Lullabies To Paralyze – Queens Of The Stone Age

Label: Polydor

The promise was for a period of great change, the heavy wagon rolling off across the desert in a new direction, or at least down an alternate dust-trail. Lunatic tackle-flapping beardy and presumed life and soul of the paaaardy Nick Oliveri was out, collaborator and resident Billy Goat Gruff Mark Lanegan announced his intention to head off into the sunset. The bare meat and bones of Josh Homme remained, and although it was always he up at the helm, there had to be a line drawn and crossed in the sand, a new chapter breached, at least? Surely? Well, no. Before the counter has even hit 9 seconds Mark Lanegan’s distinctive husky tone is lamenting gothically over an acoustic guitar whose body sounds like it was carved in Mexico City. And then POW! A song called ‘Medication’, bloodthirsty guitars, hypnotic repetition, pounding pace, sunk psychedelic melodies, in and out in less than 2 minutes.

This, then, is a Queens Of The Stone Age record. No introductions necessary. And what’s more, it’s a damn good Queens Of The Stone Age record. Yeah, so of course that calls into question Nick Oliveri’s role in the band previously, but it’s not like they suffered from having a headline-grabbing narcotic-fuelled court-jester in their ranks. But seems he was just that. And with him gone (although, yeah, there are rumours that he’ll be back poking the front-row in the eye come the festivals), coincidence or not, QOTSA have become a more focused, effective, punishing machine. It’s a better album than ‘Songs For The Deaf’. It’s more consistent than ‘Rated R’. It’s like if Carl had been kicked out of the Libertines rather than Peter. Kind of. 

As clear-cut and impressionable as the guitars are though, as solid as the drums, it’s an album caught amid woozy temperatures and sun-dried atmospherics, disorientated with its pulse racing wild. It’s more of a desert session in ways than his actual ‘Desert Sessions’. The brilliant ‘Someone’s In The Wolf’ is a spiraling whirlwind of sharp, ascending riffs and reverb soaked vocals, ‘Tangled Up In Plaid’ is like marching backwards on an evil merry-go-round and ‘Everybody Knows That You’re Insane’ plays on the enthralling, unit-shifting strengths discovered on the last two albums, but spins out their even scope further. Same with the intoxicating ‘Burn the Witch’. At 16 tracks it could have been much more succinct, it’s an exhausting ride, but only another ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ could have improved on this.

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Release: Queens Of The Stone Age - Lullabies To Paralyze
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Released: 22 March 2005