Music Reviews
...Like Clockwork

Queens of the Stone Age ...Like Clockwork

(Matador Records) Rating - 9/10
Josh Homme has had a few difficult years in the run-up to recording and releasing ...Like Clockwork. In 2010, a routine knee surgery resulted in Homme's clinical "death" for a short time, leading him to being bedridden for three months. The incident deeply shook the frontman, stating that he left something behind on the operating table. Although he was deeply depressed, his band mates convinced him to start work on a new Queens of the Stone Age album.  
While the album was recorded, Homme couldn't shake the near-death experience from his mind and it comes pouring out through this LP, the darkest and creepiest one the band has made. It also happens to be their best in over a decade. 
The foreboding tone and thoughts of Homme's "death" are noticed immediately on the opener, Keep Your Eyes Peeled. "If life is but a dream, then wake me", Homme screams over a sinister bass and warped guitar riff that slides into a sinking harmonious bridge. I Appear Missing is even more blatant. Homme sings, "Pinned like a note in a hospital gown/Deeper I sleep/Further down/A rabbit hole never to be found", as the music alternates between a gentle, lullaby riff that grows louder and louder, almost as if the instruments themselves are trying to bring him back to life. 
Even when moving on to other subjects, the music mostly stays under the surface, with only glimpses of sunlight coming around. The Vampyre Of Time and Memory is piano-centered, with the mournful melody offering an anchor for Homme's voice. The tiny bits of guitar borders between jazzy licks and sharp soloing. Kalopsia uses a heartbeat as the drumbeat, while the guitar riffs meticulously inches forward, until a sharp guitar screech kicks the band forward for the chorus.  
Still, it's not all doom and gloom on this album. If I Had A Tail and My God Is The Sun offers a reprieve, while still being extremely strong material. The former has a seesaw, sexy swagger that became the Queens of the Stone Age signature. The latter is a straight-up hard rock song with a chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. The guitars cascading down the neck, increasing in intensity and pitch as the band sings out towards the sky, seemingly reaching for the sun itself.  
Besides the rough path Homme had to this album's gestation, the other noteworthy factor is the list of guest stars spread out over the track listing. While many of these big names play a role in their respective songs, they never overshadow the music, to the point where you have to actively listen to hear their contributions. Trent Reznor's vocals are hidden in the background of Fairweather Friends, but the song's other musician is noticeable the second his hands hit the piano. Elton John's work on the keys give the song a propulsive touch that take it from good to great. On the next track, Smooth Sailing, Homme gets his cockiness back, throwing out lines like "God only knows/so mind your behavior" and "I blow my load/over the status quo." Add in the backing falsetto of Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears and you have one of the funkiest songs in the band's catalog.
On paper, such an assortment of special guests and different moods would appear to create a disaster. Instead, all the personalities put themselves in the background to let the songs shine and the moods are laid out in such a manner with the music that the flow is nearly perfect. ...Like Clockwork is easily the best release from the band since Songs for the Deaf. It may not have been worth Homme's near-death, but this record is a perfect example of making something great out of bad circumstances.