April 18, 2005

DISC DISCUSSION

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Queens of the Stone Age -- Lullabies to Paralyze

Josh Homme has been the undisputed leader of Queens of the Stone Age from the start. On the band's fourth album, that remains the case. How does he fare on Lullabies to Paralyze (Interscope), and who helps him out this time around? Staffers Chris M. Junior and Mike Madden talk it over.

Chris M. Junior: Josh Homme sure has a knack for picking guest musicians who fit right in with his master plan. On paper, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons seems like an odd choice, but his dirty guitar licks complement the main riff and the fuzzy bass on "Burn the Witch." Gibbons' backing vocals add an extra degree of evilness.

Mike Madden: Of course, the addition of high-profile "friends" always has been part of what makes Queens of the Stone Age special. The band's prior album, Songs for the Deaf, featured standout drumming from Dave Grohl, plus additional vocals from Mark Lanegan; at certain points, they stole the show from Homme and company. "Burn the Witch" is another example of where the guest makes the song their own.

With bassist and part-time vocalist/screamer Nick Oliveri gone, and Lanegan only taking one lead vocal turn, this album is a bit more accessible than previous efforts, at least vocally. Homme possess one of rock's best falsetto voices.

Junior: A good falsetto is the last thing someone would expect from a big guy like Homme. And as a guitarist, he's not a virtuoso per se, but he does play with a lot of personality.

Madden: That is especially true on "Tangled Up in Plaid." It has a simple riff that repeats throughout the song, but it has that great fuzz tone that's become his signature. Homme keeps the riffing chunky for most of the album -- even a mellower song like "I Never Came" has that effect.

Junior: "I Never Came" may be the best track on the disc. One thing's for sure: After that song, the album goes downhill real fast. "Someone's in the Wolf" and "The Blood Is Love" are both too fussy with their tempo shifts, and they're much too long. "Skin on Skin" clocks in at about half the length of those aforementioned duds, but somehow it seems longer. Maybe it has to do with how Homme sounds like he sucked on some helium before he sang.

Madden: The album's first half is definitely stronger and catchier. While track sequencing has never been the band's strong suit, QOTSA always has been able to mix in a memorable song between the filler tracks toward the end. This will probably give the Oliveri loyalists plenty of ammunition.

"You Got a Killer Scene There, Man . . .," with its lazy beat and pointless lead guitar, seems to lampoon the stoner rock genre. That song also wastes the star cameos from Brody Dalle and Shirley Manson on background vocals by not even giving them distinguishable lines or vocal solos.

Junior: The parts sung by Manson and Dalle could have been done by just about anyone.

Madden: All in all, a very shaky effort by a band that could be making a difference in hard rock right now. Hopefully the good songs can get the exposure they deserve, and Mr. Homme will get back to making consistent albums.

Posted by medleyville at April 18, 2005 07:56 PM
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