At times in their career, Queens of the Stone Age have sounded like a world-class backing band for a non-existent superstar, and this continues to be something of a problem here. For all the quality of the musicianship, there is something missing.
This is a record built from the bottom up; monolithic slabs of bass and primal backbeats form the bedrock of the album. A bassline of Neolithic simplicity and power saunters in at the start of album opener ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’, and against this thunderous introduction then the plaintive vocals of Josh Homme seem curiously unnecessary. This problem recurs throughout the album.
Album highlight ‘My God is the Sun’, for example, is propelled by a ferocious cameo return from Dave Grohl and a writhing bassline which together utterly swamp the vocal performance.
When Homme’s voice is given more prominence, for example on piano-led ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’, the result is often turgid and angsty. The record is at its best when it eschews attempts at melodic introspection for heavier numbers, powering out riffs like The Velvet Underground on steroids.
One way the band remedies this shortcoming is bringing in Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and Elton John to take over vocal duties, providing much needed variety. Sir Elton’s piano line bouncing through the riotous ‘Fairweather Friends’ like a drag queen striding through a bar fight is one of the most refreshing moments of the album.
There’s no question about it, QOTSA have really matured as a band; this album is by far their most complex and innovative yet. However, rock music is not always about subtlety. Their earlier albums were unashamed of their simplicity, and it was this which bestowed on them a crude power which is sometimes lacking here.
Like Clockwork… proves that QOTSA are still capable of producing great rock songs, and it is just a crying shame they sometimes lose sight of this simple goal.
Track To Download: My God Is The Sun