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With Nick Olivieri and Dave Grohl gonzo, and Mark Lanegan’s contributions limited to 90 seconds, the heart of Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme, is all alone in the super-unknown, left to pursue both his grunge-pop monomania and his heretofore disguised love of two-headed-dog-eared horror tropes (“Someone’s in the Wolf,” “Burn the Witch”) and Mario Bava backdrops (“You’ve Got a Killer Scene, Man”). Not that big names and bigger egos streaking across the studio ever kept Homme from taking care of business—it’s to his credit that the drummer on their new Lullabies to Paralyze sounds no different from Grohl on the last record (aside from the fact that the new drummer is the new drummer, and Dave Grohl is famous). It’s also to Homme’s credit that guest appearances by Billy Gibbons, Brody Dalle, and Shirley Manson amount to drive-by Hitchcock cameos. The “Little Sister” woodblock and that Stooges piano (speaking of dog-eared) get more of the spotlight, as well they should.
Some brah on a message bored bitched about Nick O being the source of the band’s ROCK, man, and without the ROCK, QOTSA is SOL, which isn’t fair to the group of cats Nick left behind. They still cuss (in case you for-fucking-got), and they still gab about drinking and screwing and dabbing their noses in the c-c-c-c-c-cocaine, so all’s good in that regard. But, really, when the leader of your ROCK group is prone to singing in a falsetto fluttering between Joe Elliott and Roy Orbison while asking questions like “Why’d you have to be so cruel?” and “Where have you gone again, my sweet?” and writes fantastic three-minute gems that get stuck in your head (“In My Head”), it’s time to face facts. Axl Rose likes Elton John, Lars and James need to cry every once in a while, Ozzy is Bill Cosby, and Josh Homme is Hot Topic’s version of Lindsay Buckingham, except that Homme’s big big love is the slow slow burn (seven-minute tales of wander like “The Blood Is Love” and gorgeous ballads like “Long Slow Goodbye”), and Homme’s “Tusk” (the hidden track) is much more demure. Though he’ll probably spit on my grave for saying that.
Queens of the Stone Age play Webster Hall March 24.