CD Review: Queens of the Stone Age “…Like Clockwork”

Queens of the Stone Age
“…Like Clockwork”
Release Date: June 4, 2013)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Matador Records
Running Time: 46 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“…Like Clockwork” is Queens of the Stone Age’s first album since 2007’s “Era Vulgaris”. I was a huge fan of 2002’s “Songs For The Deaf” but I never felt that they really topped that album since. Well “…Like Clockwork” is a great revival for the band and they have never sounded better. Each track is epic and very kick-ass, with each one out doing the next. The drumming role has been split with Joey Castillo tackling tracks 1-3 & 6 and Dave Grohl on 4-5 & 7-9.  This has been the first time that Grohl has returned since “Songs for the Deaf”, so I was super excited about that as well. “…Like Clockwork” also delivered the band their first number one debut on the Billboard 200, making it the highest U.S. chart position to date and their first album to top the charts in the United States. So these guys are on FIRE!

Besides Grohl drumming in, “…Like Clockwork” has tons of great guest appearances line-up, some of which were really surprising. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor lends some vocals on tracks “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends”. Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears pops in on the vocals for “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” and “Smooth Sailing”. Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys appeared with vocals and guitars on “If I Had a Tail”. Brody Dalle, who also appeared on “Lullabies to Paralyze” and “Era Vulgaris”, sings also on the track. Lastly keep an ear out for Elton John, who plays his piano and sings on the track “Fairweather Friends”. So in terms of guest appearances this album easily scores a 5 out of 5 stars.

The album was produced by Joshua Homme and QOTSA, recorded by Mark Rankin with additional engineering by Alain Johannes and Justin Smith, at Josh’s studio, Pink Duck, in Burbank, CA. So I think it is save to that that “…Like Clockwork”, the bands sixth album that they are back and with a vengeance with some of their best material to date. So after debut at the top spot on the charts with more than 90,000 copies sold in the first week. The band, including founder Josh Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen, Dean Fertita, Michael Shuman and Jon Theodore will hit the roads of North American with a huge world tour in support of “…Like Clockwork”. So be sure to show your support and catch them live this summer! I am sure it is going to be epic just like the album!

Track Listing:
1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
2. I Sat By The Ocean
3. The Vampyre Of Time And Memory
4. If I Had A Tail
5. My God Is The Sun
6. Kalopsia
7. Fairweather Friends
8. Smooth Sailing
9. I Appear Missing
10. …Like Clockwork

Kevin J. Anderson talks about books "Hellhole Awakening", "Mentats of Dune" and working with Rush’s Neil Peart on "Clockwork Angels"

Kevin J. Anderson is the known best for his work in the “Dune” universe working with co-author Brian Herbert. He also co-authored the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel” with Neil Peart from the band Rush. He is releasing his latest novel, “Hellhole Awakening” this month and working on the next “Dune” novel, “Mentats of Dune”, due next year. Kevin took out some to time to chat with Media Mikes before he hits the road to promote his new novels discuss them and also what else he has in the cards for 2013.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your latest novel “Hellhole Awakening”?
Kevin J. Anderson: Brian Herbert and I have written about a dozen other books together in Frank Herbert’s “Dune” universe. They are all international best sellers and we love diving into that universe. But after doing all those books together we decided to take a crack at our own universe. It is trilogy. “Hellhole” is the first one, which came out two years ago. And now “Hellhole Awakening” is part two and comes out at the end of March. Hellhole is a planet that is struck by an asteroid. Due to that, there are volcanoes, earthquakes, storms and most of the native life forms are extinct. Then you have a bunch of misfits that are trying to colonize it, led by an exiled rebel general. So, these desperate colonists are trying to make a new life for themselves on a very hellish place. We have a lot of various storylines with aliens, disasters, terrific space battles and some other really cool stuff. We are very excited about the trilogy. It is really epic. The story just keeps building after what the first book has set up. (I know I should have a good one-liner to describe it—HELLHOLE is about a colony trying to survive in a place where nobody would want to live.

MG: Tell us about how this collaboration with Brian Herbert compares than your other books?
KJA:  We have been doing this since the mid-1990’s and every single year we have a new book out. We have spent most of the time in the “Dune” universe, and we really know how the other person thinks. We play upon each other’s strengths and are able to describe things and tell a story we find engaging. The “Hellhole” books gave us a chance to strut our own stuff instead of using what Frank Herbert developed in the “Dune” universe. It is nice to play with your own toys sometimes.

MG: Also with Brian, How is your progress coming along for “Mentats of Dune”?
KJA:  MENTATS is the second book (after SISTERHOOD OF DUNE) in a new trilogy set about 10,000 years before the original novel “Dune”. It is about the formation of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and the Mentats School. “Mentats of Dune” will be out next spring. Actually when the phone rang for this interview, I was editing page 100 out of page 651. Brian and I are in our fifth draft, and we will probably go through ten drafts or so until we get it all finalized. We do a book every year, kind of like clockwork… which leads me into my other recent book “Clockwork Angels,” the steampunk fantasy adventure based on the new Rush concept album.

