In the Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album, Lullabies to Paralyze, Josh Homme awakens the desert spirits. Peyote-spawned demons? Probably. Magical mystics of aural expression? At times, yes. Monsters spawned from numerous lineup changes, rock-star excess and a general lack of cohesive focus? That’s closer to the truth.

Lullabies is a collection of dissonant parts, a strange fusing of psychedelic merriment and sneering metal, all under an ironic indie rock gaze. Among the rest of KROQ radio drivel, they are something of an oddity. Recently, their infamous goatee-sporting bassist, Nick Oliveri, left the band under a smattering of conflict. But this doesn’t seem to matter, as the Queens rock more on the heavier tracks than they ever have. The first four tracks are heavy, breathing some angry punk life into Homme’s tongue-in-cheek falsetto. “Medication” is notable – as one can imagine listening to it while driving a ’54 Impala through a pack of furious buffalo. A radio single, you ask? Enter “Little Sister,” a special surprise for indie dance-rock lovers; more booty-shaking than four Strokes fans at a disco.

Homme and his cohorts, as on other albums, often bog themselves down in acid-trip sound tests. “Tangled Up in Plaid” begins with a toy piano and a snare drum, and then unexpectedly segues into a two-step metal march. While entertaining at first, it ends up seeming like something of a novelty item. Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top shows up on “Burn the Witch,” but his virtuoso guitar is held back somewhat by the Aerosmithlike blues dirge. This album is mainly a Queen of the Stone Age creation, not a bunch of collaborations like The Desert Sessions, Homme’s side project. But… the Queens are strange, and they still like to pull out every instrument they can from grandpa’s basement. As a result of this identity confusion, the envelope-pushing ranges from pushed too far to just not enough.
[Did you miss Matt Cappiello in last quarter’s “Cabaret”? Too bad, he plays a mean piano.]