When a band loses its most menacing member, it's just going to rock a little less. If said brute gets the boot because of a hard-partying lifestyle, that cranks the volume down another notch. So Queens of the Stone Age, now without Nick Oliveri's bruising bass lines and barroom-brawler persona, started its Lullabies to Paralyze
studio sessions in the hole. Josh Homme, QOTSA's lone remaining original member, has recruited ringers whose instrumental prowess is almost as intimidating as Oliveri's bald dome. A Perfect Circle's Troy Van Leeuwen brings eerie lap-steel atmospherics to several tracks. Former Danzig drummer Joey Castillo, whose relentless cowbell pounding on "Little Sister" should inspire its own Saturday Night Live
skit, spells Dave Grohl (who's also no longer with the Queens). And in Homme's finest stunt-casting gambit, he wrings monster riffs from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, the original hairy-chinned beer drinker and hell-raiser. Lullabies to Paralyze
nails psychedelic stomps, boogie blues, fuzz-smothered pop and primal punk, but it stumbles when it tries to get tough, and too often Homme's falsetto fucktalk, which he uses on two throwaway tracks, rings false. With the group's resident caveman gone, it's time for Homme's lyrics to evolve.