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Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze

Review: Jack Foley

WITH a name like Lullabies to Paralyze, you kind of know that Queens of the Stone Age's latest album isn't going to be easy listening.

What you might not expect is just how diverse it is, given the changes the band has undergone in recent times.

It's a far more experimental album than Songs For The Deaf, featuring elements of blues, acoustic-folk and country, as well as the brutal power-rockers of old.

And for that reason alone, it must rate as one of the most daring and brilliant albums of the band's career.

Having lost co-founding member, Nick Oliveri, last year, and devoid of the presence of Mark Lanegan, Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) now rely solely on the songwriting talents of the prolific Josh Homme, yet his determination to explore the depths of music ensures the band has lost none of its edge.

They are still capable of delivering a raw rock and roll monster, such as opening effort, Medication, complete with emotive lyrics such as 'just copulation in a song/ I'm so contagious, can I come?', but now counter-balance it with bluesy, country-tinged efforts such as Long Slow Goodbye, which finds the band at its most reflective.

It's as though the recent changes in the band's line-up has forced Homme to take stock of everything around him and to approach his songwriting with a greater intensity.

Hence, you can't help but wonder if Everybody Knows That You're Insane isn't really just a thinly disguised commentary on Oliveri's departure - part homage, part attack, yet completely sincere in its devilish approach.

The first half of the album threatens to run amok with the power riffs and thundering percussions that have become the band's trademark, with Burn The Witch an especially brooding, funky effort, and recent single, Little Sister, a vibrant showcase of the band's ability to deliver killer hooks wrapped around Homme's desert-drool vocals.

Yet even some of the rockier moments have become more mainstream-friendly, with the sped-up In My Head (which appears on Homme's Desert Sessions project) an especially melodic record that would probably perform well as a single.

Of the real album highlights, however, I Never Came features prominently, emerging as an achingly poignant track about broken relationships with Homme's vocals at their most tender and the guitars at their most weeping.

It provides a refreshing respite from some of the heavier material and hints at a more mature direction that can only be encouraged and admired.

Strong, too, is the blues vibe given to You Got A Killer Scene There, Man, which features great vocal support from guests Shirley Manson (Garbage) and Brody Dalle. It's a slow-builder packed with shimmering intensity that is bound to become an instant favourite.

If that weren't enough, there's also the intoxicating Like A Drug, which comes across like a sound clash between The Doors at their haziest, and Chris Isaak as his laziest. It simply drips quality.

Hats off to Homme and co, then, for delivering a richly versatile album that manages to balance the playful swagger and rock 'n' roll power anthems of old with a more personal and affecting style of songwriting that's destined to win them over even more fans.

In terms of modern rock, Lullabies to Paralyze has to rate as one of the most ambitious and inspiring efforts in years. It is a monster that's not afraid to show it has feelings too.

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Track listing:
1. Lullaby
2. Medication
3. Everybody Knows That You're Insane
4. Tangled Up In Plaid
5. Burn The Witch
6. In My Head
7. Little Sister
8. I Never Came
9. Someones In The Wolf
10. The Blood Is Love
11. Skin On Skin
12. Broken Box
13. You Got A Killer Scene
14. Long Slow Goodbye
15. Like A Drug (UK Bonus Track)
16. Precious and Grace (UK Bonus Track)

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