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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Queens of the Stone Age: Is Like Clockwork more second rate?

After a six year wait for Josh and his associated queens to return, devotees are treated to the sounds of a typically dazzling array of sonic henchmen who now stand united once more to proudly fly the QOTSA flag.  Yes, we have expected guests such as Dave Grohl, but Homme keeping the likes of Trent Reznor, Alex Turner and even Sir Elton John up his sleeve should easily serve up even more surprise-derived delight, (although for the record I'm no fan of the latter!). 

I know we’ve had an abundance of distractions to deaden the heartache, but “safe” projects such as Grohl’s Sound City smack a little too much of good old fashioned sensibility for my liking; I want scary! The familiar sinisterial sounds emitted from the outset of Like Clockwork surely go some way to instill a certain amount of smugness into any Queens of the Stone Age fan who refused to listen when folk said they’d fled and were gone for good. 
‘Keep your Eyes Peeled’ is something of a subdued opener that entices with its underpinning promise of string-driven menace and mischief. Moving on without accomplishing much more, ‘I sat by the Ocean’ follows the same stifled formula, but shocks lie in wait!  Impressively polished and patiently propelled with more unsurprising restraint, it actually manages to summon and stir many a chart hit from Damon Albarn’s Blur!  

A poignant Dan Wallace resounding ‘Vampyre of Time and Memory’ takes us back into old-school territory. Its piano-driven impact is all too short-lived, but fear not for a more upbeat Killers-worthy ‘If I had a Tail’ takes us onward.  With its filthy lyrical underbelly restoring all things we’d come to sorely miss, this track takes us far beyond redemption and thanks to the Bowie-esque choruses and spooky outro, we can now officially relax... right?

A noticeably heavier ‘My God is the Sun’ comes out to shine, unashamedly shaking us by the ears as it does!  Forgivably repetitive, its whine-rich brainwashing leaves us pleased to hear a harshly contrasting ‘Kalopsia’ make a gentle entrance.  There’s a lovely blast of understated Hommeage (sorry!) to a distant doo-wop era that clearly doesn’t belong… and I like it!  The track takes a course typified by the band and closes somewhat unspectacularly.

Injecting Tenacious D sentiment into the proceedings, ‘Fairweather Friends’ features some simplistic piano that’s wonderfully smothered beneath an ongoing battle between the spotlight-hogging percussion parts and guitar play. Its intensity is overcome with a groove-ridden ‘Smooth Sailing’ and a diva-style vocal that draws us in to enjoy what could be the most balanced track so far, but don’t let that stop you from getting down with it.

Despite its undeniably uninspiring construct, ‘I appear Missing’ is as open and accessible as any of its predecessors, but it qualifies as being worthy of safety and of being kept one step beyond the dreaded B-side bracket.  On title track ‘Like Clockwork’ we hear Josh earnestly singing his heart out, amidst what must surely be mysterious forces; I’m left feeling like I’ve just finished listening to some mediocre MOR outfit and that simply won't cut it.

So I guess the burning question is how many listens will it take to succumb to these all-new QOTSA sounds or will I ever get over that anticlimactic close?  The desire I have to hit repeat and to take it all in again certainly highlights the LPs strength and allure and who knows, maybe after hearing this a few more times, we’ll forgive and forget that nasty, unannounced hiatus that Josh and co left us to deal with, but for now I have to report that this album could've been called Second Rate, not Like Clockwork.

That said, anyone unimpressed by the new artwork should see a doctor, or visit the QOTSA website to be reminded of its greatness.