MG: I was just going to ask actually, tell us about the “Clockwork Angels: The Watchmaker’s Edition”?
KJA:  The Watchmakers Edition is the audiobook version of the novel. Not your typical audio book. It is unabridged and read by Neil Peart (the drummer from Rush, with whom I cowrote the novel). Neil has a gorgeous voice and he wanted to do this. This novel is very close to him and me as well. And what could be better than having Neil Peart read it himself? The novel and the audiobook itself were released last September. “The Watchmaker’s Edition” is a very snazzy special edition, with a modeled clock tower with a working clock inside. It has beautiful artwork all around it by Hugh Syme, the cover and album artist. (He’s done all of the artwork for Rush’s albums dating the way back to “2112”. ) It also has a nice poster inside with a timeline for the “Clockwork Angels” project for Rush and my work as well. Any die-hard Rush fan should have this.

MG: Let’s go back, tell us about origin about how this collaboration came about with Rush’s Neil Peart?
KJA:  “Clockwork Angels” is Rush’s latest concept album, like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” or The Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. It is a steampunk fantasy adventure about a Big Brother figure called The Watchmaker and a crazy anarchist who wants to destroy everything—who meet up with a naive dreamer, someone who grew up in a small town. He wants to visit the big city where the Clockwork Angels are. The world has zeppelins, pirates, steampunk carnivals, and the lost seven cities of gold. Neil and I have known each other for about 25 years. He’s already read my books and I have always been a Rush fan. We’ve worked together a few times. Before CLOCKWORK ANGELS, we did a short story called “Drumbeats.” and Neil wrote an introduction to a collection of short stories I did. When he was developing the story for the”Clockwork Angels” album, I started brainstorming with him just because it was fun. At some point along the way, Neil suggested that this could be a novel also. This novel is something I’ve been waiting my entire career to do. Rush’s music has inspired many of my stories. During their “Time Machine” tour, they came to Colorado (where I live) and on a day off, Neil and I climbed a 14,000 foot mountain—because what else do you do on your day off? During the hike up, we plotted the story and came up with the characters. So while Rush was writing the album, I was putting together the story in my head. I was able to put in little references to Rush lyrics—not just “Clockwork Angels” but the entire library of songs. If you are a die-hard Rush fan, you will catch them, but otherwise the story flows just fine.

MG:What/when can we expect from the third Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. novel, “Hair Raising”?
KJA: HAIR RAISING is the third installment after DEATH WARMED OVER and UNNATURAL ACTS, and will be out in May. I’ve also done an original story, “Stakeout at the Vampire Circus” (available in all eBook formats), and I’ll have another new one, “Road Kill,” out in about a month. This series is a humorous horror series which follows Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., set in a world where all the monsters come back and live in a part of the city called the “Unnatural Quarter”. In HAIR RAISING, somebody is stalking werewolves and scalping them.
If you can’t tell, I have so much fun with my job. I love telling these stories. I don’t have enough time in the day to put down all the words in my head

MG: Tell us about your upcoming tour to support these?
KJA: I am about to start a US tour for HELLHOLE AWAKENING (San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Atlanta, Dayton, Richmond VA, and Colorado Springs)—full tour schedule at Unlike a rock concert tour, I will be there meeting with the fans face to face, give a little talk about working with Brian and Neil, and there’ll be a Q&A, door prizes, lots of cool stuff. I look forward to getting out there and meeting the fans.

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Kevin J. Anderson talks about working with the band Rush on the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”

Kevin J. Anderson is the co-author of the book “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”, which is based on the band Rush’s latest album. The novelization is co-written with Neil Peart, who is the drummer and lyricist for the band. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Kevin about this collaboration and his work with Rush.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up collaborating with Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart on “Clockwork Angels: The Novel”?
Kevin J. Anderson: Neil and I have been friends since around 1990; I’ve always been a Rush fan, and he reads my novels. My first novel, Resurrection, Inc., was inspired by the Rush album Grace Under Pressure. Over the years we’ve toyed with the idea of doing a novel/album crossover project, but the stories and the schedules never synched up. As Clockwork Angels began to take shape, though, it had that right set of ingredients. As he developed the story for the songs, he suggested that I do the novel.

MG: Since Neil wrote “Clockwork Angels” as a concept album, did that make the adapting process easier?
KJA: He’s always given me props for my worldbuilding skills, and when he started putting the songs and the story together, he turned me loose to let me develop the world, to see how the pieces fit together (like “Clockwork,” naturally!). Neil had most of the framework for the story, which is set out in the songs, but I helped connect the dots, added extra characters, fleshed out the scenes. But I didn’t change anything in the album or the songs—Neil wrote what he wanted to write, and I developed a story that captured it as best I could.

