It opens with a deep swelling and the sound of shattering objects, leading to a slow, crunchy bass groove and a firm, irregular drum beat laid down by Joey Castillo. It’s obvious that this album belongs to the godfather of hard ‘desert’ rock himself, Josh Homme. However, seasoned QOTSA fans will notice that …Like Clockwork is distinctly softer than previous records, as Homme tries his best to make hard rock sound pretty.
It’s not often a band at the peak of their music-making exploits will keep their fans waiting six years for a new album, especially one with a mere ten tracks. However …Like Clockwork displays the refined sound of an expertly crafted band under one brilliant egomaniac. Homme calls on the likes of Grohl, Trent Reznor, his own protégé Alex Turner, and two conspicuously gentler additions: Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters, and Elton John. These guest appearances work well, but are barely detectable; they add a touch of colour and variety to the music, but make sure Homme is kept as the centerpiece. Former major band member Nick Oliveri joins for a few tracks, but his bestial influence is restrained. Much of the metal sound of previous QOTSA hits involving Oliveri (think back to ‘Tension Head’ from Rated R) is replaced by a softer electronic vibe.
Homme’s lyrics are grittier and more personal than ever; ‘I got bruises and hickeys, stitches and scars, got my own theme music, plays wherever I are’, he sings. At the end of the opening track, in what seems like a mission statement for the album, Homme teases ‘praise God, nothing’s as it seems’. The song with Sir Elton on piano and backup vocals is almost operatic and reminiscent of a Queen ballad. ‘I Sat by the Ocean’ is more of a straightforward rocker with a standard QOTSA musical and lyrical feel, wherein Josh will ‘[drink] a potion to erase you’. ‘If I Had A Tail’ is a sexy, ground-shaking rocker of a tune in which Homme dons his best pervy voice, reciting ‘I wanna suck, I wanna lick, I wanna cry, I wanna spit’. The final track of the album may be the prettiest ditty Homme has ever put on a record, complete with a string arrangement; it ends with the lyric ‘it’s all downhill from here…’, perhaps alluding to the fact that his music is getting softer, and the king of grimy rock is really a sucker for a pretty pop song.
Queens of the Stone Age’s sound is unique and instantly recognisable, and …Like Clockwork fulfills everything that the band name suggests – the subversion of the premise of hard rock with elegant melody. Homme can even be found to sing in his finest falsetto at many points throughout the record. In many ways, this album feels like the culmination of everything Homme, the sole continuous member of the band, set out to do. Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro praised the Queens for their ability to make hard rock sound sexy, and damn sexy this record is – the band has comfortably produced one of the most beautifully crafted, grimiest rock albums ever made.