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Thrilling Thursday

May 30, 2013

Well, I’m back after a very long haitus, thanks to grad school and an interruption called life. And, of course, what better way to start a comeback by drooling over QotSA (Surprised? Didn’t think so, ha!)

Thank Jeebus! Queens of the Stone Age’s release date for their first album in 6 got dang years, …Like Clockwork, is approaching fast. For those who don’t know, SHAME ON YOU and mark your calendars for June 4th.

...Like Clockwork album cover art by Bonehead.

…Like Clockwork album cover art by Bonehead.

I was honestly disappointed with their “sneak peak” videos of new songs on their website and on youtube (the visuals by UK artist, Bonehead, are badass and coincide with the overall feel of the gloomy album, but my initial disappointment lied in the music).

HOWEVER, after the Queens announced that their entire album was available to stream for FREE on iTunes for a limited time before their official release, like the extreme QotSA fan that I am and despite my initial impression, I sped right over to iTunes to take a listen….And HOLY BALLS, was I blown away. Disappointed, no more.

So, to get all of this excitement out of my body before I explode, I am going to share with the interwebz my track-by-track review of …Like Clockwork. Though, probably only 1 person even reads this blog…and that person probably only read this because they accidentally stumbled upon it…but your noticing is much appreciated regardless!

Before I start my probably-longer-than-ever-needed rant, I would like to share some other constructive reviews. I have heard both a lot of negative and positive opinions (with some respectable mixed/neutral reviews in between). For example:  I agree with The New York Daily News’ review in which it is reminiscent of horror movie soundtrack motifs. But in Farber’s sub-title heading he claims, it’s QotSA’s “best CD yet.” I love QotSA and I thoroughly love this album, but I think it still falls short of being the best…the best albums (in my opinion) being their self-titled and Songs for the Deaf. I enjoyed Billboard’s review, because they also broke it down track by track and gave some insight into which musicians played on which tracks. It is indeed QotSa’s “most potent lineup…” like EVER! The thing that is disappointing the most is that I could not decipher each guest’s influence and sound as much as I would like to…or at times, not at all. I’ll elaborate later, don’t worry! Under the Gun also reiterates this point and makes a very valid argument that despite some disappointment, this album was very well written in that it is very “friendly and accessible.” At least, accessible to avid and smart music-goers that don’t just sit around listening to bands like Nickleback (ugh, barf). However I disagree that not all of the songs are “memorable” or as “clever” as previous albums and most …Like Clockwork tracks are now more “filler” songs….I disagree because, quite frankly, I’ve already been humming most of the songs like a mad (wo)man and embarrassing myself at work.

1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled – I think the dragging strut of the drum and bass line really carry this song well, perfectly offset by the wailing guitar interruptions, Homme’s softer vocals and simple piano line during the verses. Not too sure who tracked the bass but it sounded very Nick Oliveri styled. I also keep finding myself singing “If life is but a dream…then, WAKE ME!” as I rock my shoulders and hips to and fro. Per Billboard’s review (linked above) Jake Shears assists with vocals. Again, I can’t really decipher the guests on this track but when I think Jake Shears and/or the Scissor Sisters my mind doesn’t immediately think of QotSA nor this song. But his vocals do add a nice and pretty touch to the swooning chorus.

2. I Sat By the Ocean – The album picks up tempo with the second track and, for some reason, reminds me of Them Crooked Vultures’ song, Bandoliers (possibly because of the more pop-like feel of the clapping bridge, Shuman-esque bass lines, the theatrical crescendo of the chorus only to abruptly return to the simpler verse, and familiarity of Homme’s vocal and guitar melodies). I’ve always thought of Josh Homme as a modern, hard rocking, ginger version of Elvis Presley…and his clever lyrics (“I sat by the ocean and drank a potion, baby, to erase you,” c’mon, tell me that line isn’t catchy?!) paired with his tasteful vocal range and inflections (I’m officially creating the term the “Homme twang”) only furthers my point. Oh, and back to Shuman awesomeness, if you haven’t heard one of his other bands, Mini Mansions, you need to go do so now, it rocks hard!

3. The Vampyre Of Time And Memory – I must say that …Like Clockwork is most definitely their more ballad heavy album yet, but not in a bad way by any means. When Homme asks “Does anyone ever get this right?” the answer is…FUCK YES. They got it right with …Like Clockwork and this song. I would love to see the album’s booklet to see who laid down what for each track, but in my opinion, this sounds like a heavily Shuman influenced song, as well. It feels like a very relatable and tasteful ballad, much thanks from the soft vocal harmonies and echoing cries of Homme’s guitar solo.

