A Review of a Modern Rock Classic by Queens of the Stone Age
It’s been one year since the release of Queens of The Stone Age’s fifth album, …Like Clockwork, and it’s likability has not waned in the year it’s been ruling my iTunes and blaring in my home. Complete with an expected lineup shift, the band’s release was hotly anticipated in the rock community–a six year hiatus from the release of Era Vulagaris–where, oftentimes that feverish anticipation leads to fandom letdown, (see: Radiohead’s King of Limbs).
Josh Homme and Co. brought a powerhouse of a rock record in the best way possible: … Like Clockwork is a dirty middle finger to the pubed-faced asshole that rambles on about how no one makes albums anymore (and will remind you that his collection is mostly vinyl–you know, the way albums were meant to be heard, man)–scoff at this idiot.Rather conversely, if you ask about this record in the shop, a Jack Black figure bounds from behind the register to berate you, and kicks your ass out for not already owning it; for one cannot possibly rock properly without it.
In a departure from earlier recordings, the tempo is slowed a bit in order for the rock to burn just right. You must taste the lyrics, be blasted by the distortion, and savor the crashing of symbals. This rock is not killing you with speed, but rather is leading the waltz with black-eyes and knuckle tattoos. Its tunes make you dance slowly with grace–but you dance on broken glass. The guitars are layered with labor and emotion, the effects reticent of early Black Sabbath phasers. Its uptempo cuts are the tail end of a pill buzz. Its involved slow tunes are crooked bookshelves. Its ballads are down-tuned mausoleums where every corpse is a version of you, tucked away on a shelf of limestone and marble.
1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
While classic albums don’t generally open with their best song, they do open with the tone-setter (see: “Come Together”-Abbey Road; “Ambitionz Az a Ridah”-All Eyez on Me).
The swell of white-noise and broken glass crescendo into a harsh slow groove. The lead guitar lick is tuned so low, it can be mistaken for a bass line. I interpret this as the audio-allegory–you are entering an alley that you could easily walk out of, but you are helpless to it’s hold. The alley’s inhabitants are your shortcomings, fears, bad teeth, vices…all playing on vocals, strings, and percussion.
Its crawling distorted guitar-fill is the come-here motion on the finger of siren in the depths of a cave. And that cave is your corroded soul. Clocking in at lethargic 80 BPM, the song is as brooding as its labored pace.
Homme warns, “Fallen leaves realize they are no friend of autumn/The view from Hell is blue sky/So ominously blue/I daydream until all the blue is gone.”
The track announces the album’s intention to be deliberate in every aspect of pacing and tone. It plans to take its time to make the listener present. It’s going to offer you the rock that is a foreboding mirror where you take a scumbag-selfie.
“If life is but a dream/Wake Me!”