Again another surprise album. QOSTA are another band among others I would happily see live as an under-card as their solid back catalogue lacks any sort of greatness. Here though, we have an album that only gets better as it goes on.
After a six-year gap, it won't alarm you to learn that Queens of the Stone Age's sixth album ...Like Clockwork is a rip-roaring success on all fronts and an obvious labour of love. From its rather divisive opener `Keep Your Eyes Peeled', the ghostly voice of Josh Homme guides you on a thorough encapsulation of the QOTSA sound, comparable in many senses to what Wasting Light did for Foo Fighters a couple of years ago.
To kick things into gear, `I Sat By the Ocean' finds Queens of the Stone Age in `robot rock' mode with quite possibly their best riff we've heard since the heady days of Songs for the Deaf. The haunting piano ballad `The Vampyre of Time and Memory' is a dark AOR moment with a Queen-esque guitar solo before the irresistible rhythm of `If I Had a Tail' provides a welcome uplift in proceedings, almost recalling the 1970s in its hard rock eye for detail.
Essentially, ...Like Clockwork finds Queens of the Stone Age at the top of their game creating riff-heavy alt-rock, completely unembarrassed by their love of classic AOR and their liberal use of power chords. It's almost as if they secretly have the sights set on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because ...Like Clockwork is a distillation of the bands many classic rock influences, with songs frequently reminding me of Queen, Pink Floyd and even the Eagles.
The album's lead single `My God Is the Sun' is a jaw-dropping display of guitar virtuosity before collapsing into - of all things! - a waltz and the Elton John collaboration `Fairweather Friends' is an astonishing composition and clearly a career highlight for Josh Homme. The Rocket Man can clearly be heard enjoying rocking his socks off on the piano in a way he hasn't since Bernie Taupin persuaded him to believe that Saturday nights were alright for fighting.
`Kalopsia' - co-written with Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) - doesn't let its wistful intro outstay its welcome by bursting into the sort of riff you could imagine the Iron Giant stomping around in a forest to. Meanwhile, Homme's falsetto runs free on `Smooth Sailing', a song which is just pure funk, plain and simple, and unapologetically so. Dave Grohl plays the drums on the initially masterfully restrained `I Appear Missing', which by its conclusion erupts into almost supernova-inducing proportions, before piano-led album closer `...Like Clockwork' ends on a suitably mellow Pink Floyd-esque note.
Literally bursting at the seams with confidence despite their long absence, Queens of the Stone Age really prove their mettle with ...Like Clockwork, a solid album in what is rapidly becoming a flawless discography. Having said that, it is a grower, as indeed are most of Queens of the Stone Age's albums, but in my opinion ...Like Clockwork is the best straight-up rock `n' roll record this year has generated. Given Josh Homme's pedigree, that should hardly be a surprise.