June 28, 2004 12:00 PM

Velvet Revolver

Out of the ashes of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots rises the new supergroup Velvet Revolver. Comprised of ex-Gunners Slash (guitar), Duff McKagan (bass) and Matt Sorum (drums), former head Pilot Scott Weiland (lead vocals) and Slash’s high school buddy Dave Kushner (guitar), the quintet launched its hard-rock assault with the anthemic “Set Me Free” on last year’s The Hulk soundtrack. On Velvet Revolver’s full-length debut, though, the band fails to recapture the glory of GNR and STP. While tracks like the first single “Slither” and the grinding “Do It for the Kids” pack a bang, Velvet Revolver’s metallic sound feels somewhat dated compared with young guns like Jet. Still, with this all-star lineup, Contraband is a rock-solid effort. Weiland, attempting to fill Axl Rose’s leather pants, veers from a low growl to a primal scream. The singer’s personal lyrics offer a glimpse into his well-publicized drug problems (also alluded to in the disc’s title). “All that first-class drug s—- brings me down,” he sneers on the rumbling “Big Machine.” On the cautionary “Headspace,” he sings that “Dying with your face on/A T-shirt isn’t all that original.” Weiland addresses his 2002 split from wife Mary, with whom he has since reunited, on the potent power ballad “Fall to Pieces”: “It’s been a long year/ Since you’ve been gone/ I’ve been alone here/ I’ve grown old.” Meanwhile, axeman Slash lets rip a series of incendiary solos on cuts like the driving “Sucker Train Blues” and the swaggering “Dirty Little Thing.” He remains a guitar god among mortals.

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