Six years. I still can’t believe it has been six years since Era Vulgaris was released. In some ways, this wait didn’t seem that long because Josh Homme released Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl and the bassist of some band called Led Zeppelin. He also pretty much toured non-stop with them and Queens since 2007. In another way, this wait seemed like a lifetime only because Era was kind of disappointing. This is not because it is a terrible album, but rather because everything else QotSA put out was so fucking good, and Era was a C album.
The wait is finally over and …Like Clockwork is here.
From the opening ambience of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled,” it’s obvious that this album will present a moodier band than Era Vulgaris left us with. I’d almost want to offer a hug and ask Homme if something is wrong after he sings the line, “If life is but a dream, WAKE ME!” This is the perfect re-introduction to the band I adore. Actually, this song could easily fit at the tail-end of Songs For the Deaf.
There is a certain duality to this album. There is either sadness in the music or there is a swagger to the album, occasionally in the same song. “If I Had A Tail” and “Smooth Sailing” have a straight up strutting sexy vibe to them, while “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” and the phenomenal title-track are emotional tearjerkers.
Looking back at the past few months, “My God Is The Sun” is the perfect lead single to this album. It has that radio appeal the band presents (see: “No One Knows,” “Little Sister,” etc) but totally showcases a band in a new place. This is understandable considering Clockwork is the band’s first studio outing with bassist Michael Shuman and Guitar/Keyboard wizard Dean Fertita.
The band has never been a stranger to having guests on their albums (I mean, Rob Halford is on Rated R for god sakes) but some of these appearances raise some eyebrows. Dave Grohl is once again playing drums on most of the album, and I find it strange that I can totally hear a difference is his playing versus former drummer Joey Castillo, who plays on three tracks, and live drummer Jon Theodore, who plays on the title track. Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), Brody Daly (Distillers), Nick Oliveri (Former bassist, ex-Kyuss), Alex Turner (Artic Monkeys…wait what?) all make a subtle appearances in the background vocals throughout the album. Some of these are harder to find. I wouldn’t know Nick is on this at all if they didn’t insist that he is. Trent Reznor, however, is a pretty prominent player in the two tracks he plays on. He has a few lines to himself on “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and some harmonies with Homme that are pretty cool.
And then there is Elton John. Elton fucking John, pretty much makes “Fairweather Friends” into a great song simply by playing some quiet piano lines and singing two words. No disrespect to Halford, Billy Gibbons, or anyone else Homme has worked with, but John's contribution is one of the most solid the band has done.
I really could go on about how much I enjoy this album, but I'll spare you my further gushing. In short, this is the first start-to-finish great Queens album since Songs For the Deaf. I put this album’s sound somewhere between Lullabies To Paralyze and the afore(overly)mentioned Era Vulgaris. The upbeat songs sound like the tracks from Era that worked really well, while the overall melancholy of the album is more akin to Lullabies.
It’s been a long, long wait and I think it was worth it.
You can stream the entire album all week on iTunes.