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Velvet Revolver - Contraband Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 June 2004

Velvet Revolver

format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: RCA
release year: 2004
performance: 9.5
sound 7.5
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

Image There is hope. There is hope that bands who can really play their instruments will once again make popular rock music. There is hope that bands who have the musicianship for drum fills and innovative guitar solos can once again sell records. There is hope.

Velvet Revolver is the newest rock super-group made of spare parts from Stone Temple Pilots, The Cult and Guns and Roses. While some critics say that putting Scott Weiland, Slash, Matt Sorun and Duff McKagan all together in a band is nothing special or nothing new – I might respond with: a) listen to the album and b) ever hear of Cream, Toto or Audioslave?

The brand of music you are getting into with Contraband is nothing short of down and dirty, riff-based hard rock with sleazy chops and catchy hooks. Weiland’s voice is very familiar on some tracks and strangely different on others. The single “Slither” I first heard on Sirius more than two months before Contraband hit store shelves. For the first time in years, I heard a new song that sounded so hot that I wanted to buy the album before I returned to the office from lunch. Music editor Bryan Dailey and I stopped at the West Los Angeles location of Best Buy to get the most disturbing and empty look from the clerk in the CD department. He had no idea what Velvet Revolver is – nor did he care. Ever wonder why the music business is selling 18 billion dollars’ worth of product and not 30 billion like they were a few years ago? This dipshit was the poster child.

Back to the song, “Slither” is the most righteous rock track I have heard in at least 10 years. It is uptempo and sounds more like STP than Guns and Roses. The track kicks off with a menacing introduction that warns you that this record is not some in-touch-with-my-feelings “alternative” record. Built around a vicious riff, Weiland’s voice sounds refreshingly good and you are glad he hasn’t OD’ed on smack (yet). The chorus slows it down a bit and develops into a sweet melody. Now get this – at the end of the second verse there is a guitar solo. Yes – an actual solo. One that is musically set up with a little break and it ROCKS! Slash could always play and he still has the happening wa-wa chops that you remember from Appetite for Destruction nearly 20 years later.

Overall, Contraband is one of the best hard rock records in the past decade. In comparison to the output of Audioslave (another very good hard rock super-group), Velvet Revolver’s Contraband isn’t as strong as an album. In terms of singles and hard rock moments, Contraband is better. For me I am thankful for both albums, along with the last Foo Fighters record, in that there is hope that the idea of being able to play your instrument may become important once again.

Another smokin’ track from Contraband is “Headspace,” which also launches into the kind of riff-based rock song that you would likely play if you were about to go on a high speed chase in a classic Pontiac GTO on the freeways of Southern California. The melody again has the feel of an STP song. The chorus breaks down to a harder-hitting segue, but it never gives up on the tune the way that so many lame heavy metal songs did back in the day when Aqua Net ruled the planet.

Contraband is the rock record of the summer. Don’t count on FM radio to pick up on how cool this record is past the single. I say buy the CD and then rip it on your iPod, burn a copy for your car and keep the CD at home for those late at night rock-along-with-your-Les Paul jam sessions. Fun like a Guns N’ Roses album, with great melodies like you’d expect from Stone Temple Pilots, all wrapped up in one record makes this bad ass worth every penny of $16.99.

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