Super Group Not So Super

In cultureShock, Entertainment by Erich Cella

The latest super group or compilation of past rock icons known as Velvet Revolver that include Scott Weiland of STP as lead singer and three remaining members of GNR leaves much to be desired.

The supporting cast is a formidable collection of immortalized rock stars that include Slash who appears on lead guitar, bassist Duff McKagen, and drummer Matt Sorum.

It is apparent that instead of up and coming fresh faces with worlds of talent obtaining the keys to the car, record companies feel the need to recycle past successes since it an already proven entity.

This concept may seem convoluted or absurd but on some levels it can be massively successful in terms of record sales or quality of the record.

For example super groups such as Audioslave and Perfect Circle flourish due to an insane amount of talent or vocal range of Chris Cornell and James Maynard Keenan which far exceeds that of their peers.

Past super groups such as Billy Corgan’s Zwan, 80’s super group Damn Yankees, and Phil Anselmo’s side project Down which contained flashes but it was apparently obvious that Pantera was just a better fit with his anger induced vocal cord shredding are prime examples that this formula is a risky proposition.

Not to say Velvet Revolver will fall flat on its face but with that being said I never fully jumped on the bandwagon when rumors were swirling that lead singer Scott Weiland would take the responsibility. I sort of shrugged my shoulders in indifference due to two straight sub par Stone Temple Pilots records and an eponymous solo effort known as “Talk Show” that left me scratching my head.

I may have had my skepticism but I was looking forward to the melding of Slash’s brilliant guitar solos with an early 90’s Scott Weiland performance reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilot’s masterpiece “Purple” and that would propel Velvet Revolver through the stratosphere in most rock circles.

Scott Weiland’s vocal prowess has always been a bone of contention with me or can be a mixed bag to many other critics and anyone who has followed his rocky but never dull career.

It was always apparent to me that during his time with Stone Temple Pilots band mates Eric Kretz, Dean Deleo, and Robert Deleo had an innate ability especially on the first three albums to mask his gimmicky Eddie Vedder-like follow through and his lack of range that was a definite detriment to his band mates whenever they were trying to explore new musical territory.

I don’t mean to attack Scott Weiland since he is still an intriguing front man that puts on an entertaining live show and knows how to invoke his dry growls perfectly with a distorted riff and sometimes displays an echoing sustained melodic coiling that gives you the impression he’s singing with conviction.

This would lead you to believe that former members of GNR could harness his strengths and strip down the clutter or cut out the fat but that’s obviously easier said than done.

Velvet Revolver’s “Contraband” is a solid hard rock drama that begins with a fury as lead track Sucker Train Blues reminiscent of late 80’s GNR beat your senses into submission and are widely mislead to think it’s just an appetizer or that a precedent is being set or a foundation is being built for the rest of the album.

This feeling quickly begins to fade even with guitar extraordinaire Slash stamping his signature to the project but surprisingly most tracks can be very repetitive and it is very difficult for the listener to distinguish the sonic subtleties of each individual track.

There seems to be a tedious pattern or formula present as most of the songs begin as if your doors are about to be blown off but they lose steam halfway through and drag on killing any momentum that was building up.

It’s as if they are forcing the issue in terms of creating an earworm even though there is an overall lack of depth and an abundance of generic hooks.

Contrabands Second track “Do It For The Kids” displays Scott Weiland kicking it off for some unearthly reason shouting as if he was possessed by Spider of Powerman 5000 and needed an exorcism as he proclaims “Went too fast I’m out of luck and I don’t even give a f#!$” which could have been written by my 9 year old cousin.

Instead of adding balance to the record Velvet Revolver’s ridiculously uninspired ballads including “Loving The Alien” and “Fall To pieces” take from the brisk energetic pace which kept it afloat and try its best to sink it.

Slash sounds as if he is diddling his chords effortlessly or playing these riffs in his sleep while he’s dreaming of someday Axel walking through his door proposing a GNR reunion.

Thankfully “Big Machine,” “Illegal i Song,” and “Spectacle” save the record with more of an alternative feel mixed with a more urgent immediacy and heartfelt hooks that stick with you.

There is also a meatier more structured element present enthralled in these songs that lead you to believe that Scott Weiland’s STP roots came to the forefront.

As a whole if you’re going for a drive and you need a record that you can rock out to but are not looking for depth this record is perfect or if you need some solid background music at a party but if you sit down expecting an out of body experience you’ll be let down.

It’s difficult for me to recommend this album due to unnecessary hair metal ballads and a repetitive tone throughout but there is definitely potential as Velvet Revolver recalls their past bravado, gives the record flashes of brilliance and is hopefully a sign of things to come in their follow up.

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