REVIEW: Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘…Like Clockwork’

QotsaLikeClockworkFeature

Artist: Queens of the Stone Age
Album: …Like Clockwork
Genre: Hard Rock, Alternative Rock
Label: Matador Records

I’ve gotten into arguments with other music writers about an album’s context changing a review. Usually, I’m of the argument that a band’s history shouldn’t affect a review; I like to think that a reviewer should review how well a band does the music they do, and not whether a band changing its sound went in a direction that some freak hiding behind a keyboard agrees with. Queens of the Stone Age have removed “of the Stone Age” from their palette on this album, and have stopped writing to a single-driven audience as well. Whether I like those decisions or not, this is still a good album.

Every album up until Era Vulgaris by QotSA had extremely heavy moments, and all had killer singles and songs on it. I still think Era is perhaps their weakest album, but it opens with one of my favorite tracks. …Like Clockwork does not take this approach. There are no songs here that you’re going to call your favorite Josh Homme song. There is no guitar riff that is going to make a twelve year old pick up guitar for the first time. There are no solos that are going to make you go “how does he DO that with a guitar?” And that’s okay. That’s their decision.

What Queens of the Stone Age does do on …Like Clockwork is write friendly hard rock that’s incredibly polished. Every song is lyrically strong, every moment has something going for it musically. As much as I just crapped on how there were no must-hear moments on this album, there are still at least three tracks that will be mainstays in the Queens catalog: “My God is the Sun,” which was the first song premiered and would fit in better as a Songs for the Deaf song, “Kalopsia,” which features Trent Reznor, and “I Sat By The Ocean.” “My God is the Sun” feels like Homme and his posse are attempting to write a classic rock song, but it is still a good number, and “Kalopsia” is perhaps the deepest venture into an entirely new style on the past three albums. Neither will be overplayed on the radio, neither will be overheard on television advertisements for cell phone plans, and neither will be your favorite song. “I Sat By The Ocean” is one of the better songs he’s written in a long time, and is maybe the only song on this album that has a chance of being a real summr jam. You’ll likely hum along with “Kalopsia” as it sends you through a musical carnival, but nothing here is going to push this album to a hundred thousand sales in its first week.

In fact, I really doubt this album sells well. Its guest appearances are actually a bit of a fraud, even down to Dave Grohl. “DAVE GROHL DRUMS ON NEW QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE ALBUM!” Grohl plays on six of the ten tracks, and the drumming is very un-Grohl. I would actually go so far to say as this is the worst QotSA album in terms of drumming, which really disappoints me; Jon Theodore and Dave Grohl are the two biggest John Bonham influenced drummers around (just ask Juan Alderete), and neither play any real heavy hitting here, and there isn’t anything clever going on about the percussion tracks. Josh Homme could’ve drummed on …Like Clockwork. Any studio drummer could’ve. Shoot, you and I could’ve. But Dave Grohl did, and so expect a lot of fangirls to pretend the drumming on this album is spectacular, when each song has just another drum part.

Elton John plays piano on a track, but it isn’t even really the main part of the song. It’s well featured in the mix, but it’s just another piano part. Trent Reznor sings back up vocals. You don’t get to hear it and go “Man, Trent Reznor vocal solo!” He’s just going “ahh” with the rest of the band. Same with Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri. Heard about all those appearances and figured it was a return to roots? It isn’t. It’s probably just publicly burying the hatchet and having friends come over. But I’m not here to criticize those decisions.

Every song on this is friendly and accessible, and every song is well written. Not all of them are memorable – a lot are, quite frankly, filler – and everything isn’t as clever as it once was. Everyone references the cowbell in “Little Sister” (which, for the record, isn’t a cow bell but a jam block – suck on that, idiotic bros), and I know the moment that got me into Queens was the open hi-hat at the end of each phrase by Grohl on “No One Knows.” You’re not going to find a sneaky drum part here. Guitarists love the witty playing of Josh on each album, from the strange tones he has to the sneaky chord progressions he plays. You’re not going to find much of that here. And that’s where my disappointment is – it’s nowhere near the strongest this band is capable of. But I don’t want to hold that against them, because, if you really listen to this album all the way through a few times… it’s still enjoyable.

