Queens of the Stone Age

The Stone-Agers are down to one monarch. Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl, whose rhythms anchored 2002's first-rate Songs for the Deaf, are nowhere to be found on the group's latest, and vocalist Mark Lanegan, Deaf's secret weapon, essentially cameos this time around. The changes leave singer/guitarist Josh Homme as the undisputed man in charge, and he makes the most of the opportunity; Lullabies to Paralyze is a strong effort that's actually more consistent than its predecessor. Too bad the general absence of lows is counterbalanced by a relative dearth of highs.

Granted, Homme probably had some chemical assistance while making the aggressively trippy "Someone's in the Wolf" and the lazily appealing "'You Got a Killer Scene There, Man'", which co-stars Shirley Manson and Brody Dalle. Yet while "Everybody Knows That You Are Insane" strikes pleasurable chords, several other tunes feel a bit too familiar, including "Tangled Up in Plaid," which recapitulates the Queens hit "No One Knows," and "Long Slow Goodbye," whose title is especially accurate.

Lullabies won't put anyone to sleep, but it's not exactly a shock to the system, either.


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