Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'll Smash Right Through Your Spotlight

Velvet Revolver – Libertad

Here's a tale of two bands. Velvet Revolver and Audioslave both formed at about the same time. Both were comprised of three former members of one legendary Nineties metal band and the singer from another. Both released début albums that were decent enough, but nowhere near as good as the music that had propelled them to stardom in their earlier bands.

Wildebeest Asylum Editorial Disavowal
Back in the early days of this blog I rated Velvet Revolver's album Contraband as one of the best releases of the year. In retrospect such a judgement is far too generous. There are some truly great songs on that album ('Slither' and 'Got No Right' come immediately to mind) but they're balanced out by an equal amount of total shite. Given that I gave the same honour to Slipknot's The Subliminal Verses in a year that also saw the release of Isis' Panopticon, Nick Cave's Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus and Dillinger Escape Plan's Miss Machine, I can only conclude that blogger must have been hacked by malevolent terrorists with bad taste in music who subtly changed some of my older posts in order to discredit me. You can all trust me when I say that I have convincing evidence that these terrorists were colluding with Saddam Hussein, which is why The Wildebeest Asylum is invading Iraq.

The sad trajectory of Audioslave's three albums will be familiar to many of us. The simplified version is as follows: OK; terrible; terrible. Velvet Revolver are only up to their second album but so far they're keeping pace with their fellow supergroup.

The album opens promisingly with 'Let It Roll', which infuses the style of their first album with a bluesy, sleazy swagger, and rocks out quite sufficiently. For me Slash's guitar has always been the main reason to listen to either Velvet Revolver or Gunners, and he's still well worth listening to on Libertad, where he's taken a more subdued, less histrionic approach as befits the album's blues influence.

Unfortunately after that encouraging start the band waste no time in wading out into the shallows of mediocrity, and by the midpoint of Libertad they're swimming deep down in the trench of suckiness. It's a pity because most of the songs seem to have potential, they're just spoiled by lacklustre performance and a reliance on generic pop rock hooks, despite the occasional, too brief bridge or solo which provides a trace amount of innovation or passion. Take for example 'American Man', a boring, by the numbers upbeat classic rock track with an unimaginative, grating vocal hook (“Yes I am an American Ma-an...”) that's totally beneath this bands potential, which is suddenly and unexpectedly redeemed by an achingly sad, evocative and uncharacteristically restrained solo by Slash, which lasts for a too brief thirty seconds before returning us to the mediocrity of the chorus.

I saw these guys live a few years back and really enjoyed it. Others who have seen them have not been impressed and Libertad comes with a short live DVD which makes me wonder how objective my enjoyment really was. In the four song set the band give the impression that the audience is just another sea of faces in a darkened room at the end of another long plane flight, and that they're performing more for their own egos and legends than for the people who paid money to come see them.

It's sad really, there's obviously still a bit of musical talent floating around in Velvet Revolver, but it's being wasted as I don't think their hearts are really in it any more...

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