Tuesday, June 4, 2013

FIRST IMPRESSION: Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork

The information build-up to the new QOTSA album has been steady and intriguing: Dave Grohl would be back behind the drumkit; Mark Lanegan and ousted bassist Nick Oliveri were contributing; Elton fucking John plays and sings on it!  Barring this last piece, it seems as if the throngs were being intentionally whipped into a frenzy to expect “Songs for the Deaf Part II”.  That is not this album.  Sure, there are those moments that would have fit nicely onto that 2002 masterwork (opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” and first teaser single “My God is the Sun” have the distorted Josh Homme guitar riffs and groove that were hallmarks of that album) and Grohl’s pounding of the skins is unmistakable on the tracks on which he appears, but this is a slinkier, more pop-minded beast. “I Sat By the Ocean” and “Smooth Sailing” are all mechanized hip shaking and slippery falsetto, and I’ll be goddamned if you can’t dance to them, while the piano that opens “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” and forms the basis of the closing title track wouldn’t sound that far out of place on a 70’s Tom Waits record. Lyrically, the album finds as its focus the importance of relationships and keeping those who are important close to you (likely born from Homme’s life threatening illness and experience flatlining on the operating table the year before) while also recognizing that we as a society are preoccupied with as “If I Had a Tail” puts it, “expensive holes to bury things”.  Homme’s sneer may evince sleaze, but his mind (and soul) appear to be elsewhere.   The music wheezes and swims (especially the Trent Reznor-abetted “Kalopsia”, which sounds like something Ween would have released on one of their Elektra albums) rather than lurching and stomping like the QOTSA of old – those who are able to recalibrate their expectations will find a lot to enjoy.  Those who aren’t?  Homme’s former bandmates in Kyuss have a new group called Vista Chino who are prepping an album for later this year and who hew much closer to the scorched desert stoner rock that he has clearly outgrown.   And good for him!

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