Velvet Revolver, ‘Contraband’ (RCA)
Velvet RevolverContrabandRCAThe members of Velvet Revolver–former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, former Guns N’ Roses members Slash, Duff McKagan, and Matt Sorum, plus some guy who used to be in Wasted Youth–seem to be lost. They had to choose between two potential paths, and they chose poorly. What they’ve attempted to do is make a record that will prompt people to say, “Whoa, this is like a Guns N’ Roses album, except that dude from STP is singing!” What they should have done was make a record that would’ve caused people to say, “Hey, this sounds like what would’ve happened if GN’R had aspired to be Stone Temple Pilots.” Because when you really think about it, what would make you more enthusiastic: Scott Weiland and the DeLeo brothers plugging away at “You Could Be Mine,” or a bootleg version of Guns N’ Roses covering “Sex Type Thing”?
This is a troubling record. There are some stellar moments, but it’s mostly just troubling. In fact, Velvet Revolver make me nervous, because I’m suddenly faced with the fear that Slash–possibly my favorite rock musician of the last 25 years–might be kind of a boring guitar player. The record’s first single (“Slither”) is propulsive and promising, but there’s an overpolished flatness to much of this album; Slash appears to be going through a heavy riff-o-rama phase, and all the tracks feel like they’re approximately 18 minutes long. Songs like “Dirty Little Thing” and “Do It for the Kids” open with muscular leads that sound like a pack of Dobermans bringing down a mule deer, but the momentum always evaporates. This material is better than most of what Slash’s Snakepit came up with, but not by much.
As for Weiland (who’s now been arrested so many times he’d probably get the chair for shoplifting), well, he sounds like himself, which means he falls somewhere between goodand acceptable. But the record’s last cut, a balladtitled “Loving the Alien (Sometimes),” has at least one compelling line.”Sometimes is all the time,” the rehab recidivist sings cryptically, “and never means maybe.”Now, if Weiland is singing about heroin (and those two lines are the answers to the questions “How often do you think about getting high?” and “Would you ever consider getting high again?”), this song is weirdly honest and borderline brilliant. However, the more I listen to it, the more I suspect it’s just about some girl he broke up with. And if so, this song is fucking terrible.