Much has changed for Queens of the Stone Age during the six-year interim between “Era Vulgaris” and the new LP “…Like Clockwork.” The band has been rebuilt yet again, with bassist Michael Shuman (Wires on Fire, Mini Mansions) and multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita (the Waxwings, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather) weighing in as full-time members and drummer Joey Castillo leaving while the new album was in motion (Dave Grohl took up the slack for five of the 10 tracks). It’s arguably the most potent lineup since Josh Homme put QOTSA together in 1996, and it’s embellished on the band’s sixth studio album by guests such as Elton John, Trent Reznor, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees and QOTSA alumnus Nick Oliveri. “…Like Clockwork” has been a work in progress since August of 2012, and fans are surely primed for a royal return that they’re expecting to be well worth the wait.
Which songs on “…Like Clockwork” are worth repeat listens? Check out our track-by-track breakdown of Queens of the Stone Age’s new album, out June 3 on Matador.
1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Sound effects, including breaking glass, lead into a doomy, looping blues groove with industrial and psychedelic elements weaving in and out of the mix. The Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears helps out on vocals, and Homme’s declaration “Praise God, nothing is as it seems” sounds like a QOTSA mission statement.
2. I Sat By the Ocean – Things lighten considerably on this more straightforward guitar rocker. The buoyant dynamic vibe is marked by a tight, hooky guitar lead along with a slick vocal arrangement between Homme and bassist Michael Shuman.
3. The Vampyre of Time and Memory – This dark power ballad starts with just Homme’s voice and piano before filling out into an angsty but tuneful lament. “I want God to come and take me home ’cause I’m all alone in this crowd,” Homme sings, later asking “Does anyone ever get this right?” Homme and company certainly do.
4. If I Had a Tail – An upbeat, gritty, and sexy rocker — with Grohl on drums — is lightened a bit by a few “ooh la las” and a gang chorus of Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and QOTSA alumnus Nick Oliveri. Make sure you hang around for the track’s lo-fi, a capella conclusion, too.
5. My God is the Sun
An urgent rocker, again with Grohl on drums, whose dirty, careening dynamic sounds like something right out of a psychedelic garage. Shuman pushes the song with a muscular bass line, right up to a final 15 seconds of spectral dark carnival ambience that pulses into…
6. Kalopsia – Trent Reznor is on board for this four-and-a-half-minute suite that starts with gentle, melodic ambience, before bringing in the chunky guitars for the second verse and then alternating between moments of beauty and beautiful noise. Now, where have we heard that approach before?
7. Fairweather Friends – A semi-operatic start yields to some intricate guitar work and a dramatic, ebb-and-flow arrangement that gives Homme plenty of room to stretch out on guitar. Elton John is on board for piano and vocals, and Grohl back on drums.
8. Smooth Sailing – QOTSA gets sinewy, swampy and very funky here, with guitar lines snaking in and out of each other and occasional falsetto vocals adding to the gritty, textural attack. This one has hips.
9. I Appear Missing – The album’s longest song (6:01) alternates between looping choruses and bombastic, droning choruses. There’s a theatricality here that recalls, in spots, “The Sun King” from the Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” while Homme’s short slide break nods to Tom Morello’s drill-style guitar.
10. …Like Clockwork – The album closes with another quiet piece that may rank as the prettiest thing Homme has ever put on record, starting with voice and piano and building into some guitar majesty and a rich, swelling string arrangement. Homme, bringing in the falsetto again, warns that “it’s all downhill from here” — but we really don’t believe him.