4. If I Had A Tail – Oh em geez, what can I not say about this song? If this song, from the 4 count in of the drums to the very end, does not make you get up and shake your ass then you need to see a Neurologist right now because your body and/or ears must not be working properly. My favorite sexy song of QotSA past was always “Make It With You.” But I think I have a new favorite QotSA baby-making track. To be honest when I initially heard this song and the first lines of “Gitchy Gitchy, Oh La La” I was kind of thrown off and thinking it was going to turn into a terrible version of “Lady Marmalade” (don’t worry it doesn’t). Dave Grohl lays down the drums, and granted you can hear very Grohl-ish hard and staccato drumming, it’s not his heaviest contribution. Mark Lanegan also assists on raw vocals with “Ooh’s” and “Ah’s” during the latter part of the chorus. This kind of disappointed me because hearing that he was going to be on the album, I was hoping he would have lend a bigger part. Nonetheless it added a cool and gritty contrast to Homme’s vocals. Overall, this song is just flat out badass: Homme’s smooth vocals wailing sardonic lyrics, sexy and straightforward verses complimented by a heavier and grungy chorus ending with in-your-face guitar and drum lines, and just overall sex appeal.

5. My God Is The Sun – Shuman and Grohl definitely shine on this track bringing back some of the more hard hitting qualities of QotSA. I feel like this is also the most dynamic song on the album with the fitting contrasts of each instrument/musician parts: Grohl’s simple tambourine entrance leading up to his more typical pounding of the drums (I always imagine Animal from the Muppets when I think of Dave Grohl) and intermittent drum stops transitioning each section of the song; Driving guitar lines (I can’t help but think of the intro to first Kyuss’ song I ever heard –  50 Million Year Trip) that echo and play with Homme’s vocals; The soft eerie “Ooh’s” in the bridge that abruptly shift into a hard and loud chorus; And the theatrical ending that reminds me of a trippy circus and the entire album of Lullabies to Paralyze. The production is just phenomenal on this song – I strongly recommend listening to this album all over again with badass headphones to get the full effect (my ear friends of choice, Denon AH-NC732 noise cancelling headphones, just saying).

6. Kalopsia – The men prove, again, that they’re clever and badass when it comes to contrast. I don’t know what to say about this song other than it being the personification of a creative, eerie yet beautiful, colorful, and bi-polar nightmare. I think their animated music video is a perfect visual depiction of what I mean. Trent Reznor’s presence is also fully felt and appreciated on this track.

7. Fairweather Friends – This song is just flat out epic and very reminiscent, in my opinion, of Them Crooked Vultures’ song Dead End Friends (granted, the TCV song is at a faster tempo, maybe the subject matter or song title is initiating the familiarity). Per Billboard’s review Elton John lends his piano skills, which add a very nice touch, Grohl jumps back on the drums without overpowering the song, and I definitely agree that Homme’s reminding everyone how badass he is on guitar during this song.

8. Smooth Sailing – Another sexy ass song…period. Homme shows off his vocal range again…and I don’t know about you but I’m reminded of Muse’s groovy Supermassive Black Hole and can totally picture this played in a fancy rocker strip club. Homme’s vocals are definitely smooth and sail above the rawness and grit of the rest of the song. The lyrics are also genius on this track – “I blow my load over the status quo, here we go!” If I weren’t a female, I’d “blow my load” over this song.

9. I Appear Missing – Again, the theatric feel and chord progressions feel very reminiscent to their Lullabies to Paralyze album. There’s a very eerie and addicting quality to this song that is best described visually by their short video in which a seemingly very injured man awake from an assumed coma, creepily floats over the desert landscape, and at the end of the song as the keys, drums, and guitar pound in a sense of urgency, the man falls to his death from the LA (?) skyline.

10. …Like Clockwork – A perfect ending to the album. Elton John comes in again on piano with Josh Homme’s pretty vocals to introduce this last track. The crescendo of the song is perfectly executed with a slow and gentle introduction followed by acoustic guitar, then a harder wailing guitar line and drums offset by more “Ooh’s,” only to be overtaken by an orchestral climax, returning to the back and forth of musical contrasts, and ending with an unresolved cry of violins.

In a nut shell: Yes, the guest lineup is misleading and audibly difficult to decipher a times. Yes, this album is no pounding-young-Queens of the Stone Age (even their more straight forward songs from Songs for the Deaf, like “Do It Again” and “Gonna Leave” were much more raw and gritty than any on this album). Yes, this album is less guitar-solo driven. BUT…the fluid climaxes of the album as a whole and within each song, the perfect balance of ballads, gloom, vaudevillian theatrics, and addicting hooks, just enough sexy grit, the clever lyrics, and the overall production quality is what makes this album and QotSA stand above a lot of other tenure bands still trying to crank out shit music after 20+ years. This album definitely redeemed QotSA after Era Vulgaris and feels like their most mature sound yet. I feel that every band and album that is a derivative, product, or collaboration of QotSA members has given much influence to this album in the most perfect way possible (i.e. I can hear a lot of sounds from their past albums like Lullabies to Paralyze, a little progressive pinch from Them Crooked Vultures, some sexy wit of Eagles of Death Metal, a hint of psychedelic from Mini Mansions, the urgent and driving feel from Kyuss, etc.).

So, thank you Queens of the Stone Age and friends for delivering …Like Clockwork after many long awaited years.

To wrap up this rant and until next time, if you haven’t heard enough about Josh Homme here’s some cool edu-ma-cation from the man himself in regards to guitar playing:

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