Most trends in popular music ultimately do more harm than good: Even if the standard-bearer hits on something special—like, say, Nirvana—the genre du jour almost invariably devolves, producing awful copies (Silverchair) and, worse, copies of copies (Radish). The recent proliferation of black-lit, petal-to-the-metal neo-classic rock, patterned after the mighty rock bluster of Sabbath and the over-the-top theatrics of Ted Nugent, is sure to eventually lapse into smug irony and thuggish idiocy, but for now the genre's leaders are still worth hearing. Nashville Pussy's profane, over-the-top debut, 1998's Let Them Eat Pussy, delivered a veritable orgy of lusty, evil hard rock to go with a fire-breathing, cleavage-bearing stage show. High As Hell, its first album following an aborted major-label deal, picks up where its predecessor left off, storming out of the gate with the ludicrously entertaining "Struttin' Cock," with its awesome chorus of, "Baby, I'm a struttin' cock / Let's rock!" Nothing else here lives up to that highlight, and High As Hell sags in its midsection, but there are enough raucous odes to sex, drugs, and weaponry to make Nugent proud. The members of Queens Of The Stone Age reside on the opposite end of hard rock's cerebral spectrum, drawing key members (most notably guitarist Josh Homme) from the smart, critically acclaimed, under-appreciated desert-metal band Kyuss. But on the new Rated R, Homme's intelligence backfires a bit: "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer," with its winking ode to "nicotine, valium, Vicodin, marijuana, Ecstasy, and alcohol," reeks of excessive cleverness, detracting from the massive guitars that dominated the band's great self-titled debut. Ironically, too much of Rated R's remainder seems suspiciously watered down and subdued, with "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret" and "Better Living Through Chemistry" clinging too closely to the conventional bluster of Soundgarden and hundreds of others. "In The Fade" does right by that adherence to formula, but Homme didn't sing in Kyuss for a reason: His guitars, not his unexceptional vocals, should dominate the proceedings. Ultimately, you just end up longing for more moments like "Quick And To The Pointless": The song is shrill and, well, pointless, but like the best work of QOTSA's peers, it's at least visceral.