But even within the decision to go away from moment-driven songs and strong instrumental playing and move towards a more album oriented, mature sound, this isn’t the best Queens could do. There’s polish up the asshole – Homme may not be doing much to show his best as a songwriter here, but the production on this album is insanely good – and it makes it a good but not great listen. You’ll find yourself longing for better guitar solos when there are guitar solos, and if you’re like me, likely find yourself going “that’s the best bridge they could come up with?” a few times.

I enjoy this album. For the decision the band made – to make a record by people who have moved on from their heavy hitting, bitching, cock in your face attitude and onto the “we take ourselves seriously and play polished music” phase – it’s a good record. But know that this isn’t an amazing effort in that style, and know what you’re getting into when you put this on. Homme and friends have never failed to write good music, and that streak continues; but a good-but-not-great effort from a slew of guest stars and a killer lineup is still a letdown. It’s still enjoyable; it’s just a weaker outing by a band that has grown up, and probably not the band you’re expecting.

Score: 6/10
Review by: Dan Bogosian (Twitter)

Dan Bogosian

I finished school with a music theory degree. Before I finished school, I was a janitor. You really should apologize to all the janitors you've ever had. You hurt them. Seriously. You did.

But, now that we've cleared that up and you called your high school janitor, know that I quit being a janitor to pursue writing about music. So here I am, and here you are, and hey how are you?
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  • Will Dunn

    Did we listen to the same album…?

  • yep

    agree with everything

  • Chris

    If Dave Grohl’s drumming is anything like you’re writing, we’re all in trouble.

  • Joe Reilly

    its not, this guy is deaf, Dave’s drumming is amazing. The tracks are just darker so the heavy hitting drums dont stand out as much, but they are heavy.

  • Joe Reilly

    I dont think this guy should be reviewing music, because he wrote an “on first listen” review of an amazing album. This is one of those albums that needs to sink in as it is mature in songwriting and sticks with you, not an in your face rock album.

    Also I would LOVE to see this guy find a studio drummer to rock out like Dave on this album as he claims.

  • Dan Bogosian

    Where did I ever imply that I listened to this once? I listened to this about 30 times. It sank in. As to the drummer claim, I was a music major and a percussion minor, but I don’t think that was your point.

  • Dan Bogosian

    I formally disagree. It’s not that the drumming is bad from anyone;- it’s just run of the mill, very unspectacular drumming. If you come in expecting to be blown away by its instrumentalists, you won’t be.

  • Joe Reilly

    maybe thats the problem, you seemed to be expecting a musical orgy with the talent in it for an album oriented rock album in which the point is lyrics and emotion.

  • Joe Reilly

    well that makes sense then, every music major I know wants technical amazement on albums but doesnt give credit to the words. There was one sentence in the review about the lyrics…ONE SENTENCE ABOUT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF ANY ALBUM, and it was a generic yet positive one at that. Its a lyrical based album and I agree with New York Daily News, Artist Direct, and countless others already giving it 4 or 5 stars and saying its the best Queens of the Stone Age album yet, and it is BECAUSE of the fact that the instruments do not blow you away. They took their cocks out of our faces on this album and put something so hauntingly beautiful in place it definitely is their best yet while departing from the heavy rock for an album.

  • You must not listen to death metal haha. No one gives a shit about the lyrics there. However, I get your point.

  • Is there an interview with the band where they stated that the lyrics and emotion is the point of the album? I’m not being facetious. I’m just curious why you seem to “know” what this album is about. Why would any talented members purposefully dumb down their instrumentation to make their lyrics stand out? Why not have both?

  • Joe Reilly

    for sure, although its pretty funny as most death metal comes from Sweden and a lot of Swedish guys I know in death metal bands are really timid nice people usually making those songs.

  • Joe Reilly

    its not dumbed down by any means, just a dark ominous album so they cant go full balls to the wall obviously, although they do rock out still on a few tracks. I think thats my main issue with this review, it makes it seem like the artists were subpar because they arent rocking full throttle balls to the wall, while making some of their best work yet. The song lyrics all share a theme of loss and hopelessness

  • Joe Reilly

    favorite tracks definitely “I appear Lost” (a ominous song which also rocks hard) and “I sat by the Ocean”

  • Dan Bogosian

    see, to me those songs have very run of the mill lyrics and unspectacular Queens-y music. It’s not bad – I think I’ve stated several times throughout the review I enjoyed it and it was good. Perhaps if you thought of the review as a 3/5 instead of a 6/10 you’d be more OK with it.

