"Lullabies to Paralyze" (Interscope; 2005)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Compared to previous Queens of the Stone Age CDs, "Lullabies To Paralyze" isn't quite the barn burner the others were. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although "Lullabies" doesn't quite rock as hard as its forebearers, it still kicks some ass. And, to boot, it's a little more ... for lack of a better word ... experimental.

As I listened to "Lullabies" the first time through, the first thought that popped into my mind was that this CD reminded me of a hard rock version of Oingo Boingo. Now don't go thinking that QOTSA have gone all new wave on you; that isn't the case. However, like most of Oingo Boingo's albums, "Lullabies" is a little quirky and strange. The band certainly isn't playing it safe here and, although I miss the balls-out rocking of previous efforts, I admire willingness to take chances, even when they aren't all successful.

"Lullabies to Paralyze" is at its best when it's being a little weird. Just try to ignore the twisted, hooky choruses of "Burn to Witch" (not to mention the ripping riffs of guest guitarist, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons). Throughout, "Lullabies" maintains the stoner-ish fuzztones that QOTSA is best known for, although the various songs vary in pace considerably.

Those who worried that the departure of Nick Oliveri would damage the band irrevocably need worry no more. "Lullabies" is another strong, strange album from Queens of the Stone Age. Fans of the band's previous work will not be disappointed here.

Also making guest appearances on "Lullabies" are Garbage's Shirley Manson and Brody Dalle of the Distillers.

For more information, check out http://www.qotsa.com

"Songs for the Deaf" (Interscope; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Back when they were riding high, Soundgarden was a rock band that I really admired. Yeah, there are those who will say, "Ewww! Grunge!" but I liked the fact that Soundgarden took their music outside of the box and really delivered a hard rock sound that was different than everything else out there.

That's what Queen of the Stone Age (QOTSA from this point on) are doing now. Their sound is uniquely their own and they're not afraid to go outside of the box to make their music different than anything else you're hearing out there.

The CD begins with a dramatic sound effects snippet that, admittedly, brings to mind the opening moments of KISS's "Detroit Rock City." This may or may not be intentional. Regardless, the first song blares into full volume with a stunning, unforgettable riff that builds into a terrific CD opener. Every other song on the CD is a little bit different than the others - some faster, some slower, some heavier, some lighter - but they're all obviously cut from the same cloth. That's part of the beauty of "Songs for the Deaf" - the band never turns their back on their "genre." The music stays hard and heavy from the first track to the last. And the atmosphere the band manages to create for each song hangs over the CD like the blade at the top of a guillotine. 

There's a definite theme to "Songs for the Deaf" thought it may fall short of being a full concept album. Running throughout the CD are snippets of fictional radio broadcasts from radio stations that "ruin the music for everyone" and "feature more of the same all of the time." It's a not-subtle-at-all attack on the world of commercial music, music snobs and radio stations that aren't creative enough (or courageous enough) to at least try an original format.

Judging from the success of this album and despite their ultra-fuzzy guitars and often throbbing paces, QOTSA might very well be the band that pulls the tragically monikered "stoner" rock genre out of the underground and into the big time. 

And that's all right with me.

Queens of the Stone Age: Josh Homme; Nick Oliveri; Dave Grohl; Mark Lanegan.

For more information, check out http://www.qotsa.com

"Rated R" (Interscope; 2000)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Anger-free, rap-free heavy rock! I am rejoicing with utter glee!

"Rated R" is less accessible than Queens Of The Stone Age's debut, but it is just as enjoyable. If you’re expecting the booming desert sludge of Kyuss you’d better break out "Wretch" and pretend the late '90s never happened.

QOTSA are continuing down the golden path of a more song-oriented approach with stripped down guitar parts, simple beats, and trance-like repetition in the rhythms and melodies. Singles like "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret" and "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer" have actually managed to secure airplay on some radio stations across the United States. 

