Label: Matador Records
Review by Mabh Savage
I’m always excited by any new release from QOTSA and when I saw this in the Rock/Metal chart at number 9, I knew I had to go and have a listen. I was surprised to learn it was released back in June in both the UK and the US; I’m a little late to the party!
One of the things I’ve always loved about QOTSA is their refusal to be pigeon holed; their sound is simply them and it’s rare I ever say ‘Oh that QOTSA track sounds just like…’ because (in my opinion) it rarely happens. From the get go, this album proves me right. The opener, Keep Your Eyes Peeled, is so, well, odd, that it’s hard to even catagorise the style. Not that one has to, of course, but as you’ve taken the time to read this review I guess it would be nice for you to know what the album sounds like… Imagine a band breaking into a warehouse through the windows, then starting to wail on the abandoned oil drums in a tribal, trance like beat, while Josh Homme makes sweet love to your ears. Trust me when I say this album earns the tag ‘Psychedelic Rock‘.
In typical QOTSA style, the vocal melodies employ plenty of little augmented lifts making them tantalisingly perfect and grabbing your interest firmly by the short and curlies; this is definitely an album to sit and listen to, at least the first time around. The first song ends with a soulful cello, then the next track, I Sat by the Ocean, launches in with a driving 2/4 in a much more typical, record selling pop-rock style. This no doubt inspired the choice to release this track as the second single from the album. There are elements of ‘Secret’ and ‘No One Knows’ here but although the melody is much lighter and brighter than either of these two tracks, there is an underlying melancholy that seeps through in Josh’s vocals. This slight solemnity increases throughout ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory‘; delightfully simple in structure, it’s brought to sobbing life through delicate harmonies and crying guitars. Yes, I’m smothering the poor thing in metaphor, but it really is quite lovely. Three tracks in and I haven’t found anything to displease me yet.
If I Had a Tail brings back some of that driving QOTSA beat we know and love, still tinged with darkness but brightened by some very crunchy guitars and what appears to be an ‘old radio’ style filter giving it a bit of crackle that suits the style perfectly. This track departs in feedback, fuzz and distorted vocals to give way to the first single from the album, My God is the Sun. I much prefer this to Ocean; it feels less like radio fodder and more like a truly energised rock offering. Plus any song that can go seamlessly from solo maracas to full on distorted guitar is making an effort in my opinion. There are some haunting vocals in this, giving way to a meaty, sing-along chorus. This is the first track from the album that would inspire me to get up and bounce around.
Just as I get my dancing shoes on though, Kalopsia makes me want to sit down and have a long think about what I’ve done. Easily one of the prettiest songs on the album, with an obscure reference to The Flamingos‘ ‘I Only Have Eyes for You‘- see if you can spot it!
Fairweather Friends is a light, sad melody that breaks down into an almost anthemic, howling guitar which doesn’t last nearly long enough, before an almost Spanish guitar sounding melody around the hook. Smooth Sailing picks up the mood and funks all over it with (ph)at drums and crunchy, growly guitars. I Appear Missing is the most ‘filler’ track on the album; predictable chord changes (predictable if you listen to QOTSA anyway) and many similarities to previous tracks.
The title track, Like Clockwork, is chilled and trance like, yet again has an undercurrent of sadness running through. Roger Waters would have been proud of this track.
I’ve not talked much about the lyrical content; it’s hard to pick out an overriding theme that isn’t musical. The music sings a bittersweet sadness, and Homme for me is simply an integral part of this. His actual words just wash over me. I’d probably have to listen 2 or 3 times before I started singing along.
Overall: quirky, deep in places, fun in others, and endlessly interesting. Not quite five stars after one listen through, as there isn’t one song that amazes me, but the album as a whole works really well. I feel that it will grow on me; in six months, who knows, I may up my four stars to five.