In September 2002, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme enlisted Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl to lend his sticks on Songs For the Deaf. The album was the band’s first bona-fide success, boasting rock delights “Go With the Flow” and “No One Knows.” After Grohl’s preplanned exit, Homme released bassist Nick Oliveri from his musical duties as well, citing behavioral problems, and he was left alone to groom the Queens’ latest baby, Lullabies to Paralyze.
Gathering help from rock’s remaining rabble, Homme and his crew show a few hints of potential — even with the absence of Oliveri and Grohl — piecing together the Queens’ fourth album.
Continuing in the tradition of the Queens’ patented rhythmic complexities and variations, Homme interlaces percussion and guitar, pitting the two against each other in an unending combat he calls “robot rock.” “Burn the Witch” is a hard, percussive walk through the park and that highlights the band’s knack for disguising simplistic pop hooks beneath heavy bass and haunting, veiled vocals.
Homme’s vocals, a secondary concern on the album, seem to serve as a falsetto filler designed to complement and diversify the seething power chords of songs like “Tangled Up In Plaid.” “I Never Came” lacks the usual swamp monster guitar licks, throwing an immediate spotlight on Homme’s vocal style, which is a bit airy for the track. Regardless, it is one of the album’s best tracks. Bruce Dickenson would have been proud of the radio single “Little Sister,” which balances itself around a stubborn low-pitched cowbell.
Lullabies to Paralyze begins to take a sharp nosedive with “Someone’s in the Wolf” and “The Blood is Love” with its almost 14 minutes of mind-numbing repetition of the exact same rhythmic phrases. In the first eight tracks, Lullabies offers enough uniqueness and variation that these songs do nothing but disappoint and distract. “Skin On Skin” may be the album’s lowest point, offering listeners the clichéd line “I hate to watch you leave / But I love to see you go” over a grating guitar riff.
In a sort of sad attempt to save the album, a monotone piano line emerges in final track “Broken Box” and Homme’s “do’s” allow this top-heavy album to go out with a frustrated grumble.
Over the course of four albums, Queens of the Stone Age have developed an uncompromising style of entrancing stoner rock that is often apparent on the first half of Lullabies to Paralyze. Despite the patched together sound of this album as a whole, it might serve to clear the air after the Queens’ dissolution and reformation.
Music Review: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars