It has been a bittersweet few years for Queens of the Stone Age.
In 2010 frontman Josh Homme (below) suffered a near death experience when a routine knee operation went awry.
Confused and depressed, he poured his pain into the band’s latest album, …Like Clockwork. Rather than drawing strength from the singer’s catharsis, though, the LP turned out bleary and confused, packed tight with the group’s trademark sludgy riffola but with little of their customary sheet lightning swagger.
Ironically, …Like Clockwork may well turn out to be QOTSA’s finest commercial hour. Certainly, their audience seems to be growing exponentially and, for the first time in their career, the Queens are headlining arenas. Admittedly, The O2 isn’t quite stuffed, but the downstairs area is sold out and, as the five piece lunge into opener You Ain’t Worth A Dollar, the venue becomes a sea of roiling, moshing fans.
Standing at well over six feet, with flaming red hair, Homme could be mistaken for the stereotypical jock. In fact, QOTSA reject dunder-headed heavy rock cliches. Singing in a sinuous croon, Homme brings a soulful sensibility and at moments the band verge on an (admittedly very loud) funk rock sound.
There’s lots from the new album, many of the tracks slipping by in a blur of monster riffs and stomping drums while Homme’s throaty mewl weaves in and out of earshot. However, they have to reach into their catalogue to truly ignite the room. Their 2002 hit No One Knows is at once muscular and delicate; while early song The Lost Art of Keeping A Secret has a subtlety and grace rarely encountered in enormo-dome rock. The stand-out is Make It With Chu, a sprawling, deeply groovy tune that borrows enthusiastically from ’70s southern rock stereotypes, wearing the cliches like badges of pride.
— Ed Power
Star Rating: 4/5
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved