Velvet Revolver

RCA, 2007

REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker


All-star supergroups are always somewhat of a gamble. Inevitably, there will be a select portion of fans that feel let down or put off by the final result.

Case in point, as a big fan of Guns 'n' Roses, I was psyched to hear that Slash, Duff and Matt Sorum were recording again under the name of Velvet Revolver. Sadly, I was less than thrilled with the fruits of their efforts. Contraband sounded like a modern rock album spliced together over the course of celebrity AA meetings. It featured none of the riffs, attitude or ‘rock n’ roll decadence’ that gave the early Guns albums their appeal. They had updated their sound without a hitch, but the overall product I found generic and forgettable.

Thankfully, Libertad is a marked improvement. There still isn’t a great deal of variety to the songs, but the whole album flows much better, and sounds like much more of a group effort now that the band has an album and a full tour under their belt. It’s filled with good hooks, and while a handful of songs seem lazy or merely clever, the majority of them are solid rock numbers.

The first single, “She Builds Fast Machines,” sets the tone for the album. A mid-tempo rocker carried by Duff’s throbbing bass line, the relatively quiet verses give way to heavy, guitar-laden choruses with shout-it-out-loud vocals. Slash turns in a nice guitar solo to cap things off.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The production is one of the first things to stick out here: damn, does this album ever sound good. All the instruments are crystal clear. Both guitars have plenty of chunk to them, the rhythm section is tight and clear, and the vocals aren’t too up front. Much better than some of the wall-of-noise stuff that gets released these days.

Velvet Revolver does an admirable job of turning in consistent, energetic songs on Libertad, particularly on the first half of the album. Album opener “Let It Roll” and “She Mine,” are both powered by simple but effective guitar riffs, with Slash trying out a faux Eastern-style guitar phrase in the verses of the latter. It’s only seven notes, but they’re surprisingly catchy. It’s refreshing, also, to hear some guitar leads with a real chunk to their tone.

VR hits its groove three songs in with “Get Out The Door.” Here, singer Scott Weiland finally begins to gel with the band, turning in a memorable vocal line and a chorus that will have you singing it under your breath after a few listens. This is the sort of track that I had hoped VR would record when I first heard about the band’s formation: songwriting that combines the riff-laden antics and attitude of Guns with the vocal stylings of a grunge / alternative-era singer.

The band pulls this off further with “For A Brother” and “Just Sixteen” as well. Of all the songs on the album, the latter reminds me the most of Use Your Illusion-era Guns n’ Roses, with plenty of trademark Slash solos scattered throughout.

There are a few shortcomings, of course. To begin with, it’s very samey. The band has clearly found a sound that they are comfortable with, and aren’t taking a whole lot of chances, given the talent involved. A handful of songs -- particularly the softer numbers, such as “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” -- seem uninspired and closer to outtakes. It’s hard not to roll your eyes as Weiland reminisces about ‘walking through the burning rain / hoping just to know her name…’ His vocal style works well overall, but Weiland’s lyrics and tendency to insert ‘ooh-woo-hoo’s’ and ‘nah-nah-nah-nah’s’ into choruses and outros can grate on one's nerves after awhile.

These minor quibbles aside, Velvet Revolver have certainly improved upon its debut. If Libertad is any indication of what the band’s future efforts might sound like, then a third album, if ever one is recorded, seems promising indeed.

Rating: B+

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Can't Get It Out Of My Head is an Electric Light Orchestra cover.

© 2007 Ben McVicker and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.