Is there a more debonair dirtball in rock than Josh Homme? The Queens of the Stone Age frontman is the high priest of grimy rock tradition, exalting in exquisitely wrought guitar scraping and wry machismo – whether with his main gig or in side bands like the Dave Grohl collaboration Them Crooked Vultures. For the Queens’ sixth album, their sole continuous member has the band at full power, with Grohl drumming on five of 10 tracks, former members Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan pitching in, and eye-catching, yet unobtrusive, guest spots from Trent Reznor, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, Arctic Monkeys‘ Alex Turner and Elton John – who, fabulously, volunteered as “an actual queen.”
Make no mistakes, though: . . . Like Clockwork still runs on Homme’s grizzled-dude-against-the-world intensity; he’ll quaff a “potion to erase you,” and he compares people to “crashing ships in the night.” The track featuring Sir Elton’s vocals and piano, with Grohl on skins? It’s a deliciously greasy complaint called “Fairweather Friends.” If you’re looking for something aspirational, check out “If I Had a Tail,” a perv’s anthem in which Homme deploys his best movie-villain voice. And let’s just say that the bad-vibes ballad “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” earns its gothick spelling. Yet for all his demon-steed drive, Homme’s a versatile guy – he coos as persuasively as he howls, and few can rain down metal decay with as much nuance and craft.