Velvet Revolver

Contraband (RCA)

Beneath the feathers and glitter and makeup and leather, the Darkness are smart guys. In relaunching popwise hair metal for an age in need of a little heart, they didn't overlook the miskept form's secret ingredient: not guitar-god muscle but the lyrical and melodic sweetness that enabled creeps like Bret Michaels to woo little girls as readily as New Kids on the Block did. Statistically, the new Los Angeles hair-metal supergroup Velvet Revolver should have no problem in this department. Singer Scott Weiland's Stone Temple Pilots made a career out of turning Seattle grunge into Hollywood fluff, and the rest of the band's Guns N' Roses vets regularly leavened Axl Rose's Sunset Strip paranoia with a lighter-hoisting sentimentality. Yet Revolver's debut is an amazingly hard-assed bout of hard-rock revivalism, the sound of five industry vets staring down obsolescence with one eye and a Wal-Mart full of Godsmack and Staind CDs with the other. So instead of big choruses and interstate love songs, we get mean-spirited trash like "Big Machine," in which Weiland unconvincingly whines, "All that first-class drug shit brings me down, down, down," while Slash and Co. grind away at a monochromatic hunk of riff. They've forgotten that into every life a little November rain must fall.

 
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