"I Appear Missing" by C. Aloysius Mariotti
I go missing, no longer exist
One day, I’d hope
I’m someone you’d miss
Queens of the Stone Age. They’ve become one of those bands that’s polarized their fan base. Too often, you hear “brilliant early stuff.” Then the lovers scream: no, good sir! All of it!
Born from the ashes of stoner-gods, Kyuss, Queens started off in a very similar mold: Desert Rock. With its heavy blues-infused psychedelic metal best consumed with chemical assistance, with its riffs, with its groove. It is perfection.
Josh Homme briefly died in 2010 following unexpected complications during knee surgery. He asphyxiated. He got a MRSA infection and required revival from a defibrillator. “I Appear Missing” chronicles this experience, and I confess that the emotional resonance haunts my mind in constant rotation. From their 2013 release …Like Clockwork, it’s my favorite song not only in the entire Queens catalog, but maybe my favorite song from any artist this millennium.
When they were readying for the release of the record, a series of short videos was unveiled. The visuals were stark, featuring a post-apocalyptic universe that set the tone for the music. It was a soundtrack to an even darker Heavy Metal. While listening to the record for the first time, it was impossible for me to shake those images. They were a stunning, disturbing marriage. “I Appear Missing” was included in those videos (albeit a very abridged version). I can’t visualize the song in any other way.
Coming off a run of two disappointing albums according to the Kyuss/Early-Queens purists (Lullabies to Paralyze and Era Vulgaris), the new material was anticipated with much skepticism or complete disinterest by a lot of my mates. Their most recent sound wasn’t exactly the rock attributed to the scene from which the band was created. Similar to Metallica, Queens became thought of by many as pariahs seeking more commercial-friendly output. Homme even sued his reformed ex-Kyuss band mates over their moniker “Kyuss Lives!” — it appeared to be all about corporation, big money, less the crafting of a sound.
But being a straight-through fanatic of their entire discography, I was excited for …Like Clockwork. I found it to be strongly consistent from start to end, the apogee being “I Appear Missing.” Homme’s voice is the Sistine Chapel, with soaring falsetto and perfect timbre. It’s my favorite voice in music, better than he’s ever sounded.
The way the drums and bass are interlocked in surreal synchronicity enforces a dizziness brought forth with the lyrics during the verses. And the chorus stabs you like a needle:
Shock me awake, tear me apart
Pinned like a note in a hospital gown
Prison of sleep, deeper down
The rabbit-hole never to be found
I’m not confident this song could have ever been on either of the first two Queens records, as it lacks the brutality of down-tuned, doom-laden guitar. It’s maybe too melodic. But I do believe it would have been too appropriate for a generator party in the vast desert: there’s an intoxication to this music, to those vocals, that would leave one wandering in the darkness, high on a natural hallucinogen, or a fifth of whiskey, spiraling beneath the stars, the endless sky matching the endless sand as they disappear together. I grew up in the desert, I’ve been to those parties. I’ve become lost.
There’s a line: wandering along the road in the summer night. I’m immediately brought back to Arizona, staggering along that road. I can smell the orange orchards on McKellips Road toward East Mesa, feel the near-midnight heat on my skin as I stumbled to find my home.
And of course it comes back to love. To the wonder of being lost while wandering the unknown. And that existential question of am I alone? And if you knew me, even loved me, would you miss me if I remained missing from you?
Like any song, this one is best heard through headphones. There are so many nuances that require the attention. I also want to include this live performance. It has an extended guitar solo. And you can see the passion of Homme as he becomes lost in it. Beginning in Kyuss as a guitar wizard, one with as big an influence on his scene than anyone else, it’s hypnotic watching him, understanding what he went through to make this song visible to us, to himself.