As lead singer Josh Homme sings “The view from Hell is blue sky/so ominously blue,” in the first track of …Like Clockwork, you know that you’re on the express train to the apocalypse, a hellish, dystopian landscape where “nothing is as it seems.”
The jerks and turns of the deliciously riff-heavy “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” guide this first track along a route to Hell. The somber, jaded verses drag with an air of gravitas while shifting between the subdued and the electrified.
“I Sat By the Ocean,” while a bitter relationship tune, ironically stands out as one of the most musically upbeat tracks on the album. There are no shadows or whispers here; an upfront—and yes, accusatory—foot-tapper, “I Sat By the Ocean” sports more of a classic QOTSA sound and features a chorus that has Homme climbing in pitch, his voice stepping higher and higher to the heavens.
QOTSA then brings the funk with “If I Had a Tail” and “Smooth Sailing.” “If I Had a Tail,” with its staccato chorus and funky bassline, has every line punctuated with cymbals and heavy guitar strokes that scream for you to get your ass up and pay attention. Meanwhile, the wonky, staggering “Smooth Sailing” ventures even further into funk-rock with accentuated percussion, grooving guitar strokes and vocal tones that pay a unique tribute to the sounds of 1970s funk and psychedelic rock.
The first urgent, earth-shaking 20 seconds of “My God is the Sun” serve as a prologue to a brilliant track that drives forward unrelentingly with all the power of an anthem without all that saccharine, idealist bullshit. Just as it seems to fall apart and collapse to a whimper near the end, it turns around and kicks you once last time before that last cymbal crash.
The melancholic, melodic “Kalopsia” starts off sounding like a slow, simple ballad, but just when you think they’re out of juice, they kick back with the chorus: a screech of distortion, a faster tempo and a louder sound that defiantly questions its own sorrow.
The six-minute long lead single, “I Appear Missing,” with all of its cynicism, musical variety, power, strength and occasional dissonance, is the quintessence of this album. The beautifully melodic chorus of “Shock me awake/Tear me apart/Pinned like a note in a hospital gown,” touched with the wisdom of “It’s only falling in love/because you hit the ground,” lead the song to a medley of dissonant sounds that break the track down in another fake-out and ultimately leads into a sweet and satisfying ending that shows off all of QOTSA’s range—and it’s quite a range.
Artfully crafted and stunningly personal, …Like Clockwork is a truly impressive album that recalls the signature QOTSA sound while pushing it forward into different realms. The band alternates between quietly reflecting and digging their fingers in the grime, producing a weighty, honest rock sound that bares its teeth without sacrificing its maturity. …Like Clockwork looks up from hell, but by the end, you’re definitely grateful for the view.