Queens pummel speakers and turn heads on Lullabies
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Power. Understated, mellow, disguised, but never, ever, ever completely hidden. Power is what drives Queens of the Stone Age’s latest “rock saving” album. The songs are powerful. The guitars are powerful. The riffs. The drums. The voices. This is power on plastic. Lullabies to Paralyze does not come on softly, it lands with the power of an Ali right hook. This is not to say that this record lacks subtlety. In fact, this record delicate contrasts with the punishing to quite a, well, powerful degree.
Queens of the Stone Age were, in the eyes of some, standing at a crossroads a year ago. Longtime bassist/screamer Nick Oliveiri was let go by frontman Joshua Homme, leaving Homme to man the rotating stoner ship on his own. And, as is evidence by this album, he runs the show just fine. While the hardcore freakouts of Oliveiri may be missing, what’s in his place is a sonic cohesiveness that had only been hinted at in
Homme is joined once again by Mark Lanegan, perhaps the best kept secret in rock since the late ’80s. Lanegan lends his voice to the opening “This Lullaby,” a dark, brooding, acoustic number that sets the cryptic tone for this album. Lanegan has one of the most distinctive voices around, and his low, cryptic tone is in full force here. Hell, he sounds damn near demonic in the background of “Burn the Witch.”
But Lanegan’s vocals don’t steal the show here, Homme’s songs do. The tight, crunchy riffs are found aplenty here, and Homme’s voice has never sounded better. His vocal work echos over his metal guitar tones. And his mastery of the Rock Song just keeps climbing. No one on the scene can say as much as forcefully as Homme can in under five minutes.
What’s amazing is the way this record will suck the listener in. I can’t even say I was blown away after the first listen – I was downright bullied into loving this. There is something heavy, dark and altogether spirited about this album that hasn’t appeared on a Queens disc before, and it collectively burrows itself into the deepest, darkest parts of your brain.
Just about every song here could be counted as a classic. “I Never Came” builds a tension that begs to be released by the end, only it never comes, forcing the listener to hit rewind and beg for more. “Medication” has a relentless guitar/bass drive, with Homme’s muffled vocals hanging over the hard-rock theatrics. “In My Head” is a song about catchy songs that is itself insanely catchy. “Burn the Witch” has a demented boogie stomp (due in no small part to Billy Gibbon’s cameo on guitar) coupled with swirling vocals that stir the song.
I could go on, but I shouldn’t have to. Queens of the Stone Age were already one of the more important bands of the last five years before this album. Now they’re merely absolutely essential. Joshua Homme and company have, seemingly effortlessly, molded an(other) incredible collection of Rock Songs into an incredible Rock Album. This isn’t likely to dim or whither in the coming years, because brilliance doesn’t die.
This is their time – make it yours too. Get this album, and give yourself over. You won’t know how you lived before. Now that's power.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com