It's hard for me to get excited these days when albums come out by musicians I'm interested in. I still do some times but the past few years have led to more disappointments than not. It may take a while for me to actually let an album sit with me and therefore, I may ultimately like something months after release as songs grow on me.
That said, I might still anticipate a release with some form of giddiness. There are few bands I may actually run out and buy a physical copy of their album the moment of release. Then there are the bands I am apprehensive about. I'll wait to hear a song on the radio. I'll do my 30 second sampling on Amazon. And then there's the band I'm about to address: Queens of the Stone Age.
I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with lead singer Josh Homme. On the one hand, I never listened to a QOTSA album before "Era Vulgaris". I still have not. That makes me a horrible person, I think but of the radio released songs from "Songs for the Deaf", I never cared much for what I heard. It took a session playing "3's & 7's" on Rock Band for me to finally take notice of them. It was a fun song to sing and a hard one for my friend Beetchie to play on expert guitar. I took a chance by purchasing "Era Vulgaris" and loved everything about it. The musical and vocal arrangements. The break downs. The lyrics. The rock.
My mind changed some from dislike to respect and back to dislike when Josh Homme decided to have a hand in producing the album of one of my favourite bands, Arctic Monkeys. My initial thoughts of "Humbug" were not ones of praise (though "Crying Lightning which I've linked above was always bad-assed). These days I've come to accept the album that much more in a positive light but I still feel a pang of disdain when I think about the direction he may have led Arctic Monkeys down. It's an unwarranted disdain I might admit but I'm a bit stubborn, I suppose.
My up and down love affair with Josh Homme continued with the release of his side project album under the name Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones of Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin fame respectively. It's one of the best albums I listened to in 2009.
So what now? Is it love or is it hate? Queens of the Stone Age recently released "...Like Clockwork". I was handed the video a few weeks ago by my very good friend. My first thought was as it always is, "People still make videos?" followed by, "this album is coming out already?! How did I miss this?" After I watched the video, I had to watch it again. I suspected it was brilliant. I was not wrong. But it was on the second viewing that I listened to the song, "My God is the Sun" and I realized that the song was even more brilliant than I initially believed.
My expectations were raised and a mere two days later with the digital album in hand, I broke out my new pair of headphones for an honest listen. The album deserved my utmost attention. I don't have much of a span anymore so it's been sitting there with me for a good few weeks now. I'm finally ready to report that I'm of the opinion that this album is not to be missed if you're a fan. If you're a fan of alternative rock, it's not to be missed.
"...Like Clockwork" is surprising in ways I never expected to hear. Quiet, thoughtful, reflective piano moments drive heart broken lyrics of its title track. There are weird arrangements on other songs that have your head spinning as to what direction QotSA is going in. It's the unexpected that takes getting used to but it never fails to entertain and to be a mostly deep listening experience. The album is somber, has the ability to catch you off guard by its rock riffs, some sultry vocal work by Homme, and one even wanting to be a weird dance worthy track with strange falsettos that are uncharacteristic in style but are crazy enough to work. There's playfulness here too that really should not be unexpected.
The album's cool, collected and yet different enough while retaining a QotSA vibe to be incredibly interesting. I suspect this album is going to end up high on many End of Year Review Lists. It certainly is holding a really high place on mine already.
The worst thing about listening to this album though is being reminded that there is no more Rock Band DLC being released by Harmonix. I would have loved to attempt some singing on some of these tracks. It would be fun as all hell playing "My God is the Sun".
Tracks Worth Listening to: Quite frankly the entire album but here are the few to get you started, "I Appear Missing", "My God is the Sun", "...Like Clockwork", "The Vampyre of Time and Memory", and "Kalopsia"