  • Dan Bogosian

    I place plenty of emphasis on the words. My TWIABP review’s ending focused on the lyrics. I consider lyrics half the songwriting with music being the other half (and structure playing an important part of both halves in different ways). I thought I did a good job of explaining how the different style didn’t really affect my review; I only put it in there so that people could know what to expect when they listened to it. I guess that didn’t come across strongly enough. It’s not the new style that bothered me. It was a generally weaker album to me, though still good.

  • Joe Reilly

    I actually just respect the fact that you defend your review, not many bloggers would be so involved with their readers.

  • Joe Reilly

    I personally dont believe lyrics especially need to be spectacular, they need to invoke chills, invoke a reaction, etc and thats why I feel its their best album. It brings up much more visual images in the mind than any of their previous albums by far, painting very visual dismal pictures.

    Also living in LA a song like I Sat by the Ocean brings up such a clear visual and reminiscent feeling of sitting by the ocean drinking a woman off of your mind. The songs will reach a large audience lyrically and musically so I do think it will sell a lot, especially as a lot of the pre-press is already praising it very much, we shall see how the sales do!

    I hope it does well because what this album says to a rock musician is huge! Saying that you do not need to sell out and have radio singles on your album, that you can make a powerful dark ominous album without thinking “what is the hook? what is the selling point?” etc. Also I love the fact that the guest appearances blend in and don’t stand out, its rare that musicians compliment a bands tracks rather than try to stand out with their own signature. For example in Kalopsia it was only on the 4th or 5th time hearing it did I recognize Trent Reznor’s voice sharing the chorus lines on and off with Josh, I dig that

  • Dan Bogosian

    I like open and respectful communication. If you told me to kill myself, I would’ve just ran away and wondered why people were mean. haha. It’s just a simple disagreement. I often do have a more music oriented focus, though I still largely take lyrics into account. You know what I mean with the musical subtleties though? Even with the album being a Homme-focus, it just lacked the moments where I felt like everything was perfect and sneakily amazing.

  • Joe Reilly

    Definitely glad it turned into an open respectful music discussion, you won a new reader!

  • Brandon

    I’ve been listening to this freaking album non-stop since itunes made it available for streaming. Not only do I think there are some awesome QotSA-esque heavy hitting moments but I think there are some awesome QotSA classics on here. I don’t think they swayed away from normalcy, maybe just went a bit mellower at times with this album. It all sways together awesomely.

    Personally, I love it.

  • Dane Sager

    Dan Bogosian is the only writer at UTG who is qualified to write this review.

    The Dave Grohl is a cheat. It’s like when he played on With Teeth but only on six songs and they still sounded like they were written on a drum machine by Trent (which they likely were).

  • Chuck

    I agree with ALL comments below…did the reviewer even listen the album? And more than once through, because I’m on the 5th run and it’s incredible.

  • Dan Bogosian

    It was awesome to me for the first 10-15 listens, and then lost its value around there. By listen 30, it seemed like a good but shallow record, which I attempted to state in my review. I encourage you to have your own opinion, but before you accuse me of not even listening to the album, please give my opinion some time to sink in and the record maybe another week or two.

  • David McCann

    Suck on what? The fact that you cant spell JOHN BONHAM? . . DICK!

  • Michael

    Who the fuck is this reviewer? What does he know? Because I just listened to probably the best album since “Songs For the Deaf” and loved every second of it… Really man, stop trying to be difficult for the sake of being cool. Review the album for what it is. It is evolution, it is change, it is progress. Musicians grow, artists grow. If you don’t like seeing improvement go listen to Three Days Grace or Papa Roach. You started your review saying I’m going to be a fan boy and hate on this album because it isn’t the last 5 albums… shitty.

  • Michael

    Also the fact this guy responds to every negative comment related to his review really shows a complete lack of security. If you stand by what you wrote above you don’t need to justify it. Admit it, you fucked up. You reviewed this thinking that everyone was in the same boat as you and would hate it because it wasn’t the past. Seems the majority of QOTSA fans have grown as much as Josh and company has. Damn this review really sucked ass.

  • Robert Lindsay

    i loved it and you can’t stop me you silly sod!

  • Dan Bogosian

    I sincerely encourage you to listen to it about 30 times before you think I’m an idiot for having a different opinion than you.

  • Dan Bogosian

    I really can’t quite understand the point you’re trying to make here.

