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HARDWARES

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE

..Like Clockwork

(Matador)

Reviewed by : David Perri
Rating : 8.0

Since 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, the overwhelming temptation while listening to a new QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE record has been to dismiss it outright because it’s not loud enough... you want to tell Queens frontman JOSH HOMME to turn the amps up to 11 next time, like the first three records. But Josh isn’t going to listen to you. Or to anyone. He’s Joshua fucking Homme and he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants.

I long ago realised that, in life, when you're in doubt, ask yourself: ‘What would Josh Homme do?’ The answer to that question is usually the ice-cold, self-aware snarl that you absolutely need in those direst of circumstances and channeling the un-ambiguity that is Josh Homme as you face unflinchingly wood-plank-to-the-face (metaphorically, of course) situations is the best way to make it through them. If nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol (and c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!) characterize the debut, Rated R and Songs For The Deaf, then it is Josh Homme’s middle finger that best describes Lullabies to Paralyze, Era Vulgaris and, now, ...Like Clockwork.

But middle fingers can be amorphous. And in the case of Lullabies to Paralyze, Era Vulgaris and ...Like Clockwork, it doesn’t mean the loud-on-loud overdrive that we might expect from QOTSA. Instead, the middle finger comes from a sense of absolute confidence in your art; Josh Homme isn’t doing what’s expected of him, but he doesn’t care. He’s going to write the goddamn records any way he pleases.

Which, in ...Like Clocwork’s case, means you’re in for a long drive in Homme’s beloved desert. If you want ‘Regular John’, ‘Monsters In The Parasol’ or ‘First It Giveth’ (and, in the interest of honesty, I’ll count myself as one of those people), Josh Homme is going to make it hard for you. But as you cruise in the desert in that 1967 Mustang convertible, you eventually understand where ...Like Clockwork is coming from. This record is about shades and tones and the subversion that comes from them.

Subversion that is aided by friends, it seems, as ...Like Clockwork is full of guest appearances, including DAVE GROHL, TRENT REZNOR, MARK LANEGAN, ALEX TURNER (ARCTIC MONKEYS), JAKE SHEARS (SCISSOR SISTERS), ELTON JOHN (!) and former Queens of the Stone Age bass player NICK OLIVERI (!!). But this doesn’t feel like a record that relies on its star power. Instead, it slithers like the snakes that have so obviously inspired it. “Not everything that goes around comes back around,” Homme mournfully sings in ...Like Clockwork’s beautiful title track.

Which isn’t to say the album is devoid of Homme hallmarks. ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ and ‘My God Is The Sun’ are classic Queens of the Stone Age in every sense of that term, while the filth and malice of ‘Keep Your Eyes Peeled’ is this album’s ‘I’m Designer’, even if the two songs, aurally, are nothing alike. Equally, ‘If I Had A Tail’ and ‘Smooth Sailing’ are all the attitude a record not by KVELERTAK can possibly withstand.

...Like Clockwork’s most poignant moments are brought on by Homme’s introspection, however, and this is undeniably his most personal record, informed in large part by his near-death experience of several years ago as a result of complications during knee surgery. ‘Kalopsia’ is almost RADIOHEAD in its delicate sway, while the fantastic ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’ is as life-sucking as its title would suggest. ‘I Appear Missing’ is affecting in its ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamonds’ (PINK FLOYD) mannerisms, gestures and dynamics, while ‘...Like Clockwork’ (yes, there’s the title track being mentioned again) is the gorgeous personification of its dark lyricism – in singing “Holding on too long is just fear of letting go,” Homme is channeling one of life’s great truths.

Queens of the Stone Age could have taken the high of all highs (c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!) route to ...Like Clockwork and, once again, let’s admit that another loud/louder/loudest record from Josh Homme will always find a welcome home on our vinyl shelves. But Homme is writing how he wants, when he wants. And ...Like Clockwork is the result. If you think you’re going to change Homme’s mind, everybody knows that you’re insane. (“An if you don’t get that last line, do some fucking research,” says Homme’s ice-cold, self-aware snarl.)




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