Velvet Revolver – Libertad
With all the excitement and wonder surrounding the band in 2004, it was hard for Velvet Revolver to not make an impact with Contraband. With all the hype of the project, and the expectations brought to the table, thanks to the players involved, and their affiliation with their previous bands, it was hard for Velvet Revolver not to be met with adulation. And given that the band pretty much forced the effort with most of the material in place before vocalist Scott Weiland entered the mix, it was still a hell of a debut.
After all the touring in support of Contraband and the â€œgrowing as a band,â€ one could only imagine the home run that was in store for the sophomore effort.
Instead, what we have with Libertad is a mish-mash collection of tracks, some that hit the mark, some that offer an interesting spin on what one would assume Velvet Revolver is capable of, and a couple more that are forgettable.
Given each member’s past, it’s clear the band should be able to craft a hook-filled rock song. Just look at the lead-off single “She Builds Quick Machines”, and the even catchier “Get Out the Door”. They’re subtle, but really strong rock tunes around which a band could build an album.
Mix those with the more serious fareâ€”the Beatles-esque “Can’t Get It Out of My Head”, the ballad “The Last Fight” and the closer “Gravedancer” (which may have some of the best lyrics of entire the album)â€”and you have a strong foundation.
It’s the songs like “Just Sixteen” (with some fantastic guitar solos) and “Spay” that are the real meat and potatoes of this album. Each song careens along with some pure rock fury, and they’re the only two tracks that really seem to slink along the border of a band being almost out-of-control. That’s what this band needs to be doing, not generic safe rock numbers.
Instead, the listener is left with a â€œtrim the fatâ€ mantra running through their head, thanks to the utterly forgettable, repetitive nature of songs like “Let it Roll” and “She Mine”, and it doesn’t help matters any that these two open the album.
If you were to place blame, point straight to producer Brendan O’Brien, as the band seems stripped of any urgency throughout almost the entire album (there are only slight glimmers here and there). Why is Slash not front and center, tearing it up on every song? Dave Kushner is a great guitarist, but he should really be taking a back seat here instead of sharing the spotlight at all times. Why isn’t Duff doing any notable vocals besides the backing harmonies? Why isn’t the band devolving at any point into blues-soaked, sleazy metal (which they are more than capable of doing)? Why is the bass so nondescript? Who picked the play list? There were at least five better ways to have sequenced this album.
Josh Abraham knew what he was doing with Contraband, and while it came off as a solid debut with little focal point, at least it had the feel of an intense album; Libertad feels like a collection of songs that didn’t fit on any other albums. Velvet Revolver deserves better, especially when the bright spots shine so brightly.
So, in the end, we’re left with a solid 3/4ths of an album with notable and noticeable problems. The better songs show fantastic growth beyond Contraband, so this is far from a disaster, but it smacks of below-expectations. It’ll be interesting to see what the next move for Velvet Revolver will be.