  • Dan Bogosian

    This is how you feel, and yet Joe Reilly thought my personal responses were a good thing. Have you considered that I am secure in my review and perhaps just like to cultivate an active audience? I’m almost positive that’s why comments exist.

  • Michael

    As a drummer who has played for 12 years I feel your opinion on the drums shouldn’t even be considered one. You claim you’re a music major… can you even begin to describe any of the drumming going on in the songs and what it actually is comprised of? Theodore’s contributions here are very evident. Songs like “My God Is The Sun” have break downs and transitions as heavy as anything from past records. You’re right about one thing though… Don’t expect to be blown away by instrumental parts, but no one who is a drummer has ever been blown away by Dave Ghrol or Queens. His best work was with Probot and Them Crooked Vultures. that said the drumming fits. Who the fuck do you think this is? Tool, Rush? It isn’t that type of music and it never has been on any of the albums. “I Appear Missing” has wonderful timing changes that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The album is solid. I have listened to it enough and am continuing to listen to it… Some of us don’t require 30 listens to know good music when it is there. First time I heard Portugal. The Man in 2009 before they had any mainstream following I knew they would be good… Some of us just have ears bud.

  • Michael

    Dude, if I felt that just because one guy didn’t agree with me I was wrong I would of been wrong about everything I’ve ever done in my life… Who the fuck is Joe Reilly to me??? I notice the guy that said Yep agree with everything, didn’t get a response and that comment is 2 days old… but that is because you don’t need to defend your shitty review for that comment… See? It is easy to see through thin people.

  • You are false and cynical, you hate Josh Homme! He is very suprior to you, you’re nothing but a blowfly. You’re a writer for? Novels? hit the target.

    Idiots like you is this world filled. Only an idiot like you, pseudo intellectual crap, can believe the crap you write here, and ralativamente music not understand anything, devote yourself to listen to Justin Bieber.

  • This is my review and you’ll be closer to reality I
    t is the most mature and eclectic of all albums, despite having the Rated R always in my heart, was the album that made me turn unconditional fan of QOTSA., All albums are great (each has its place), but this was produced by a man now aged 40 and with a lot of road made, is a inbecilidade, give more quote to an album, any rock band that is today, Homme is a TRUE GENIUS and those around him, is the best the current rock scene there are already better than Radiohead.
    The letters of QOTSA are too smart, the metaphors are always present, and people do not understand this. The way they build a song is fantastic, they are unpredictable, changes have sometimes may seem ridiculous, but after a few auditions began for us to perceive the .as details that make it special and unique. And this album has plenty of that too, listen very carefully eg 6th Kolápsia song is fantastic.
    For realizing definitely the quality of this album to the most septic listen at least 5 times and loudly. None of QOTSA album is fast consumption, and that’s what has to definitely realize, QOTSA are not The Black Keys, Jack White, if these are in the stratosphere, QOTSA are already in Exosphere!

  • 9.5/10; 95/100; 4.75/5 This is my review and you’ll be closer to reality!!
    Genius is genius and give a note 6 for example a work of Einstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hemingway, Darwin, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, is ridiculous. You are a blowfly, and your place is in the middle of shit, this place is not for you, fuck up!!

  • Dustin England

    First off I do really like the song l Sat by the Ocean, but to say it’s the best song Homme has written in a while is simply ridiculous. It is the most straightforward rock song on the album, they are not blazing any new trails with that one. I must say that there is still a special place in my heart for Songs for the Deaf (or any Queens album for that matter), …Like Clockwork is artistically their most ambitious album to date and therefore in my opinion their best.

  • Dan Bogosian

    You didn’t really address anything I mentioned, but if you’re going to be disrespectful, I’ll stop.

  • Dan Bogosian

    I would argue Grohl’s drumming on “First it giveth” is pretty impressive work, as well as the drumming (particularly the ode to Black Flag) on “Song for the Deaf”. Some music gets better with repeated listens, some gets worse. This to me got worse. You have every right to feel how you feel. I would just hesitate to insult on someone as a human being for feeling differently, personally. Grohl has also been known as a great drummer since his Nirvana days, let alone also playing drumset on the first two Foo Fighters albums. I also have ears, but, you’re just attempting to insult me rather than address any points. Have a lovely evening.

