How many major contemporary rock bands are we down to in America? A couple dozen, maybe? That’s the desert-dry landscape that Queens of the Stone Age returns to with "… Like Clockwork,” and fortunately it does everything a good rock record should — wringing new blood from classic forms and sounding absolutely sexy and a little scary while doing it.
Six years after their last album, “Era Vulgaris,” Queens’ "… Like Clockwork” calls in a lot of friendly favors (cameos come from Trent Reznor, occasional drum-throne lord Dave Grohl and a very unexpected Elton John, among others). But this show is all frontman Joshua Homme’s. Singles like “My God Is the Sun” and “If I Had a Tail” have sunburned psychedelia and raw muscle to spare. They’re some of the catchiest tunes in his catalog, and are all the more venomous for it.
Homme is one of the few singers and lyricists today who know that rock ‘n’ roll is built on a mix of menace and dark humor, and almost every track on "… Like Clockwork” has a moment that makes you want to drive to Joshua Tree, pound some beers and start fires in the shape of pentagrams. Some cuts like “I Sat by the Ocean” and “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” have glimmers of hazy, Big Star ‘70s prettiness. But then a drop-tuned guitar bend creeps back in, Grohl’s drums beat a death march and one of SoCal’s best bands announces it isn’t going anywhere.
Queens of the Stone Age
"… Like Clockwork”
Three stars (out of four)