How much more proof do we need that the new wave of "supergroups" — starting with AUDIOSLAVE and VELVET REVOLVER, moving onto ARMY OF ANYONE, and now culminating in the bottom-of-the-barrel likes of CIRCUS DIABLO — is now dead? "Libertad", the second album from VELVET REVOLVER, is a polished, professional-sounding rock record with more than a few hooks and some tasty guitar licks courtesy of undeniably talented axemen Slash and Dave Kushner.
But it's also a bland, curiously laid-back effort, lacking the dangerous intent of GUNS N' ROSES or the psychedelic urgency of STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, the two groups that provided the meat of this band's lineup.
That's not to say that VELVET REVOLVER should necessarily be compared to either of those once-great acts. But the truth is that the Velvets have yet to live up to the hype of its members' legendary histories. The quintet 's 2004 debut, "Contraband", was a heavier effort than the new disc but also never quite gelled together, the group instead trying to meld GN'R-style songs with singer Scott Weiland's psycho-pop delivery. The album had its moments, such as "Slither", but never quite caught fire. There's barely any heat generated by "Libertad", let alone a blaze.
Whereas the first album generated some tension between Weiland's musical leanings and those of the GN'R vets (Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum), the singer's pop inclinations seem to dominate the new record. The more uptempo rockers, like opener "Let It Roll", "She Builds Quick Machines" and "American Man" never quite get off the ground, any instrumental highlights muted and even Weiland's vocal melodies sounding relatively uninspired. The poppier material like "The Last Fight" and "Get Out The Door" is reminiscent of the last — and weakest — STP disc, "Shangri-La-Dee-Da", while the country-flavored bonus cut following closing track "Gravedancer" just comes off like a weird self-indulgence.
It's strange to think that there's simply not much to say about an album made by musicians whose albums once dominated the late Eighties and early Nineties. A few striking tunes aside, such as "For A Brother", this second effort from a band that should know how to create gritty, raw rock leaves very little of an impression after it is finished. It's ironic that a record titled "Libertad" (Spanish for freedom) sounds so timid.