F U L L . R E V I E W S
Velvet Revolver - Contraband 2004 RCA Records reviewed by: EC
After the break-up of Stone Temple Pilots, and the downfall of grunge music in the United States, Scott Weiland needed a big band to pay his booze bills. Guns 'N Roses desperately needed to find a replacement for their charismatic, loud-mouthed vocalist Axl Rose, who will go down in history as one of the most arrogant, problematic singers to ever hit the hairspray. The end result: The most talked about hard rock outfit to hit the newswire since Van Halen's comeback without Diamond Dave.
I really can't pin-point EXACTLY what it is about "Contraband" that leaves me both hungry for more, but at the same time feeling ill from digesting too much. Its a very odd feeling, and one that has me quite confused. This certainly doesn't live up to the hype, with the band receiving so much media attention. Weiland has been through the media, from battles over his drug use to reporters misconceptions regarding his role in Velvet Revolver. At the same time it isn't a complete failure, like say..oh..the last five comeback KISS records. Its a decent romp, but like so many bands today, suffers from poor production values.
Opener "Sucker Train Blues" steps in with a foot-stomping good time, jamming away like a modern rock band, most closely resembling the hard debut from Beautiful Creatures. Weiland's vocals are extremely low in the mix, and without reading the lyrics, you wouldn't have a clue what the man is jabbering about. "Sucker Train Blues" isn't really like Guns 'N Roses, instead bashing away a little more heavier. The chorus features a 90s rock vibe, not really going arena rock by any means, but offering enough to bite into. Slash shows up around the 3:00 mark, blazing away with a mean solo.
"Do It For The Kids", one of my favorite cuts, follows in a slower fashion, sounding more like Stone Temple Pilots or a dirty version of The Who. The chorus of the song is very 70s, reminding me of West Coast pop acts like Seals & Croft or even The Eagles. "Big Machine" is next, and sounds a lot like Guns 'N Roses, however the chorus is very simplistic and boring. "Illegal I Song" is just a terrible mess, not really making any progress through its frustrating four minutes. "Spectacle" offers up a more garage-based punk tune, not really what I would consider hard rock, and I was surprised to even find Slash & company show up for this. This song should have been left off the album.
"Fall To Pieces" is a pretty solid power ballad, with some nice melodic parts that could have been lifted straight from the 80s. "Headspace" simply rules the airwaves, throwing down a vicious down-tuned riff, combining on a doom ride via Cathedral or Sabbath. Weiland gets very personal here, demanding "Don't Let Any Of Those Fuckers In My Headspace", and begging reporters "no more questions". I respect that, and I like the personal touches. "Superhuman" smokes away in much the same way as "Fall To Pieces", with a more heavier aspect. Songs like this in my opinion are very innovative, not really concentrating on what particular style. Thats what made great bands like Van Halen appealing, their masterful ability to diversify.
"Set Me Free" explodes with a nice guitar buzz, delving into the pastures of White Zombie, with plenty of 70s west coast pop elements. "You Got No Right" is absolutely pathetic, reminding me of a Bob Dylan song. Just simplistic unplugged garbage made famous by 90s grunge acts capitalizing on bored teeny boppers. The album's first single, "Slither", moves to its own catchy beat, concentrating on a more metallic sound, and a single that got me stoked about the record in the first place.
"Dirty Little Thing" head-rocks like the opening song "Sucker Train Blues", with Weiland almost sounding out of control, completely over the top at times, but still focused enough to deliver a fast paced vocal romp. "Loving The Alien" closes the album, and like the other ballad on the record, is just a throw-away.
So bottom line is simple. Half killer, half filler. Not acceptable in my opinion for such a talented group of musicians and songwriters. If they could have taken out five or six tracks of the thirteen, then this would have been a really great record. Instead its a great album with the skip button nearby. Put on long-play, then it would be unbearable.
About this Writer:
Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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