Queens of the Stone Age may very well be the most masochistic act in rock … and the proof is in their brand-new … Like Clockwork album, the making of which almost certainly would have broken lesser bands.
“We went through a particularly dark period in the last couple of years, trying to figure out what it all means and how to get through all that,” QOTSA mastermind Josh Homme said. “And in some ways, artistically and mentally, it was almost like waking up in the middle of nowhere … This record was like finding a way out from there to where we are now.”
Clockwork, the first Queens album in six years, came after a prolonged period of introspection from the normally unflappable Homme — though, to be fair, he certainly kept busy during that time, forming Them Crooked Vultures, producing for Arctic Monkeys and overseeing the reissue of QOTSA’s first two albums — and the departure of longtime drummer Joey Castillo, and was marred with so many false starts that its title basically says it all . (“The inability for anything to go like clockwork was the inspiration for the album title,” Homme laughed.) And yet, the band reloaded, reworked and emerged recharged … mostly because Homme’s always derived some sort of perverse pleasure in powering through.
“This is a journey forward, there’s no destination to get to; the work is the destination,” he said. “Once you’ve been doing this for a long time, you naturally go through all these ups and downs, and no advice will help, so you deal with them the best you can. All you can do is try to work it out, you know? If we ever had any troubles, we’d play our way out of them. And this [album] was definitely us trying to play our way right out of them.”
So, in a lot of ways, … Like Clockwork represents the Queens reborn: they’ve reunited with old friends like Dave Grohl and Nick Oliveri, welcomed new collaborators like Sir Elton John and Jake Shears to the fold, and, in the process, re-imagined their sound. QOTSA have always been subject to Homme’s many musical whims, but rarely has he crammed so much onto one album; glammy hooks, funk-inspired backbeats, even power-rock ballads … they’re all featured heavily here, and they all work masterfully. Of course, everything is still blended with the band’s signature eerie atmospherics; this is a Queens album, after all.
“We were listening to a lot of Wendy Carlos, she made all the music for Stanley Kubrick movies like ’Clockwork Orange’ and ’The Shining’ … there’s such a heavy tension,” Homme explained. “There’s a creepiness that sonically seeped across everything that we’re doing, which, you know, also fits with just how dark things got when we were making it.”
Of course, in the six years since QOTSA’s last album, Era Vulgaris, there’s been plenty of change outside the band, too. Consider, for example, the rather staid state of rock, or the creeping insurgence of EDM … still, after battling their way back from the brink, conquering the world once again almost seems easy to Homme and Co.
“You ask me if the world is ready for another Queens album, and I don’t have the foggiest idea,” he laughed. “But guess what’s about to happen.”