VELVET REVOLVER DELIVERS: LIBERTAD EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS AND THEN SOME
I’ll never understand the pundits who claim Velvet Revolver are shadows of their former selves; while nothing VR has done compares to the very best work of their members’ prior bands, their music is at least as good as much of those bands’ material. Frankly, there’s nothing not to like about this band or their second album Libertad which is released tomorrow (July 3) in the U.S. Velvet Revolver write big, badass guitar-based hard rock and dirty, sweaty rock songs, all wrapped up in an intangible layer of swagger and sleaze that works so well only because these guys have lived that life. Libertad is on the whole a touch more upbeat and bluesier than its predecessor Contraband, and the change is for the better, producing a great album that, frankly, we didn’t have high hopes for. Nothing here is going to break new ground or change the face of rock, but this collection of consistently good songs makes for a damn fine album. More after the jump.
On Libertad Velvet Revolver sound a whole lot more comfortable. Rather than the heavy, drop-D riff fest that was Contraband (not that this was a bad thing), the band seems to have dropped back a notch and relied much more heavily on their classic influences. The result is a collection of bluesier but still contemporary sounding songs that don’t come across as sounding concerned with commercial appeal as much as they do about just rocking. You get the feeling that the band felt much more at liberty this time around to write songs that they truly wanted to write rather than allowing A&Rs and looming dollar signs to shape the product. The fact that nearly every song is catchy and well-written just speaks to the natural songwriting ability inherent in the members of the band, and also perhaps the switch to producer Brendan O’Brien who produced some of Stone Temple Pilots’ best work.
This new groovier feel is all over the place. “Let It Roll” kicks off the album with a fast attack, Slash’s Aerosmith-on-steroids riff and Scott Weiland’s smooth voice fueling a powerful beast that wraps in only two and a half minutes. “She Mine,” “For a Brother” and first single “She Builds Quick Machines” follow in this vein.
“Get Out the Door” is an instant stand out track with its fuzzed-out guitars and distorted bass almost reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age. All the right elements are in place; massive, thick guitars, cowbell, a talk box guitar solo, and a poetic, vintage-Weiland chorus that’s fun to sing. What else could we ask for? (side note: our good friend the cowbell makes his presence known all over this album, and it’s fantastic!). “Just Sixteen” is the obvious first single, and frankly we’re scratching our heads as to why the record label chose the very mediocre “She Builds Quick Machines” instead (research? who were they asking, my mom?). “Just Sixteen” dances and swaggers like GN’R’s “Nightrain” or STP’s “Trippin on a Hole in a Paper Heart” with its classic GN’R chord structure and Weiland’s alternating smooth/gritty/smooth vocal stylings; and who could resist a song about a high school boy shtupping his teacher?
Lyrically, Weiland stays on topics you would expect; hot chicks (“Let It Roll”), resisting temptation (“Get Out the Door”), Pills, Demons & Etc. (“Pills, Demons & Etc.”), and of course the oft-times turbulent relationship with his wife Mary. “The Last Fight” is a plea for forgiveness wrapped in one of the best ballads written in years; when Velvet Revolver do ballads they’re never overdone or corny. On the other side of the spectrum is “Mary Mary,” an ode to the carnal pleasures of the same vixen that causes all of this misery.
At the very end of the album is an unexpected but welcome surprise, much like getting a handjob at the end of a back rub in a Chinese massage parlor. I’ll leave that one up to you guys to discover.
Libertad should also be a treat to guitar players. Slash delivers some awesomely raw solos that sound true to Slash’s claim that most of the solos that made the final cut were first or second takes. You can hear the improvisation and even the pick scraping the strings; in other words it sounds fucking awesome, and Slash has gone on record as crediting Brendan O’Brien for his guitar recording skills. There’s also plenty of talk box trickery, slide work, wah, and assorted other audio goodies that guitar players will wet their pants over.
Fans of good rock songs will love Libertad. If you can’t get over your own preconceived notions about what a supergroup is and isn’t, then that’s your loss. You’re missing out on some awesome songs, and meanwhile we’re rocking the fuck out to something that, while not earth-shattering, is damn good. Do yourself a favor and pick this album up.
(four out of five horns)