Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reclaim everything

Queens Of The Stone Age is my favourite band. I love all 6 of their albums, and the many styles of music they've explored throughout the years, but ... Like Clockwork holds a special place in my heart. As I mentioned earlier, I discovered this album during the worst period of my life, and it was very much the turning point for me. At a time when nothing made sense anymore and I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation I was thrust into, this album was my light at the end of the tunnel. From the moment I first heard the gloriously dark Keep Your Eyes Peeled, I felt a window open up inside of me. I felt curiosity and wonder. My thoughts were no longer jumbled, but coming clearly into focus. This album reminded me of who I am, and in doing so, led me to realize that no one can ever take that away from me. Everything stolen can be reclaimed.

Even prior to learning the album's backstory (Josh Homme died briefly during surgery), this album felt otherworldly to me, as though someone had tapped momentarily into another dimension, with its own distinct aura and language, and then translated what they saw into music (not unlike what David Lynch pulls off with his Black Lodge in Twin Peaks). ... Like Clockwork was a world I had never experienced before January 2015, and now that I have, I can't un-know what I know. Lyrically, Josh nails how it feels to be enveloped by a penetrating darkness. Keep Your Eyes Peeled is the best sonic depiction of depression I've ever heard. Its slow, unrelenting guitar riff feels like depression. Part of Josh's genius as a songwriter is that he knows when a catchy melody is best for a song and when something less accessible is best. If this song were any more upbeat, it wouldn't do its own message justice.

Underwater is another life
Disregarding every myth we write
Ragdoll churning, eagerly alive

Over and over, gasping in horror
So breathless you surface
And just as the next wave is ...

I won't detail what every song has meant to me, but I will say this album is a journey. As dark as it can be, it's also beautiful and transcendent. I do want to mention My God Is The Sun, though. This song perfectly describes how I view spirituality and my place in the world. I feel most alive when I'm aware that I'm a little grain of sand snuggled into an endless beach. Whether I'm at the top of a mountain looking out at everything beyond me, in a plane looking down at everything below me or cruising down the highway in my little blue car as the landscape morphs around me, I'm happiest when I'm aware of how massive the universe is and how little I understand. In an interview from years ago, when asked if he believes in God, Josh replies, "Absolutely. But not a man with a snow white beard. I think we have a symbiotic relationship with the entire world and I believe God is everything you don't understand."

In an interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Josh speaks at length about what it was like growing up in Palm Desert (near Joshua Tree), and how there was always this sense there of peace and danger holding hands. He recalls his early days playing generator parties in the middle of the desert with his first band Kyuss (who Maron describes as having a "muted, mystical push") against a vast landscape of nothingness, and how as beautiful as it is, people have literally died out there when they couldn't find their way back to their car. It's clear Josh appreciates this raw kind of beauty and the opportunity to tap into a deeper, more primal level of existence. ... Like Clockwork, like every album he's been a part of, is a talisman of sorts, imbued with the spirit of the desert, and as described in the interview above, the magic that occurs at the place where opposite forces meet.

I also think this idea is what speaks to me the most. I didn't grow up in the desert, but I did spend all of my time growing up outdoors (most often in the woods). I would even sneak out in the middle of the night and walk around in the dark alone. I guess I've always been drawn to a slightly dangerous and wild vibration. This very danger gives me the greatest peace of all. I've also always been drawn to art that explores dualism and juxtaposition. I'm not sure if it's because of my circumstances growing up (being a girl around mostly guys, being poor in a wealthy suburb, going to church and then coming home and listening to Pink Floyd and Metallica) or if it's solely in my wiring, but again, this finding peace and feeling alive when opposite forces hold hands speaks profoundly to me. It just nails the core of who I am.

At the end of ... Like Clockwork's final track (the title track), Josh sings ...
One thing that is clear
It's all downhill from here

When I first heard this, I thought it was a knowingly depressing line, not to be taken too seriously, but to emphasize the fact that in real life there are often no obvious solutions, only the exact moment and whatever beauty you can find within it, despite any inclinations towards cynicism. Then, in another interview, Josh points out this lyric can be taken 2 completely different ways: as depressing or as uplifting (like hey, it's all a breeze from here!). In listening to this album hundreds of times, I had never once thought of it this way. I had only thought of it in the depressing way, which in that moment felt like the most brilliant metaphor for everything I had been through and how I would look at every decision moving forward. I have the power to take something depressing and assign it new meaning. I've reached a peak, and rather than look inside, I'm looking at the view around me.