“Went too fast, I’m out of luck and I don’t even give a fuck.” No lyric, past or
present, more accurately sums up Scott Weiland’s lot in life. If you haven’t yet
caught wind of Velvet Revolver, the latest hard-rock supergroup and most valid
since Audioslave, you better hurry. Remember, Weiland hasn’t survived more than
a few months at any time without a legal run-in or toxic meltdown. While he’s
out here among us, however, the self-destructive voice of Stone Temple Pilots
does have a real talent for filling the growing void in this genre. Add to the
concoction Hollywood Boulevard’s most notorious sons, Duff McKagen, Slash, Matt
Sorum and newbie Dave Kushner (formerly of Infectious Grooves), and this recipe
really gets zesty quick.
The aforementioned “Do It for the Kids” is a bona fide grunge-rock treasure,
layered up like a Betty Crocker cake with wailing guitars and rumbling rhythms.
For their part, McKagen and Sorum have never sounded better. Slash is Slash,
which is plenty good for most any band, and Velvet Revolver is no exception. In
fact, Slash has laid in waiting for more than a decade to have such a fitting
role. His shimmering solo in the all-skate power ballad “You Got No Right”
awakens the sleeping giant that first gave life to “November Rain.” But while
the Gunners outnumber Weiland three-to-one, Contraband is decidedly more
Stone Temple Pilots in its sound and feel. In fact, when “Set Me Free” was
released last year to a movie soundtrack, many thought it was STP. The first
radio cut is the pile driver “Slither,” thick with Weiland’s macabre verses
(“Rape my mind and smell the poppies, born and bloodied every single time”). But
nothing gets the pulse a-racing faster than “Sucker Train Blues” or “Big
Machine.” They are each implausible bodies of work, and beg the question of what
took these cats so damned long to consummate this band.
There are very few disposable moments along Contraband. Even the vacant
lyrics go by largely unnoticed when balanced within such fevered musicianship.
The G’n’R fans will adore this project, as will the STP faithful. Anyone who
still gets a charge out of learning that Motley Crue might tour next year with
Tommy Lee or pines for the day Axl’s pipedream Chinese Democracy might see the
Best Buy shelves can feast on this new offering. It goes without saying that
Contraband was a decade in the making, but at least it was worth the wait.
Speaking of Axl, the pressure is squarely on him now to match the vigor and
focus of Velvet Revolver with whatever ham-and-egg group he eventually
assembles. As for Weiland and the boys herein, tick tock, tick tock…