‘…Like Clockwork’


“My whole life, I’ve always wanted to be un-hecklable, you know? …I remember staring into GBH [record] covers, Exploited covers, Black Flag covers and just thinking, ‘Go for it, man…’ You know, getting that feeling in your stomach when you leave a first date… I’m just looking for that. I hope I can give that to somebody, somewhere.”

–       Josh Homme, NME interview, Paris


I suspect that being ‘un-hecklable’ is to achieve a state of being beyond ridicule. I have a feeling that the only way to do that is to either deliberately invite it, distract an audience from anything which may be construed as ridiculous or, lastly, confuse them so that they are too busy guessing to have the opportunity to take the piss.

 ‘…Like Clockwork’ is the sixth studio album from Queens of the Stone Age. I think it stands very close to Songs for the Deaf as one of the greatest albums of all (my) time.

I suspect Homme’s principal strategy for avoiding ridicule is to confuse and obfuscate interpretation. His principal calling-card is weirdness, most often personified by surreal, deliberately obfuscatory lyrics. Even the names of the post-Kyuss acts, Eagles of Death Metal and the truly awesome Them Crooked Vultures feature this surreal, disjunctive quality.  

…it doesn’t always come off. The previous two Queens albums just weren’t as compelling, even though they featured some spectacular songs. Songs for the Deaf, aside from being the last to feature Nick Oliveri, the angry, fighty little bass player who has visa problems because of assault charges, is a kind of concept album (I believe, anyway) about driving through the desert near LA, listening to a selection of songs on the radio.

Some feature Oliveri on vocals; some feature Mark Lanegan. All of them, however, have been structured along the lines of Homme’s composition and often feature his rather bizarre falsetto, a vocal style which would probably be the last thing you’d expect from a band bearing so many of the marks of hardcore punk. On paper, nothing about it should work.

But it does work.‘…Like Clockwork’ is a kind of rock and roll which has passed through the looking glass to become something rich and strange.

...passing through the looking-glass

Cognitive dissonance, indeed.

The album arrived last weekend, and I did what I like to do on the release of a new QOTSA album. I bought it, put it on the car stereo and drove away from everyone I know to quietly absorb it, the way Songs for the Deaf is best enjoyed. To be honest, part of my recent motivation for buying a V8 was to be able to get deeper inside that experience (now all I need to find is a local desert).

‘…Like Clockwork’ is weird. It sounds like rock and roll, and possesses some of the greatest rock and roll songs I’ve heard in ages. In fact, to me they sound new. And it’s hard to produce rock that is going to sound new to someone approaching 40. In some of them, I think I can hear Alice Cooper. Others have overtones of David Bowie, The Beatles and certainly The Rolling Stones. At least, it sounds like Keith Richards on guitar, but it’s just the style; it seems to have been cleansed of everything else, which gives it an eerie, uncanny quality.

Perhaps ‘uncanny’ is the best adjective under the circumstances. It’s a word used in psychoanalysis. From Wikipedia:

The uncanny (Ger. Das Unheimliche – “the opposite of what is familiar”) is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar.[1] (See Uncanny valley.)

Because the uncanny is familiar, yet strange, it often creates cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject due to the paradoxical nature of being attracted to, yet repulsed by an object at the same time. This cognitive dissonance often leads to an outright rejection of the object, as one would rather reject than rationalize.

Cognitive dissonance has never felt so good.

2 Responses to “‘…Like Clockwork’”

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my
    comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that
    over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  2. Nice review. Completely agree about the uniqueness of LC. Apart from detailing your favorite individual tracks, its well written. (not too fanboyish!)

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