Review Summary: Out of the desert and into the forest.
The record that first saw Josh Homme step out of his musical comfort zone turns out to be one of his most enduring works, showing that there is more to Queens than many people had previously given them credit for. That Lullabies to Paralyze was the follow up to their hugely successful breakthrough album, Songs for the Deaf, makes it an intriguing album to listen to, and an even weirder change of direction for Queens of the Stone Age.
Like most of Homme’s work prior to Lullabies, SFTD was a beast of a record that paid plenty of reference to his Palm Desert scene roots. As with his fuzzed out, heavy, stoner grooves with Kyuss, SFTD was a slab of heavy desert rock which was driven as much by the drumming of Dave Grohl and bass work of Nick Oliveri as the song writing of Homme. However, after Grohl returned to the Foo Fighters and Oliveri was kicked out of the band, Queens were back to square one with Homme suddenly becoming the sole creative influence in what was essentially a new band.
While the rock world waited on another heavy, fuzzed out desert rock record, Queens were busy crafting a more atmospheric album that invokes images of spooky European forests in place of the sparse isolation of the American desert that had inspired so much of Homme’s previous work with Kyuss, Queens and the Desert Sessions. Where these other bands had let their high energy and heavy, fuzzed out musical chemistry assault the ears of their listeners from the get go, Lullabies instead tries to lure the listener in with carefully constructed atmosphere before taking off on an experimental journey into unchartered musical territory for Homme.
Album opener ‘This Lullaby’ sets the mood from the beginning with some careful acoustic picking accompanied by Mark Lanegan’s moody baritone vocals that stand in stark contrast to frenetic SFTD opener ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire’. Moving straight onto fast rocker ‘Medication’ shows that Queens weren’t abandoning their rock sound, as many alleged at the time, but that Homme had grown tired of mere fuzz and was experimenting with various different guitar sounds and song writing approaches. The abundance of different guitar tones in Lullabies is one of its best features, which allows the band much more versatility. The textured, reverb laden guitar sounds that make up so much of the record also perfectly compliment Homme’s voice in my mind, allowing him to build up plenty of layered washes of melody before bursting into trademark driving rock choruses. Lyrically, Lullabies finds Josh in an uncharacteristically dreamy, contemplative, ethereal headspace. Most of the songs are sung like gothic fairy tales, particularly ‘The Blood Is Love’, ‘Someone’s In The Wolf’ and ‘Burn The Witch’, which are some of the best songs on the album and also some of the most creative work Homme has ever done. The less experimental rock tracks like ‘Little Sister’, while not as adventurous, also stand up as great Queens songs and restore a bit of balance to the album, as well giving old fans something to enjoy.
When all is said and done, Lullabies is easily Queens’ most creative record. While it differs hugely from their earlier work and alienated plenty of fans in the process, it adds a layer of depth to their discography that shows that they are capable of being thoughtful, creative musicians as well as powerful desert rockers. Having a musician like Josh Homme willing to experiment with new sounds, and be able to pull it off like he did here is a great feat and makes Lullabies to Paralyze in my mind one of the most interesting and rewarding mainstream rock records of the 2000’s.
The Blood Is Love
I Never Came
Someone’s In The Wolf
Tangled Up In Plaid
Burn The Witch