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    Album Reviews: Lullabies to Paralyze by Queens of the Stone Age

    Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme seems to have weathered the split with Kyuss pal and bassist/baldy Nick Oliveri just fine, thanks. He's still manufacturing hook-soaked rawk about women who can't stay on this edge of sanity long enough to avoid a death-wish and/or "pools of pain" that fall from the sky. He's still using his quavering falsetto to vocalize angular tracks fed as much through Black Sabbath's backlog as they are through 21st-century digital tech. But while the resultant disc may house far less heavy-metal Garden of Earthly Delights than the band's inspired predecessor Songs For the Deaf, it's still a potent dose of new millennium rock worth hearing.

    Barnburners like "In My Head," "Burn the Witch" and "Medication" are capable exercises in metallurgy, although the Beach Boys-like backing vocals on the former can be somewhat destabilizing. But understand, this isn't the kind of anthemic rock that Kyuss, Soundgarden and other grunge scensters ripped off from '70s dinosaurs. It owes much more to the following decades. The hard-charging "Little Sister" sounds Devo's "Girl U Want" with the speed turned up, even down to Homme's choppy guitar solo that sounds like it came out of a synthesizer. The drums are once again to subsumed in the mix, low enough to make the late John Bonham spin in his grave. The haunting "I Never Came" is a crooner's classic, but sedate enough to make Joshua Tree-era U2 acolytes break out their lighters.

    What I'm trying to say is that I really like Lullabies to Paralyze, but there's no way in hell it should ever chill in the heavy metal wing of your local indie. It's just not hard enough, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Homme is actually one of the world's more gifted singers and songwriters of AOR, but he owes about as much to Iggy and the Stooges as The Strokes do. Which is to say, not at all. But if you're looking for some good, FM-friendly craftsmanship that functions well enough in all three dimensions, you could do much worse than Homme and his Queens. You could be listening to The Strokes. God help you. - Scott Thill

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