As of this writing it is the wrinkly end to the middle of March (the 21st, for those who hate metaphor) and rumor and tempers are rumbling in the camp of Velvet Revolver. Yes indeed, Velvet Revolver, that bastion of rock ‘n’ roll dedicated to the pursuit of … well, the pursuit of … uh … you know, I’m not really sure what they’re in pursuit of. Slash isn’t hurting for cash, as I’m sure he’s getting a little money out of his Guns ‘N’ Roses tenure. Surely someone distracts Axl with a hunk of chum on a dangling string while someone else spirits away the rest of the band’s dues. And even if that wasn’t so, he must have some kind of back end for his Guitar Hero appearances. Lead singer Scott Weiland, fresh from his zilteenth rehab stint, couldn’t possibly have gotten so ripped that all his funds are gone. Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum shouldn’t be hurting either, so the only victim may be Dave Kushner (who?) and perhaps anyone who spent money on the band’s last bland effort Libertad. The most interesting track on the album (a cover of E.L.O.’s “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head”) wasn’t even theirs, and was interesting only because someone, presumably Weiland, thought it would be brilliant to change most of the lyrics. That alone should have been an indicator that someone wasn’t thinking this outing through clearly.
So here is a band that really has nothing to prove and nothing to earn. Their mutual pedigree has afforded them an instant audience that they only marginally honored with the Contraband debut. And there’s no reason that there should be friction since there’s really no pressure here, right? Aside from the crushing weight of massive ego threatening to obliterate anything that should crawl beneath it. We can’t forget that. Weiland’s slagging off Sorum who, apparently, wanted to sing along. Weiland’s argument: hey, I’m the singer, drummer boy! Yes, he is. He’s the singer. He’s also the unreliable frontman who has derailed many a plan with his addictions. In his defense, addiction to anything is a hard fight, relapses are considered probable and not merely possible and no one has a right to take up arms against someone who is trying to stay clean. By the same token, that person trying to stay clean must be humble enough to recognize the damage his actions have done, not castigate others to deflect the burden of guilt.
I actually called it back in October when the sales figures for Libertad started coming in, tellingly on the low end of expectations. Weiland was intimating that a Stone Temple Pilots reunion was imminent and the rest of VR seemed conspicuously absent. I said that it appeared a collapse of Audioslave proportions was on the horizon. Sadly, I was right — for you see, dear reader, I was actually pulling for Velvet Revolver to buck the trend. Sure, their music never truly rose from the uncomfortable mash-up of GNR and STP, but it wasn’t like they had a talent deficit if they tried. I don’t think they tried. As I said previously, they milked the inheritance they had and that was that. When Audioslave splintered, we got Chris Cornell farting up a brown funk and calling it fresh baked cookies and (yuck) Rage Against the Machine reunited.
It comes down to this Á¢€” trust fund kids aren’t afraid of wrecking the Bentley because they didn’t pay for it, didn’t pay for the insurance, didn’t pay for the repairs and won’t be paying for the replacement. In music, these supergroups are much the same, carrying a wealth of antecedent fandom with them but no incentive for the fans to remain. They don’t have to try because a sense of nostalgia will afford at least a decent-selling debut. If they wanted to try, really make an effort to make something great and long-lasting and worth the trouble, that’s an investment in time, money, sweat and commitment. The first three aren’t that hard to handle for them, but number four is a skull-cracker. “You mean we have to write and record and tour like first-timers all over again? Screw that. We’ll just re-record ‘Plush’ or ‘Paradise City’ or ‘Black Hole Sun’ and have Rick Rubin make it sound like something else.”
There’s also another thing that actually puts Scott Weiland and Tom Morello in the positive light: reunions just make more money than new bands. In order to have a reunion, you have to have a split. These supergroups are little more than rebound romances to bide time until the stars align. Reunions are easy to mount because rumorville gets you halfway there. The Van Halen reunion (which is apparently back on for the second time Á¢€” man, I hate this rock algebra) was as good as sold once the word got buzzing Á¢€” long before any official announcement was made. Reunions sell back catalogs and produce lucrative merchandising, all mounted on old design work so the cost of reinvention is significantly lower than, say, a new supergroup hawking new product. As easy as the supergroup model is, the reunion model is that much easier.
Which is to say, it is easier until the old tensions that first ripped a group apart re-emerge. One more metaphor is the guy who has been married seven times, sitting in the counselor’s office in efforts to save number eight. He says, “Doc, why do I only meet women who hate my bad habits?” The doctor replies, “Maybe you’re the problem.” At that, the counselor is fired and replaced for the eighth time. If you want to know how to kill a supergroup, a regular group, or any relationship, just learn to deny your part in the proceedings and blame everyone else.
Fear not, though. Asia, one of the original supergroups, has reunited and recorded an album to be released in April, pulling off a meta-trump (It’s out now, and our fellow ‘doser Will Harris has reviewed it for Bullz-Eye.com. Check out his writeup here. –Ed.). Fans of Velvet Revolver should expect the band to reconvene twenty years from now after fits of heart disease and bankruptcy. We’ll be waiting with bated breath.