The immediate appeal of QOTSA, however, has really taken off in England, Australia, and New Zealand. This appeal reveals itself in many different ways. Somehow the U.S.A needs to catch up. Nick Oliveri, full of confidence from his stint fronting Mondo Generator, gives Homme a breather and tackles lead vocals on "Auto Pilot," "Tension Head," and "Quick And To The Pointless." Songs like "Better Living Through Chemistry" and "In The Fade" (with Screaming Trees' Mark Lanegan taking the lead vocal duties) are the tracks that really make my ears take notice – there’s a level of creativity heard on these songs unlike anything I’ve ever heard from QOTSA's earlier effort or Kyuss' entire history. The flow of the material smacks of swagger, yet still retains and effortless and timeless feel that is so hard to achieve. There are many flat out rockers ("Monsters In The Parasol" being a prime example) that have appeal in spades. Only the disc-ending "I Think I Lost My Headache" approaches epic Kyuss-like length, but even it contains a twisted ending that Kyuss wasn’t capable of pulling off.

The eleven tracks here may not seem like much, but an open mind will appreciate the 'less-is-more' approach that QOTSA have taken with "Rated R."

Queens Of The Stone Age: Josh Homme on guitar and Nick Oliveri on bass. It seems like just about the entire world sings, plays drums, or otherwise contributes to “Rated R.” Contributors included, but are not limited to, Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), Chris Goss (Masters Of Reality), Mike Johnson, Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees), Dave Catching (Ringling Sisters), Nick Lucero, and Gene Trautman (Miracle Workers).

For more information visit http://www.qotsa.com

"Queens of the Stone Age" (Loosegroove; 1998)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Once the demise of Kyuss was certain, Josh Homme took a two year gig with the Screaming Trees as a backing guitarist while the Trees were touring. Homme, luckily for all of us, decided to get back to doing his own thing.

Homme, handling both guitar and singing duties, managed to hook up with Alfredo Hernandez (a Kyuss alumnus) on drums, and Carlo on bass guitar (I'm presuming "Carlo" to be Chris Goss from Masters of Reality).

Queens Of The Stone Age manage to bring a greater sense of melody and shorter songs with good vocal hooks and more blues-based magic. While neither as obtuse or as repetitive as Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age succeed in providing a healthy dose of excitement with more pop-oriented song structures. With Kyuss the listener had to wait patiently for long stretches of musical ideas to fully develop much like one would have satisfaction over the course of a six course meal; with Queens Of The Stone Age the band seems to have distilled their musical ideas into sweet, bite-sized morsels. And who knew that Homme could sing as well as he does - he's not a great vocalist by any stretch of the imagination, but his voice fits the songs very well.

"If Only" and "Mexicola" are my favorite tracks on this self-titled debut. "If Only" has the disc's best chorus with a noisy guitar solo.   "Mexicola" has a lyric full of longing ("Setting sun deals hands of gold/There's velvet eyes in Mexico/Just a fall away and all she said was true") that is rarely matched by artists of any genre.

Other strong tracks include "Avon" and "How To Handle A Rope." "Avon" has a charging rhythm and a soothing vocal that when put together has a nice effect. "How To Handle A Rope," with verses bursting with fuzzy guitars, melts into a temperate chorus that should keep both the metal and alternative crowds happy.

It has always occurred to me that the best songs in the world are about possession; in that vein, Queens Of The Stone Age offer "You Can't Quit Me, Baby." The song has a fairly sturdy bass line with a slowly rolling guitar part that keeps just a fraction ahead of the beat. The end of the song speeds up into an explosive finish with dramatic effect as though the main character of the song was bringing a violent end to his desire for the object of his affection.

The current band line-up includes Homme, Hernandez, Nick Oliveri (also a Kyuss alumnus) on bass, and Dave Catching (complementing the band with both keyboards and guitars). This self-titled debut was produced by Homme and Joe Baressi (Baressi has worked with Hole, Fu Manchu, and Weezer).

To learn more about Queens Of The Stone Age check out the band's record label website at http://www.loosegroove.com/queens.html.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2005 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03 Sep 2018 12:15:06 -0400 .