It is very easy to dismiss a band like Velvet Revolver because of their actions outside the music. Nobody held a (ahem) gun to Slash or Duff’s head and made them sign over the rights to a band name that they rightfully co-owned, particularly in the creative sense. Nobody forced Scott Weiland to seek solace in a needle while negotiating the demands of rock stardom. So while some fans of Guns ‘N Roses or Stone Temple Pilots might have been excited by the idea of a decadent supergroup, the reality was less than noteworthy.
I shouldn’t dismiss a band on the dirt they track in from their depravity. If anything, I should force myself to actually sit down with the new Velvet Revolver album and listen to it, uncontested and open-minded. But when I eventually heard Velvet Revolver’s sophomore effort, Libertad, it suddenly became a whole lot easier to dismiss them.
Believe it or not, it starts out promising, with a two-and-a-half-minute exercise in the possibilities of what the two tastes might taste like, if they managed to taste great together. “Let It Roll” corrals a tasty Slash groove over a familiar Les Paul tone while Weiland finds his prerequisite posturing on a bed of time-honored lyrics, seeming lifted from song titles in his record collection (“Let it roll! Candy oh!”). They at least sound like they’re having a good time making new music on the coattails of their influences and their own past.
“Mary Mary” mines similar plagiarisms: Weiland toys with new wave melodies while the Guns crew manages to restrain themselves just enough to make the whole thing work. But these are exceptions to the rule. The rest of Libertad sounds like they’re all walking on eggshells around each other, waiting for a dominate force to finally point them towards a direction.
The dominant force throughout Velvet Revolver’s second album is producer Brendan O’Brien who delivers a lean and crisp record that provides both parties (GNR & STP) with equal billing in the mix. So now if only someone inside the mix would actually man up and show us who the hell Velvet Revolver is.
Libertad is overrun with tracks that could have very well been created individually, and if there wasn’t a distance in the creative process, there sure as hell was some during the rehearsals.
“Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” is a pointless inclusion because someone liked the ELO original and someone else was too much of a pussy to say that it should have been relegated to a b-side. “The Last Fight” is a repeat of “Fall To Pieces,” the power ballad from the debut, because someone was too much of a pussy to say that power ballads aren’t required on albums anymore because nobody listens to the radio.
And “Don’t Drop That Dime” is another “Hey, you know what album I like?” moment (in this case: Let It Bleed) that finds its way on to the disc because, again, someone was too much of a pussy to say “Fellas, this sticks out like a sore thumb.”
Like the consummate professionals that they are, the boys provide some legitimate country honk while Weiland channels a fairly accurate Keith Richards’ vocal take. The problem? While one side (the band) seems fairly sincere, the other side (Weiland) merely goes through the motions. The evidence? At the end of “Don’t Drop That Dime,” Weiland does a little bit of impromptu yodeling prompting someone to lightly chuckle before muttering “Whatever.”
How appropriate, because that ambivalence seems to be the biggest fault with Libertad and, perhaps, the band itself. A supergroup in name only; Velvet Revolver will only live up to their lofty billing as soon as they address their obvious complacency.
“She Builds Quick Machines”