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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Velvet Revolver
Length: 13 tracks, 56:55 minutes
Okay, let’s see what we have
here. Former bad-boy members of late '80’s gargantuan hard-rock band team
up with convicted drug addict ex-vocalist of popular '90’s grunge outfit
to form a rock supergroup for the new millennium. They put a gun reference
in their name, a drug reference in the album title and a shapely female
silhouette on the cover. Sounds like the typical “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll”
cliché, doesn’t it. They should be filed under bands for good Christian
kiddies to avoid, right?
Hands are shaking / Got your finger on the triggerIn any case, the reflections of an ex-drug addict musician are probably always going to be somewhat garbled as he finds his feet again. Recovery happens one step at a time and has its share of frustrations. Take this for example:
I say we’re all grown up nowNevertheless, for any nostalgia that remains for the hard living days, there is equal conviction that the old life has passed and the new one is worth living well. “All that first-class drug s*** just brings me down” sings Weiland on “Big Machine”. He seems to admit that there were probably more important things to be concerned about in the past than partying and drugs. Now that he finds himself a “slave to the big machine / New World Order” he reflects “I guess I chose to be”. The final lyric looks to the future with a new wisdom:
Hope I teach my son how to be a man now before he hits 35By the time we get to the album’s first power ballad, “Fall to Pieces,” we’ve heard what are some fairly standard riffs and solos. With this song however, the music finally starts to transcend the clichés with a surging chorus and emotive solo from Slash that brings to mind some of the Gunners best moments. Weiland’s lyrics again express a heartfelt quest for salvation.
It’s been a long year since you’ve been gone.From track six onwards, the songs get a lot better. “Headspace,” “Superhuman,” and “Set Me Free” all boast more gutsy riffs, while lyrically they scream for the same redemption as before, straining to exorcise the demons of the past and break the destructive cycles.
I’m a man who is trudging through a minefield built to blast.After another decent ballad, “You Got No Right,” we come of course to that awesome aforementioned track number ten, “Slither.” In its title and poetry, it evokes a Jacobian struggle with the devil for the soul of a recidivist, suicidal sinner man. He’s hit rock bottom and got his redemption, but acknowledges that getting clean inevitably creates a burning temptation to get dirty again. (The time changes in this song brilliantly parallel the three-steps-forward-two-steps-back pattern of addiction recovery as they seesaw between plod and quick march tempos.) There is also the impression that he’s not alone in his struggle and a friend or partner is keeping him accountable.
When you look you see right through meHow’s that for a powerful reminder of baptism and dying daily to self! This is followed by one more great song dealing with personal demons; “Dirty Little Thing”. This time the narrator, while admitting his own failings, pleads with another whose life is also self-destructing.
Get away from the life you’re livingAt last we come to the closing ballad, “Loving the Alien,” which, by the way, is not a cover of the David Bowie tune. It’s an honest love song at the end of what has been a rugged road.
Sometimes I think I’m scaredSo there you have it; a modern, secular hard-rock album full of anti-drug messages, faithful married love and sobriety. It also looks like a UK import edition of this album contains an explicit, ardently anti-abortion song called “Bodies.” So, what more is there to say?
The name Velvet Revolver is a contradiction, describing something metallic and hard which packs a mighty punch that is also sensual and soft to the touch. Perhaps the album title is also a riddle. This is a contradictory band; thus a _Contra-band_. Maybe I’m trying to dig too deep now. Whatever the real meaning is, I’m looking forward to album number two from Velvet Revolver, when time has healed the wounds of these musicians’ associations with their previous bands and made way for a new identity. So, in the meantime we should probably just return to the surface and enjoy this album for what it is; some damn fine rock’n’roll with heart and soul. Thanks guys!
Brendan Boughen 9/6/2004