- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Velvet Revolver

Libertad

RCA

Three years after its first LP, “Contraband,” Velvet Revolver returns with “Libertad” — another mix of Slash guitar fury and the signature vocals of former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland.

From its very first notes, the album is like a welcome home for fans of 1980s Los Angeles party rock. Slash and fellow guitarist Dave Kushner dominate the music. They never tire of fuzzed-out chords, dirty washes of sound, metal-head pounding, or heroic shrieks and wails from the strings. Meanwhile, the rhythm section works as hard as it did in the Guns N’ Roses days, powering the songs forward with primal force.

Arguably, it was the rise of grunge in the early ‘90s that knocked the ladder out from under the GNR-style hard living, self-indulgent, blues-based rock bands, with their aggressive guitar, theatrical outfits, and giant hair. By incorporating Mr. Weiland, leader of grunge’s most mainstream success, Velvet Revolver may be trying to have the best of both worlds. His songwriting does add a slightly darker edge, but for the most part, this is classic, good-times, L.A. hard rock.

There’s plenty of celebration here of female looks, casual lust, adolescent anger, and tough-guy posturing. When a more haunted STP-style kicks in, it can make for a jarring contrast. The advance single, “She Builds Quick Machines,” for example, is mostly shouts like “No wrong or right, get it through the night … I’ll smash right through your spotlight!” But the tune breaks halfway for a suddenly echoing vocal musing that “what you give is what you take… I bleed for you …” Then the noise boys take over again, with particularly blazing fireworks from Slash.

The two styles do successfully merge on “The Last Fight.” The band supports Mr. Weiland by dialing back the heavy sound, making room for a prettifying piano and even joining in a choral melody. Compared to the head-banging around it, the song almost sounds like something from “Abbey Road.”

But that’s the exception.

As the bulk of “Libertad” shows, Velvet Revolver is all about making the kind of big, loud, cocky rock that doesn’t suffer when played at deafening volumes, preferably in a stadium for 50,000 fans. The libertad the band has in mind must be the freedom to keep on playing that music even when it’s not in fashion anymore.

The “Libertad” CD includes a multimedia track on the making of the album. Velvet Revolver plays at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Aug. 5. The group can also be seen on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on July 12, and a video from a 9:30 Club appearance in May can be found online.