Queens Of The Stone Age – One of the last great rock bands around puts out its best CD yet

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‘Like Clockwork’: Album review

Rock bands have it hard these days. Barely any acts from that bold genre have scraped the top of the charts in recent times. Some that have only managed to because they’re grandfathered in from richer days, like the reformed Soundgarden, the on-again-off-again Pearl Jam or the graying Green Day. But, if you’re talking about top-charting acts that are close to, or even at their peaks, just three come to mind: the Black Keys, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age.

To make the fate of big-time rock worse, six long years have passed since a third of its top triumvirate — the Queens — put out new music. “Like Clockwork” is the California-based band’s first CD since 2007’s “Era Vulgaris.” In the meantime, its members have been waging fleeting sorties into the mainstream under other guises, including Eagles of Death Metal and Them Crooked Vultures.

Their side projects only seem to have stoked Queens lead Josh Homme for the main band’s barreling return. “Clockwork” is the best of the group’s six CDs, graced by their finest balance of melody and menace.

To rally the remaining rock troops, Homme once again roped in longtime friend and collaborator Dave Grohl (of the Foo Fighters) to man many of the drum parts. But the disc also includes guest spots from less-likely stars, like Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and Elton John, who supposedly invited himself along with the tease, “you guys should work with a real Queen.”

The left field guests tip off the unpredictable nature of the essential Queens sound. It’s an invigorating mix of grunge, art-pop, and Pink Floyd-style, trippy sound effects (hence the band’s early tag: “stoner rock”). The new disc uses horror movie soundtrack motifs, from shattering glass to threatening winds. It also idealizes the Queens’ extremes, bracketing their sound with their most concussive riffs and finest tunes. In a single track, they’ll mix silken guitar lines that sound like the reincarnation of George Harrison, with riffs as reptilian as the hardest of Soundgarden. Some of the new songs sound like Bowie on late ’70s albums like “Heroes” or “Lodger.” “Smooth Sailing” has the metallic funk of the Bowie smash “Fashion,” along with a cackling guitar solo that could have come off a prime Blue Oyster Cult album.

Much of the music has a hip-shaking sexiness, enhanced by Homme’s Jim Morrison-esque bellow. It’s a harder and stranger sound than the Foos, and a more forward-thinking one than the Black Keys. In the process, it hits a sweet spot, giving rock just the beastly boost it could use.

Queens of the Stone Age in Paris

30 Seconds To Mars Play Chaotic Flashmob Gig video

Jared Leto of 30 Seconds To Mars explains why they chose to play a free, open air show in London today. Running time: 01:31

 

 

30 Seconds to Mars is an American rock band from Los Angeles, formed in 1998. Since 2007, the band has consisted of actor Jared Leto (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, songwriter), Shannon Leto (drums, percussion) and Tomo Miličević (lead guitar, keyboards). Following the departure of Matt Wachter (now of Angels & Airwaves) in 2007, Tim Kelleher became the bassist for the group, performing live only with both Jared and Miličević recording bass for studio recordings, while Braxton Olita (keyboards) was added to the touring lineup in 2009. Previously, the group also featured guitarists Solon Bixler (now of Great Northern) and Kevin Drake (now of Polaroid Kiss).

To date, 30 Seconds to Mars have released four studio albums – 30 Seconds to Mars (2002), A Beautiful Lie (2005), This Is War (2009), Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams (2013) and three extended plays – AOL Sessions Undercover (2007), To the Edge of the Earth (2008), and MTV Unplugged: 30 Seconds to Mars (2011). As of May 2013, the band has sold over 10 million albums worldwide.

30 Seconds to Mars’ music has been associated mostly with new prog, progressive metal and alternative rock, but they have also included emo, screamo, space rock and synthrock into their music. They have been compared to Pink Floyd (who were an influence on their work) and Tool because of their use of philosophical and spiritual lyrics, concept albums and their use of experimental music.

Music videos

List of music videos, showing year released and director
Title Year Director(s)
“Capricorn (A Brand New Name)” 2002 Paul Fedor
“Edge of the Earth” 2003 Kevin McCullough
“Attack” 2005 Paul Fedor
“The Kill” 2006 Bartholomew Cubbins
“From Yesterday”
“A Beautiful Lie” 2008 Angakok Panipaq
“Kings and Queens” 2009 Bartholomew Cubbins
“Closer to the Edge” 2010
“Hurricane”
“This Is War” 2011 Édouard Salier
“Up in the Air” 2013 Bartholomew Cubbings