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Velvet Revolver

Velvet Revolver - Contraband
(RCA Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 28, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Back in the late '80s when established rock acts such as The Rolling Stones and David Bowie were becoming bloated self-parodies, a motley group of misfits known as Guns N' Roses came along to inject a good dose of hard rock into a watered-down market dominated by middle-of-the-road pap like Bryan Adams, Huey Lewis and Phil Collins. Then a few years later grunge rock emerged from the Pacific Northwest with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, which helped give even further credibility to hard rock.
While Guns N' Roses have become rock's big joke - primarily due to vocalist Axl Rose throwing countless high-profile tantrums, while never being able to muster up a good album (much less even a bad one) - Stone Temple Pilots have continued to stay musically vital, despite vocalist Scott Weiland's many return visits to rehab, which, unfortunately, has become sort of his home away from home over the years.
While Axl has been diddling his days away working(?) on Chinese Democracy (a supposedly new Guns N' Roses album that the little fellow has been promising to deliver for years now), the remaining original Gunners needed a gig. So guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum have teamed up with STP's Weiland, along with guitarist Dave Kushner, to form a new, quote-unquote, supergroup called Velvet Revolver.
On their debut album Contraband the band rocks hard enough, but rarely makes their point clear. In a time when raunchy, raw garage rock rules the underground, Velvet Revolver's heavy-handed Sunset Strip sleaze rock is filled with hamburger guitar leads and empty songs that, for the most part, just twiddles their thumbs.
While there are definitely a few standout tracks here, such as the driving Jane's Addiction-laced "Illegal i Song" and the pummeling rhythm section that rips through "Set Me Free" and "Spectacle," many of the rockers here are devoid of any real spark. And to make things worse these guys have also decided to add the dreaded 'power ballad' to this effort. And not just once, but three cringe-inducing times. Weiland is one of the great voices in modern rock (not to mention one of the most captivating frontmen on stage), so to hear him wimpily waltzing through sappy songs like "Loving The Alien" and "You Got No Right," is just downright embarrassing.
I'm not sure if the former boys from GNR still have the capacity to rock they way they used to and still sound vital, but if I were Weiland, the next time I checked out of rehab I'd be hooking up with a band that knows how to rock hard without sounded tired and dated - you know, like STP.

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