More than ever, Queens Of The Stone Age sound like a glam rock band on their sixth full-length “… Like Clockwork.” That is to say, Josh Homme not only embraces an arching, aching, menacing sound, but also makes a whole theater out of those sonic dynamics, from bedraggled slow dances to ballroom thumpers and purpose-driven lyricism over rock music’s MVPs. 

Players like Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and QOTSA’s prodigal bassist Nick Oliveri fill in the gaps of Homme’s black fever dreams. “… Like Clockwork” has all the big names of modern rock but without embracing all its latest and worst idiosyncrasies. Here, they avoid over-arranging, over-mastering and throwing synths into the mix for giggles. They keep the swinging drums tight like on the title track and “I Appear Missing,” the vocals working closely with the guitars like a Spoon song on “I Sat By the Ocean.”
But Homme makes for an even finer David Bowie on epics like pensive ”The Vampyre of Time and Memory”: “I want God to come / and take me home / cause I'm all alone / in this crowd,” he sings in a disquieted vibrato, before he threatens to spiral out in a fit of sarcasm. “I’m alive / hooray.”  The sinister Little Nemo that is “Kalopsia” amuses itself with the dreamy she-bop-she-bop melody line from “I Only Have Eyes For You” -- a song with a notion that, in itself, is a sort of kalopsia – prior to thrashing out with nonsensical guitar wails in Morse Code.
Homme here is pioneering beyond the jolting, muscle-bound rock of 2002’s “Songs for the Deaf” or even QOTSA’s last effort “Era Vulgaris.” It’s more of a construction, an open-shirted nihilistic, unanchored vibe that allows cameos from Elton John on “Fairweather Friends,” for instance, or the rallying cry “I wanna suck… lick… cry… spit” convincingly over a dance-rock boom-cha for “If I Had a Tail.” A lot of work (and not just play) went into these honed carnival rigs, and it ultimately pays off as a set that’s good on repeat. Solid for its singles starting with “My God Is The Sun” and the Jagger-swagger of "Smooth Sailing, "...Like Clockwork" is among the year’s best rock album crop so far.