Album: Queens of the Stone Age

Lullabies to Paralyze, INTERSCOPE

After the muscular intelligence of 2002's Songs for the Deaf, hopes were high for this follow-up. Sadly, it's something of a disappointment. Whether that's due to the departure of bassist Nick Oliveri is open to debate; the replacement of the guest drummer Dave Grohl by Joey Castillo may also have depleted the Queens of a certain charge. There's certainly something lacking: by the time one gets to "Someone's in the Wolf", the album's mid-point, the robot-rock guitar riffs have lost their punch, coming across as grimly methodical. Despite the abstract guitar-noise section that sounds like The Clangers, there's no room for the song to flourish as it ought, a situation repeated elsewhere. Even the presence of ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on the closing "Precious and Grace" fails to lift the spirits. The CD opens in uncharacteristically gentle manner, with Mark Lanegan's husky voice intoning "Lullaby" over delicate acoustic guitar,building up track by track to the optimum momentum when they reach the peremptory riff of "Tangled up in Plaid". But then the album simply ploughs on through the turgid stomper "Burn the Witch" and lumbering waltz "The Blood Is Love", with diminishing returns. A strangely monochromatic affair.

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