new sticksman Jon Theordore (ex Mars Volta), the list of other collaborators reads like a who’s who of industry Glitterati.  Trent Reznor, Brody Dalle, Jake Shears, Alex Turner, James Lavelle and Elton John amongst  others, all lending a hand in some way shape or form – Homme’s Avengers assemble to answer his call for benefaction and augmentation.  Which in this context is astute and hugely effective, almost all of the time.  Take opener ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’ with its low slung drone and whining overtones; a curiously bold beginning that might’ve been better saved to serve as a mid point reality check.  Come back to that.  Only momentarily bursting into life astride galloping drums, its follow up ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ is much more ‘typical’ fayre; straight up and easily digestible.  By the time the slow burn blues of ‘The Vampire Of Time And Memory’ kicks in, its clear Homme’s flexing his muscles with a renewed sense of virility.  A tantalising and seductive affair that has Chris Goss and Masters Of Reality etched into a deep persona.  ‘If I Had A Tail’ has a 70’s disco groove that instantly compels, while first premier ‘My God Is The Sun’ has a penetrating bassline beneath slice ‘n’ dice guitar work thats precise enough to leave lasting scars and burning desires to play Songs For The Deaf.  A pulsating heartbeat is the back drop for the sleepwalking, split personalities of ‘Kalopsia’; submissive one moment, antagonistic the next – Trent Reznor’s inimitable howl dazzling in the distance.  Over half way through and that less than shady opening has made way for some largely effective voyeurism that provides another glimpse into a world where only the free will prevail.  And its freedom that endures on ‘Fairweather Friends’; Homme bemoaning infadels bereft of love or companionship, ready to leave you standing or take advantage.  The playful pop sensibilities re-appear on ‘Smooth Sailing’ without losing worth or credibility; gliding silver surfer-like into the lounge lizardy of album highlight ‘I Appear Missing’ and a title track that slams the breaks on.  Homme hitting the high notes atop dulcet ivory tinkerings and a simple strum that blends into cacophonous strings, leaving a bittersweet, congenial flavour to savour.  On first listen this is an alter-ego.  On second listen it’s a tighter, more focussed QOTSA; hallmarks intact, with added danger.  Welcome Back Dude!  (8)
STEVE FLETCHER

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