Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"There's Nothing You Can Say, You Can't Wish Me Away:" Something About Like Clockwork

For a few weeks now, I've wanted to write something about Like Clockwork, the Queens of the Stone Age's long-awaited sixth album. Despite minor reservations, I can't stop listening to it. But when I tried to write something about Like Clockwork, it sucked. It was four or five grafs of throat-clearing, "Your shoes are untied," cack. It was heavily annotated, and full of quotes from other critics. I ultimately scrapped that piece simply because I am not a music critic. The closest I've come to writing a music review is this. Not a terrible piece, really, but I think it's terrible, if that makes sense.

Which leads me to this piece. It's not a review, because who wants a review for an album that came out weeks ago? And it's not supposed to be a deeply personal cri di coeur, though it will be that. Rather, I want to relate what it's like to listen to Like Clockwork's three-hit punch of "If I Had a Tail," "My God is the Sun," and "Kalopsia." So I'll circle around something I can't bring myself to directly write about. Like the persona that Queens frontman Josh Homme presents in his music, I'm an emotional exhibitionist. I also don't like being completely transparent. In his music, Homme presents himself as a sarcastic bully, a submissive pervert, and an egocentric depressive. I like his music a lot.

Like Clockwork doesn't begin with "If I Had a Tail," but it should. My biggest problem with the album is that Homme bleeds all over the tracks. This guy has made of a career of jamming tongue into cheek. He sings about suicidal thoughts, bad trips, and strip club daymares so well that he doesn't need to make his music more overtly "personal." But still, Homme knew what he was doing when he wrote the music for Like Clockwork. On Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque piano ballad "Vampyre of Time and Memory," Homme sings, "To be vulnerable is needed most of all, if you intend to truly fall apart." By contrast, "If I Had a Tail" is a chilly, synth-heavy track with an echo chamber disco beat. It, like many of Homme's best tracks, makes you think you're riding shotgun in Homme's car while he makes donuts all over his id. "See me dance," he moans like a ghost, confirming in "If I Had a Tail," we are inside Homme's head. Maybe this is what you dream of when you're laid up in a hospital, wondering if you have the stamina to recover. It isn't a wake-up call, but a nose-dive into Nod, the land of cold sweats, and bad dreams.