June 2013 Archives

It's been a long six years since the Queens last convened to put out 2007's Era Vulgaris, the longest gap in-between albums for the band. To say that the lead up to Queens of the Stone Age's sixth album was rough is an understatement. A routine knee surgery for Queens head honcho Josh Homme that went so far south to the point of near death on the operating table. He spent the following four months recuperating and bedridden, sending Homme into a dark vortex of depression.

However, from the darkness comes light, so does QotSA's sixth long-player ...Like Clockwork. This is not your typical peyote-laced trip through the desert; this is ten songs documenting a long road out of hell for Homme. And the road can be as bleak as fuck at times. "I'm alive - hooray" he laments on piano-driven ballad "The Vampyre of Time and Memory" alluding to how Homme felt during his four month incapacitation while recovering from his near fatal surgery. But it's on penultimate track "I Appear Missing" that the desolation of it all really hits home. A gut wrenching punch is landed with the first verse, Homme croons "Calling all comas/Prisoner on the loose/Description: A spitting image of me/Except for the heart-shaped hole where the hope runs out" over some seriously sublime guitar lines. Bloody hell!!

You'd be foolish to think that it's all sad bastard songs though. This is a band that revels in dirty rock n roll swagger as much as the emotional introspective and it doesn't get any more hedonistic on the funky stomper "Smooth Sailing". Iggy Pop wishes he could steal a line as classic as "I blow my load all over the status quo".

While it isn't as heavy as previous QotSA albums ...Like Clockwork is definitely the most mature album they've done to date.  Perhaps a stint on the sidelines is just what the doctor ordered for Queens, with Homme's versatility as a songwriter reaching a new height here. The much publicised and sometimes surprising guest appearances are mostly understated with barely a line from Trent Reznor or Nick Oliveri. The main guest contributors being Dave Grohl (drums on half of the tracks) and Sir Elton John's piano work and backup vocals on the standout track "Fairweather Friends". 

With Josh teasing that with such a cathartic album out of the way, their next album may not too far off. Where Homme and Co take us with it would be nothing short of a wild guess. But it's guaranteed it's going to be tough to live up to such a brilliant fucking rock album.
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Wolfmother Rocks The Vine

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Bendigo doesn't see too many big Australian bands outside of the annual Groovin' The Moo festival. Sure, we've played host to Silverchair, Powderfinger and The Living End in the past but it's been a few years between drinks for this part of the world. So it came as a surprise to be woken last Friday to the news that Grammy award winning neo-psychedelic rockers, Wolfmother, were on the road to Sydney and were stopping by our sleepy burg that night.

I'd seen these guys two and a half times in the past (half because I'd bought a ticket to see them play at Kryal Castle in Ballarat but couldn't make it through the support act because of a severe hangover) and was severely burnt after their lacklustre performance at Big Day Out 2012. A voice in my head screamed at me to go for the simple reason that an intimate gig by an international act in this town just doesn't happen.

Thinking that I'd be one of a select few that wanted to see Andrew Stockdale and his hired guns, I figured turning up an hour before the scheduled appearance left plenty of time to see the support acts and acclimatise to the atmosphere inside the Golden Vine. Imagine my surprise when I was left out in the cold, waiting for someone to leave the packed house. When I was eventually let in the line stretched to the end of the block.

A swift beer and twenty minutes later, Stockdale and co appeared on what could have been the tiniest stage they've appeared on in ten years to rapturous applause. Instead of absorbing too much of the atmosphere, the band blazed straight into blues-rock fury of Dimension. Not making much room for small talk Stockdale and troops belted out a few new ones, Long Way To Go and Keep Moving. The latter would have to be a reference to vocalist Stockdale's desire to forge a new life under his own name instead of the Wolfmother moniker. These new songs are straightforward three-and-a-half-minute rockers, readymade for commercial rock radio. That's definitely not a dig at the songs, they're fucking brilliant!

The remaining sixty minutes is lost in a neo-retro fuzz. They play Love Train, Apple Tree and New Moon Rising. By now, the Friday night punters are going mental and the crowd surfers are out in force. By the time set closer Vagabond was played, Stockdale had them eating out of his hand, even dishing out high fives to the first few rows. 

There's no denying that Wolfmother has always worn their influences on their tie-dyed sleeves, harking back to 70's monoliths that are Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They've always had their detractors because of that, but Wolfmother have always strove to build their own creative path, even if it's not far from the source.

Rounding out the night was The Joker and The Thief, sending the venue on a psychedelic sonic rocket into the stratosphere. If this tour is the start of Andrew Stockdale's long climb back to the top of the rock n roll mountain, then the two hundred people that turned up to a small pub on a cold night in Bendigo would have left the building very happy to be at the beer soaked base camp.
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