This week, Queens Of The Stone Age scored their first-ever No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with …Like Clockwork, the first album Palm Desert native Josh Homme has released with QOTSA in six years. It’s a richly deserved honor, and one that had been long overdue. With a host of different bands — and different lineups within those bands — Homme has now presided over, and provided for us, a vast catalog of energetic rock music dealing almost exclusively in hooks and distortion.
And with …Like Clockwork, Homme has done it again — whatever it is, exactly, that Homme always does. …Like Clockwork stands out in the modern pantheon of rock music for its relative straightforwardness. Homme requires no gimmicks, theatrics, or even fretboard acrobatics; he simply sounds compelling enough to influence a host of other bands, yet original enough to have no competitive imitators. Josh Homme is one of the only guitar heroes remaining in commercial hard rock.
His work also stands apart in attitude. Homme’s lyrics fall somewhere between the stoned-immaculate nonsense of bands reliving the Summer Of Love, and the constant dick-waving of bands trying to revive the ’80s Sunset Strip sound. He’s too sleazy to be a flower child and too sophisticated to play a concert with Buckcherry. Homme’s onstage persona may be that of a womanizing drug vacuum, but a very casual, relaxed one. He would swat the flies if he had a tail, but he does not, so he’ll just recline and play guitar. In that respect, …Like Clockwork may — more than any other record — most ideally represent Homme’s … Homme-ness.
Josh Homme’s steadfast unwillingness to compromise has probably served him well in the long run; in a parallel universe he could have been part of the early-’90s grunge explosion and it might have killed him. Consider: He began his career as the axeman in Kyuss in 1987 — the same year as Nirvana and Alice in Chains were founded — making heavy, vital music on the razor’s edge between heavy metal and alternative rock. But while grunge largely rejected the machismo and swagger of its ’70s hard-rock influences, Homme embraced those elements. His more downcast contemporaries took pages out of Neil Young’s book, but Kyuss sounded more like Cactus, Vanilla Fudge, and a laundry list of less famous monster fuzz bands drizzled with a bit of melted ZZ Top.
And while Kurt Cobain and Jerry Cantrell’s albums dominated mainstream taste, Homme’s successes were more modest. Some Kyuss records performed admirably in sales, but nothing close to Nevermind or Dirt. Instead, during its brief existence, Kyuss more or less created the entire American stoner metal sub-genre. Stereogum recently named Kylesa’s Ultraviolet the 25th best album of 2013 so far, and it’s hard to imagine that band existing without Kyuss having paved the way.
Tragedy hobbled Nirvana and Alice In Chains, but when Kyuss died, Homme soldiered on with Queens Of The Stone Age, and here I sit, listening to Homme’s 11th album between three bands — not including a wiki’s worthof guest performances, EPs, his bizarre stint as drummer in the Eagles Of Death Metal, and the long-running Desert Sessions experiments.
Meanwhile, Homme’s former bandmates in Kyuss have re-united to play his music without him. The Kyuss Lives! experience has been making the rounds since November 2010, with Bruno Fevery of Arsenal attempting to fill Homme’s shoes. A subsequent lawsuit from Homme forced his former bandmates to persevere under the much-less-interesting moniker Vista Chino — the band performed for the first time under that name at the Orion Festival. The message from Homme is clear: He was Kyuss as much as he is Queens Of The Stone Age.
Walking back through Homme’s career is a daunting task — even this abridged discography is a monster — and chronologically is no way to approach it. Homme’s had his creative peaks and valleys, as well as long periods of relative silence. In the interest of celebrating his successes, finding the gems in his failures, and cleaning his demons, these are Josh Homme’s albums, from worst to best.
Start the Countdown here.