MG: What was your inspiration for the dystopian fiction featured in the story?
KJA: Oddly, we consider this a “nice” sort of dystopia. Yes, the Watchmaker controls a lot of people’s lives, which is a bad thing if you’re a square peg and the rest of the world is made of round holes, but for the vast majority of the population, this really is an idyllic sort of world. But our character is a dreamer and wants something more.

MG: How did you end up merging this story with the steampunk subgenre?
I’ve been writing steampunk since 1989 (before the term was ever invented, I think), and Neil liked that aspect. He had the idea of a steampunk motif from the very beginning, and it was always part of the canvas as the story and music took shape.

MG: Tell us about your work with artist Hugh Syme?
KJA: Hugh had already done some of the paintings for the CD booklet before I started writing. I used his artwork for details and inspiration, and he read the drafts of some scenes as I delivered them. Hugh had an uncanny knack for taking a detail or a metaphor at the core of the story (something even I didn’t realize) and pulling it to the surface, which would send me back to the draft to emphasize that part and add new scenes. We worked closely together for the illustrated booklet that accompanies the unabridged audiobook (which Neil Peart narrates), Hugh and I getting the finished content, design, and layout done for Brilliance Audio in only a few days!

MG: I think that this novel would make a great movie…(Hint Hint)!
I certainly wouldn’t disagree with you, but it doesn’t matter what I think. Some movie producer has to get that idea in his or her head!

MG: Do you feel that there will ever been another additional chapter to this story?
KJA: Not as an endless series of book after book. But Neil and I love the world and the characters, and we feel that some of the side tales might be worth exploring. Not in the immediate future, though. I have two massive books I’m writing, and Rush has this tour thing they’re on…

MG: What is your favorite song on the album “Clockwork Angels”?
KJA: It often changes as I keep listening to the album. Right now, the one that seems closest to my heart is “Headlong Flight,” which means so much to the story and means so much to me about my life.

MG: What do you have planned next? Any plans to work with Rush again?
KJA: Right now I am editing MENTATS OF DUNE with Brian Herbert, my next major novel in that series, and I am beginning a new trilogy in my gigantic “Seven Suns” universe, THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS. It’ll probably be a thousand pages long, and as of today I hit the halfway point! And I have two other novels ready to be cued up in the new year. It’s too soon to think about doing anything else with Rush —they’ll be touring for quite some time yet.


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CD Review: Rush “Clockwork Angels”

“Clockwork Angels”
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Label: Roadrunner Records
Tracks: 12
Running Time: 67 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I have been a fan of Rush for many many years and I have also seen them perform live more times than I can count. They are easily one of my favorite bands ever! Rush is just one of these bands that can be around for 40 years and yet make hit after hit. I saw David Gilmour from Pink Floyd during his solo tour in 2006 and when he played tracks from his latest album “On an Island”, everyone took a bathroom/beer break. But I don’t know how to explain it but when Rush releases a new album, it is like instant GOLD!…and when they play their new material live, forget it, the crowd goes insane. I call that the power of Rush!

“Clockwork Angels” is Rush’s first album at Roadrunner Records. It is produced by Grammy Award winner Nick Raskulinecz, who also collaborated with the band on their last studio album, “Snakes and Arrows”.  The album is not just any ‘ole album, it has an amazing story behind it.   It  chronicles a young man’s quest, through Neil Peart’s lyrics, across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy as he aims to follow his dreams.  I really enjoyed the story overall and there is even a novel adaptation of the album coming out later this year from ECW Press.

Let’s get to these new songs for Rush’s 20th studio album “Clockwork Angels.  “Caravan” easily kicks the album off with a bang.  I had heard and already loved “BU2B” from their live album “Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland” (which was also amazing!).  I loved how on the studio album version, they set the song up with a quiet prologue and then blew it up.  It also really sets the tone for the whole album and its story.  The production on the track “Clockwork Angels” is so amazing and well-done. “Halo Effect” is a sweet song, along relatable to a love song.  “Headlong Flight” flies way over the 7 minute marks and channels its inner-Floyd. “The Garden” is an interesting yet perfect ending to this album.  Rush really delivers amazing song after song here,  I mean each one is honestly gold.

I can’t wait to see this year’s tour to back this album.  It is going to be a really visual and amazing journey to see how this story is told out live.  Also there is a little Easter egg for super-Rush fans on the album’s cover. Take a look at the clock, put it in military time and what do we get… 21:12, OH YEAH! I mean if that doesn’t scream super cool…I do not know what does! This band never shows any signs of slowing down, especially if they keep making albums like “Clockwork Angels”. After 20 albums, it only seems to get better…hears to 20 more guys!

Track Listing:
1. Caravan
2. BU2B
3. Clockwork Angels
4. The Anarchist
5. Carnies
6. Halo Effect
7. Seven Cities Of Gold
8. The Wreckers
9. Headlong Flight
10. BU2B2
11. Wish Them Well
12. The Garden