Velvet Revolver: Contraband

Stir a bunch of weathered names into an over-hyped collaboration and you’re bound to receive overpriced concert tickets, blitzkrieg media hype and middling results. To many, this formula is referred to as the Supergroup. But for every Crosby Stills & Nash and Audioslave, there is an Asia or Power Station. Make what you want of the term, but there’s no avoiding the fact that Velvet Revolver – featuring three members of the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup, rock utility man Dave Kushner and bad boy Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots – are indeed a Supergroup. Since Axl Rose has been battling his inner diva for a tumultuous eight years and sitting on the long awaited Chinese Democracy album; Slash, Matt Sorum and Duff McKagen have reconvened to discover their chemistry outside their Sunset Strip roots. Add Weiland, rock’s most flamboyantly hazardous lead man, and Contraband sounds like the making of a lethal debut album. But is Velvet Revolver ready to take over the world? No, not really.

Contraband attempts to reinvent 80’s LA hard rock back into relevancy, but the acrobatic riffs that immortalized Slash as a guitar god 15 years ago never surface. Instead, Tom Morello inspired bombastic guitar chords and Stone Temple Pilot’s grunge infected rock dominate the Velvet Revolver sound.

Recollections of GN’R power ballads come to light in “Fall To Pieces” and “Loving the Angel” – the latter a forgettable final track. The volatile “Set Me Free” manages to rock with Use Your Illusion arena bravado. But, clearly the leader here is Weiland, whose cocksure vocals are the lead instrument, though his lyrics continuously drip in his self-indulgence. In “Big Machine” Weiland hollers, “All that first-class drug shit brings me down.” You’re not the only one. However, the rest of Contraband hazily grinds together, as many of the 13 songs fail to burst with the edgy darkness and inventive musicianship expected from such a talented core. With this sober debut from some of rocks most excess abused survivors, Velvet Revolver’s pieces show promise, but nothing worth buying t-shirts, posters and stickers for.

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