Queens of the Stone Age - ... Like Clockwork
It might be six years since Era Vulgaris, but Queens of the Stone Age have sustained a presence, which, it seems, is about all you need to do these days. Have some kind of profile and someone will book you a gig or shunt you onto a festival bill, whatever your currency. QotSA have, no doubt, been aided by Josh Homme's work ethic, filling his time with his friends Eagles of Death Metal and rock uber-group Those Crooked Vultures. As such, the fact that it's more than a decade since they shook up the rock world with Songs For The Deaf matters little - fans and critics have remained loyal and eager for new material, despite the relative disappointments of subsequent efforts.
Rather than try to recapture old glories, ... Like Clockwork is actually as laid-back, stoned even, as they've ever been. This is an album of mostly slower, Southern rock twists and grooves, with hints of dark psychedelia and the ghost of George Harrison to much of the guitar work. Satisfyingly cohesive despite disparate styles, Homme shifts from the trippy ZZ Top chugg of 'I Sat By The Ocean' to an intimate piano ballad ("I want God to come", 'The Vampyre of Time and Memory') with nary a glance at how it will play with the wispy beards in the mosh pit.
With that in mind, this feels like an old-fashioned album: a whole, and not just an excuse to play around with the raft of guest artists (Dave Grohl, Elton John, Trent Reznor, among others) who made for good pre-release copy but actually take a back seat to Homme's soul-searching. The highlight may come with the Beatles-y, 'I Appear Missing' with its haunting "prison of sleep", inspired by the near-death experience that colours the whole project.
A grown-up album then, for adults who will appreciate an artist brave enough to not just retread their back catalogue in search of the festival dollar.