Without hesitation I can say that Queens of the Stone Age have made one of the best albums of the year with “…Like Clockwork” – certainly the best rock album so far as we hit the mid-year mark.
According to frontman Josh Homme it came from somewhat of a dark place – a bit of writer’s block, some health issues — but, on the other side of it, QOTSA was reborn. And they are rocking with even more grit, both dark and sexy, than ever before. The new songs are chock full of emotion and delivered with the precision of master musicians who want to do nothing less than blow your mind. And they show no mercy in their live shows.
I was lucky enough to watch the soundcheck before the QOTSA show at Apogee Studio for a small invited audience and two things immediately struck me – they were playing full force, not holding back, at soundcheck, even as Josh battled a cold (he joked throughout the night about his current diet of codeine, cortisone and tequila). Also, Josh has an amazing sense of humor and was joking constantly. For someone who could truly be dubbed a rock star, with that mysterious air of danger that is missing from so many rock frontmen, he was incredibly down to earth.
They kicked off the first set with the fierce “If I Had a Tail” and ended it with album opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”, which Josh said is “almost like bacon, it’s the gateway meat, sort of. That song is kind of, I think, quintessentially strange and a little esoteric and that is traditionally our thing.” If that song is the gateway to the album, “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory” is the solemn ballad that holds out its hand to you to enter directly into Josh’s difficult emotional state while writing the record. It seems like a bit of a departure, and it’s one of the best songs they’ve ever done.
The record took years to make and Josh said he’s fine with the hardships he’s dealt with. As he said, “everyone gets knocked down, it’s the style with which you get up that’s important”.
As far as the sound of the record, he said “I really think you do have to sort of do as you’re told musically, by the music,” adding “whatever feels scary. You go there”.
We talked backstage about how a lot of music press make him out to be something of a bad boy but others (Elton John among them) think he’s a pussycat. The truth is definitely a bit of both from what I can tell, but he was immensely gracious all evening – to the audience and KCRW. (He told me a story about blaring KCRW from speakers on his motorcycle and not realizing how crazy loud it was until he removed his helmet.)
It was a sweaty evening of rock n roll – just the way rock is supposed to be.
The session, hosted by Jason Bentley and recorded by Bob Clearmountain, will air on Morning Becomes Eclectic Tuesday, June 11.
Queens of the Stone Age Live on KCRW Set List
If I Had A Tail
My God Is The Sun
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
The Vampyre Of Time And Memory
I Sat By The Ocean
I Appear Missing
Make It Wit Chu