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Friday, June 7, 2013

Mark’s Pick of the Week: …Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age

I think the coolest thing about QotSA is their band dynamic.  Most bands seem more like an entity then individual people.  Some people play instruments, or write songs, or sing and you put that together and that’s the band.  The way Josh Homme approaches it seems to focus much more on the individual.  As the main songwriter and only permanent member of QotSA it’s easy to think he kind of runs the show, and everyone else just follows.  However, Homme seems to make a point of surrounding himself with some very talented musicians.  This is certainly an advantage because good musicians means good music, but having such strong talent in the studio also means they are less like employees and more like coworkers.  Their opinions and problems can put a lot of strain on the band, but you can’t argue with results. 
A new Queens of the Stone Age album is something I didn’t realize that I was missing until I heard it was coming out.  It’s been six years since their last release, and yet it seems like just the right amount of time has pasted.  They have such a fantastic no holds barred approach to songwriting.  They are hard rock, but saying that is like calling water blue: sure that’s the case, but you’re also missing a ton of other elements that make water, water.  My favorite effort by these guys has to be Songs for the Deaf.  Along with some stand out tracks it is a great concept album that anyone who had to drive cross-country with nothing but a radio can relate to.  Everything else I’ve heard by them is very good as well, and I think it has to do with what I mentioned at the begging of this article. 
Homme is a great musician, but also seems like a good manager.  He can look at what’s working and what isn’t and try to fix it.  He scrapped long time drummer Joey Castillo (a decision that weighed heavy on a lot of the band who consider him a good friend,) and brought in Dave Grohl (who drummed on Songs…).  He also brought in many other artists to add backing vocals including former bassist Nick Oliveri, Trent Reznor (of NIN), Mark Lanegan, and Sir Elton John.  To suggest it’s just Homme who makes these guys as good as they are would be selling a ton of people short.  It’s great to have a good manager, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t have good players.  All of the performers on this album add their own layer to this fairly dense collection of songs.
I think the best way to describe the QotSA’s sound is like walking into the desert.  There’s a sunny but very sinister feeling to this sound, like the heat is starting to get to you.  The opening riff of “Keep Your Eyes Pealed” shoots you right back into that unmistakable wasteland.  For old fans of these guys you’ll be treated to some fantastic guitar driven tracks like “I Sat by the Ocean” and the first single “My God is the Sun.”  There are a few piano ballads in here as well, which isn’t exactly what these guys are known for, but these guys pull them off rather well.
This album really feels like the band is coming full circle.  They went back and picked up the pieces of their last 13 years, kept what they wanted, added in what was missing, and made the record they were supposed to make.  As a fan of this band it is a great treat to listen to, and it suggests that we’re going to be hearing a lot of great stuff from Homme and company in the not to distant future. 

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