The kings of desert rock, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age, return here with a third album that whips up a sandstorm of epic guitar rock. Having cultivated the myth that abundant alcohol and drug consumption are fueling mighty psychedelic soundscapes in the sunbaked oasis of their Palm Desert recording complex, the Queens now embody more than just a band — they’re the nexus of a group of like-minded rockers who have contributed to Homme’s Desert Sessions compilations (Volume 7 is the most recent) and forged a brand of stoner hard rock built on a foundation of Sabbath/Zeppelin–style monster riffs baked by more than just the sun. The Queens, though, transcend retro ’70s fashion revivals and Sabbath tributes, recording complex material that on this their third album sounds fully contemporary.
Songs for the Deaf begins with exotic, Eastern-sounding harmonies that give way to a grungy, repetitive groove with the signature drumming of Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. "Millionaire," the obvious single, is built around the album’s catchiest riff and boasts enough handclaps to make you want to join in, though it also features some deranged screaming. The Queens are also joined by former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, who lends his deep, dark voice to the grim "Hangin’ Tree." Unfortunately, as on their previous album, Rated R, they seem stuck in a musical rut of their own creation, unable to find new applications for the Desert Sessions sound that Homme invented. One change is that they’ve included a few distracting sketches harping on the rotten state of radio. Rather than simply stating that radio sucks, maybe the Queens should try to do something about it.