Queens of the Stone Age
Lullabies to Paralyze
osh Homme is a slippery character, to say the least. Having transcended the genre he almost single-handedly kick-started (remember "stoner rock"?) before it ever had a chance to grow stale, he casually welcomes mainstream acceptance while maintaining the cool detachment of one who can't quite be bothered. He croons in a smooth falsetto over fuzz-soaked power chords. His name is French, but it means "man," man.
With Kyuss, arguably the world's first hip metal band, Homme helped preserve (non-thrash) metal while its spandex-clad branch was being rudely tossed in the much-deserved tree shredder by the grunge "revolution." The band accumulated a devoted following of fans for which Homme probably didn't care much and created a genre in which he seems to have little interest. But rather than let these things, the very demons that destroyed Kurt Cobain, get him down, he simply broke up the band and moved on. With a rotating cast of whoever suits his fancy at the time and a name calculated to repel the more goonish elements of Kyuss's audience, he's spent the last few years introducing subtle innovations to the worn-out genre of heavy rock, keeping it vital but never forsaking it.
Lullabies to Paralyze is a Queens of the Stone Age album, plain and simple, perhaps the first that fails (or simply doesn't bother) to expand the band's sound in any way. As always it's got a bunch of good songs and a few great ones, but that's about it. It's hard to criticise an album with this much good material for not being even better, but the fact is that Homme's set a pretty high standard for himself, and now he has to live by it.
The album's lackluster single, "Little Sister," while certainly one of the album's weaker moments, kind of sums the whole thing up. Sure it rocks, but to what end? The last album's lead single, "No One Knows," had a pretty uninspired main riff as well, but at least it had that ridiculous Dave Grohl breakdown in the chorus.
Having said that, it's hard to imagine a Queens fan being particularly disappointed here. The staggering guitar solo in the half-time intro to "Everybody Knows That You're Insane"? Killer. The menacing descending riff that anchors "The Blood Is Love," one of the album's more epic arrangements? Ass-kicking. The handclaps and staccato piano chords on "Broken Box"? Groovy, baby, real groovy.
But without the radical studio experiments of Rated R or the goofy radio-dial concept of Songs for the Deaf, the whole affair seems a bit directionless. Even the hypnotic motorik rhythms of the debut, while now a familiar sound for the band, were pretty intriguing at the time. Next to those past triumphs, the new album comes off as a well-crafted holding pattern, a collection of good songs without any strong or new ideas behind them. Call it the Queens' Ill Communication, if you like.
I don't want to seem as though I'm completely disappointed with the album, because I'm not. Song for song, Homme's hit-to-miss ratio remains uncannily high, and as long there's more Queens music, I'm happy. But considering where he's gone in the past, I've come to expect a little more than just hip-shaking and head-banging.
Perhaps Homme is simply channeling too many of his stranger creative urges into his side projects, particularly his prolific Desert Sessions project. Perhaps he's tiring of the Queens template, and preparing to follow yet another more compelling muse with a new band (name). In the mean time, if this is what treading water sounds like, I'll take it. Here's hoping he gets bored again soon.
Reviewed by: Bjorn Randolph
Reviewed on: 2005-03-22