It's finally happened, Queens Of The Stone Age have made a stone-clad classic, worthy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the rock greats. Like many great albums, it was born from extraordinary circumstances; this one being Josh Homme nearly dying and being bed-ridden in hospital for weeks on end after complications from a routine knee operation. "Like Clockwork" combines all of the best elements of QOTSA's music; the melodious nature of the more gentle songs with the power of their heavier albums to produce an album that screams quality the very first time you hear it. I can quite honestly say that this is Homme's most accomplished album to date and even my previous favourite of his, "Songs For The Deaf" just can't compare with an album filled with song after song of absolutely brilliance. Of course, what this album has in common with "Songs For The Deaf" is a return of Dave Grohl to the drums for half of the album and there are other guest appearances by rock heavyweights such as Trent Reznor, Nick Oliveri and, er, Jake Shears.
It's very difficult indeed to pick out favourites when the whole album is excellent, but I will give it a go. "I Sat By The Ocean" is the first stand-out track in this set; it's catchy, powerful and brilliant. "The Vampyre Of Time and Memory", an excellent composition, is specifically about the numbness of feeling nothing when ending a relationship, but Homme's hospital experience is surely referenced when the swelling music that accompanies the line, "I've survived, I speak, I breathe, I'm incomplete, I'm alive, hurray!" builds to a bitter climax and tears at your heart. "If I Had A Tail" (featuring Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner on vocals) begins with some tongue-in-cheek nonsense lyrics, but really grabs you when the arresting guitar bursts in on the chorus. "My God Is The Sun" is probably the most typically like tracks from other QOTSA albums, with a spiralling guitar riff, pounding drums and ethereal harmonies, but it's still a winner. "Fairweather Friends", co-written with long-time friend Mark Lanegan and featuring Elton John on background vocals and piano, is one of the best tracks on "Like Clockwork", boasting a truly beautiful melody, superb delivery and some of the most gorgeous guitar work I've heard all year.
"Smooth Sailing" is a rather enjoyable groove of a song, although I'm not sure what Rossi and Parfitt would make of Josh's promise to "Blow his load all over the status quo". "I Appear Missing", a quiet/loud masterpiece, is amongst the best pieces of music on this release and, even at six minutes long, doesn't outstay its welcome for a second. The album finishes with an utterly sublime cut, as the melancholy title track is perhaps the most beautiful piece of music Homme has ever written. It is after the album has finished, when the silence is louder than usual, when you find yourself still reeling from what you've just listened to that you realise that this piece of work is something very special indeed, something that makes you reach for the play button to hear it all over again right after it has finished. Without any hyperbole, "Like Clockwork" is not only of the best albums to be released this year, it's one of the best heavy rock albums of all time.