Queens of the Stone Age are steadily building one of my all-time favorite discographies, and …Like Clockwork represents another solid entry into Josh Homme’s collection of badassery. Homme’s always been a fan of collaboration, but here there’s an especially impressive list of special guests, including the return of Dave Grohl’s studio drumming on half of the track listing. The most interesting of which would have to be 66-year old Sir Elton John’s turn on the album’s strongest track, “Fairweather Friends.” John plays piano and offers up backing vocals on the track, and both fit seamlessly with Homme’s crooning about failed relationships. Other notable contributions include the vocals of Academy Award-winner Trent Reznor on “Kalopsia.” While his turn is brief, hearing Reznor pair up with Homme during the track’s chorus and final moments of guttural screaming is a highlight.
There are also contributions from former The Mars Volta member and current live drummer Jon Theodore, former bassist Nick Oliveri, who offers vocals on two tracks, long-time friend and former member Mark Lanegan, who also gets songwriting credits on “Fairweather Friends,” and UNKLE-mastermind James Lavelle. Other track highlights, and there are many, include the Songs For The Deaf-sounding “I Sat By the Ocean,” the swanky “Smooth Sailing,” and “The Vampyre Of Time and Memory,” a piano ballad with soul guitar where Homme’s lyrics and falsetto shine:
You think the worst of all is far behind. The vampire of time and memories has died. I survived. I speak, I breathe, I’m incomplete. I’m alive – hooray! You’re wrong again ‘Cause I feel no love.
Ultimately, the strength of …Like Clockwork is how cohesively all these tracks fit together. The band’s always been able to tie things together neatly over a central theme (see Songs of the Deaf), and that attention to detail continues here. It’s been six long years since their last LP, but it’s been well worth the wait. QOTSA have crafted one of the best rock records in recent memory.