An Appreciation: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

QOTSA Like ClockworkWhy QOTSA‘s  …Like Clockwork totally rules:

Right after the first snippets of the new Queens Of The Stone Age (QOTSA) record …Like Clockwork starting appearing online a few months ago, there was an almost immediate chorus of “What the heck is this?” and “Where’s the old QOTSA?” from many fans who were expecting a return to the well-known, sludgy riff-rock and manic choruses from the band’s earlier releases. That pissed me off.

What artist or musician wants to keep repeating themselves and recycling the same formula tirelessly just to pacify lazy listeners who can’t challenge themselves with more intricate and heartfelt music that goes much deeper and perhaps can’t be deciphered on first listen? Those who actually gave the new QOTSA record several serious listens with open minds and hearts were rewarded by the most adventurous, unique, interesting, emotional, and yes, ROCKING record that has been released by a mainstream band in years.  It sounds like nothing else.  And yes, Dave Grohl and some of the usual cast of musicians make appearances, including sublime guitar work by Troy Van Leeuwen (Failure, A Perfect Circle), but hey, Elton John even appears on one song, and you couldn’t tell because it still rocks like hell.

I cannot recall the last time a record projected such a haunting and immediately catchy vibe the way …Like Clockwork has enchanted me. The record seeped into my subconscious and has become the soundtrack to strange dreams, as well as the soundtrack to my daily life.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played it.  In the car, at home, at parties, at band rehearsal… When was the last time that happened in our manic-paced, distracted, over-stimulated, modern lives? The only recent-ish record that I can compare it to (for myself) is the first Interpol record Turn On The Bright Lights. It sets a certain mood and playing the record again is the only thing that will satiate that yearning. You know what I’m talking about… You don’t put on one song. You put on the whole record, CD, download, whatever, and you don’t skip anything, and you crank the hell out of it. There is a palpable feeling created by the music coming out of your speakers or earbuds or giant PA system in your rehearsal room… I hesitate to single out certain songs, because to me, it’s one big continuous piece of music.

…Like Clockwork is a dark record, due to the post-surgery near-death experience, long bedridden rehab, and resulting depression and burn-out that QOTSA main man Josh Homme went through a couple years ago. However, the rebirth of Homme’s creative juju and his decision to reveal himself in such a stark and honest way, with a unique approach to the songwriting, arrangement, playing and production, makes the darkness more like a fog: comforting and warm. We’ve all been in dark places, but very few of us are able to translate those feelings into some sort of accessible art form that allows others to feel such a kinship with the artist(s). To further inject the vibe into the public consciousness, Homme enlisted visual artists Boneface & Liam Brazier to create some amazing apocolyptic animated videos to promote the release of …Like Clockwork earlier this summer and man, those guys nailed it.  I can’t imagine anything else that would’ve matched the audio with the visual better than what they created.  If you haven’t seen the videos, watch/listen to them all right now. You will be a better person for it. Seriously. Let me help you out: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f49yRhJ0NjI)

QOTSA is really the only modern rock band I can think of who have done whatever the hell they felt like doing, ignoring trends and flavor-of-the-moment sounds, to produce one-of-a-kind, timeless anthems played with reckless abandon, but also with razor sharp precision. Time after time. Record after record.

Of course, I’m biased… I started listening to Homme and his musical endeavors back in the early 90’s with KYUSS (check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc-7FXzbeA0).  I was fortunate enough to actually witness one of their last shows with the original line-up at the Dragonfly in Hollywood in ’96 where they were so freaking LOUD that my friend’s innards shook so hard he had to go out back and puke.  Right after he came back in, KYUSS blew out the power and lights in the entire club in the middle of a song!  Immediately, the whole band shouted “SATAN!” repeatedly until the power came back on… It was perfect.

A couple years later, when I heard Homme was forming a new band with the curious name of Queens Of The Stone Age, my instincts told me it was gonna be awesome. A few years later, they were headlining Coachella.  Only thing is, the QOTSA of then couldn’t be repeated. Just like anything uniquely amazing, it lives in a certain moment, place and time. Copying it shouldn’t be attempted.

So, to those who don’t “get” the genius of …Like Clockwork, you owe it to yourself to divorce this record from QOTSA of the past, and listen with fresh ears, mind, heart and soul.  Let the dark, haunting awesomeness envelope you. Over and over again.

Mark Reback for The Independent FM