  • Chris

    To me, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve played an instrument and whether you studied it or not. First, if don’t sound like you know what you’re talking about when you write it, you void your opinion. Secondly, “trained” and “studied” drummers to tend to understand rock music the least, especially drumming. What Dave Grohl plays has never been what’s made him a good drummer – it’s how he plays what he plays. If you don’t think his drumming is “Grohl-like”, you did a poor job of communicating that.

  • Michael

    I understand you can say you like the drumming in “First it Giveth” but can you describe it? I don’t comment on guitar parts because I’m not a guitarist. See I can play all these songs so i feel I have a right to comment. I understand the phrasing. I hear the poly rhythms. It isn’t my intention to insult you, I just am curious if you understand to someone who does play that your opinions seem very narrow. I love the vocals and the lyrics of this album, as a singer I feel I can comment on that as well. This album has got to be the best as far as lyrics and vocals go. There is an emotion here never touched on the previous works. I understand that you don’t like the featured artists since their contributions don’t dominate the album. However in all fairness if I wanted to hear Trent or Elton I would buy their respective albums. I am here to hear the Queens of the Stone age. For all we know much more knowledge could of been utilized in production from these guests, but it isn’t for us to question. The integrity of art lies within the artist to deliver something forged from their vision and not compromised by our wants. I am on well over my 20th listen and it hasn’t dulled for me. I accept it for what the artists intended. It is safe at this point for us to reconcile our losses for this argument and agree to disagree. I felt your review to be unfair and difficult. I feel your commenting style is in defense. Let’s just say we both viewed this differently and leave on good terms.

  • Dan Bogosian

    I was a bass guitar major – guitar is probably my weakest instrument, if we’re going to get into it, but I understand all of the musical terms you are saying and I feel as though I have every right to my opinion. If you read my review, you’d notice I did my best indicate that this change of styles was not intended to affect my opinion. That is the point of the entire introduction paragraph, as well as the re-iteration at the end. I did enjoy this album; it’s excitement just dulled with repeated listens as the musical depth did not seem to be there any more. Where as on “No one knows”, it had a sneaky open hi-hat (I believe it’s the second verse where Grohl plays it on the 3rd time through playing the progression) or on “In my head” where there’s a swift time signature change in place of a normal guitar solo, or on “Turning on the screw” where the left-right panning of guitar parts adds depth *especially* during the bridge, this album seemed to lack that sort of “whoa” on repeated listens, except for the songs I mentioned. I still like it, it just wasn’t wonderful. I hope you can see that I did my best to leave my wants out of it; I just was let down by a lack of depth to it. Happy you were respectful. Thank you.

  • Listen to the album at least five times my dear surfers! Since when does a music critic is spring!
    Do you are a musician? Are you a Lyricist ? Where?
    People like this, only fools idiots!

  • Cory Scott

    Six out of ten… of my favourite QOTSA songs are on this album!

    Shame you didn’t get what you were hoping for dude, but this record is brilliant.

  • Joe Reilly

    None of the arguing matters anymore, because the album has mainly four or 5 star reviews from all the big press now and is on schedule to unseat Daft Punk at the top of the charts, so I do have to say to Dan though a nice “We told you so” from the collective disagreeing public here on your comment about predicting it being widely poorly reviewed and poorly selling….and because I like stirring the pot.

    http://www.spin.com/articles/queens-of-the-stone-age-like-clockwork-sales-charts/

    I will say one thing though, you’ve invoked a lot of passion from music lovers on this, Ive never responded to a blog before this and I notice a lot of other people wrote the same. So love the review or hate it, you know how to be entertaining and push buttons whether good of bad.

  • CSK

    I’m broadly in agreement with this, as I was with your review. Thanks for writing it.

  • CSK

    You’ll understand it’s a bit difficult to think anyone who writes the type of posts you do is simultaneously able to recognize maturity, be it in musical terms or whatever else…

    Yes, Homme is a genius. Some of us just happen to think this album just isn’t.

    Go fuck yourself.

  • Well done review – I’m enjoying this release at a 9/10 level myself I’d say, but I understand the perspective, well articulated. To each his own!

  • Damion

    Umm, Reznor sings the first line of the chorus on Kalopsia (“Oh why you so sad, what have they done?”) solo, before harmonizing the rest of that chorus and the next with Homme. Saying he’s just going “ahh” with the rest of the band is straight up incorrect. Reznor’s unique voice is easily distinguishable the moment that first chorus hits for the first time. That this reviewer may not have picked up on that after 30 listens seems absurd.