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There I was sitting at my desk working, with my headphones on as always, this time blasting the latest release from Velvet Revolver Libertad. I checked out some of the sales numbers from this album and noticed that they were barely a half of what their debut album sold in it's initial week. Normally I don't care what album sales indicate because there are some groups that I consider to be complete over marketed mainstream junk.... I mean... not my kind of music... that have sold millions of copies in their first week. Listening to this album there at my desk though, I really started to wonder why this was the case as it's pretty rockin' in my opinion, shows some definite growth and has some great music... so why significant decrease in sales?
There are a number of reasons why this could be and some deal directly with why super groups always seem like bad ideas in my mind... I think I'll call them the "Curse of the Super Group" and they have to do with hype, preconceived notions and also the band itself.
Formed from the ashes of Guns n' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, one of the biggest hard rock/heavy metal bands of all time and one of the leaders of the grunge movement respectively, I don't think anyone can argue that there wasn't a lot of hype surrounding this band... I mean there was an entire television show dedicated to them. This hype can be both a blessing and a curse as there is certainly a lot of attention on the band, but it also sets a high mark to live up to. I think this hype might have also helped to spur their initial album sales though because although I didn't see the television show, the hype of simply it being the remaining members of Guns 'n' Roses with Scott Weiland was part of what pushed me to check out their music.
The super group hype has another effect as well: preconceived notions. I know when I first heard about Velvet Revolver I was left with a very obvious impression of what I thought they would end up sounding like.
Yeah, I'm not gonna lie to you, when I first listened to Contraband of course I was expecting the band to sound like GNR meets STP...who wouldn't? I would almost guarantee that everyone who was intrigued by Velvet Revolver probably had similar preconceived notions about what the band would sound like. I wonder how much those notions swayed people from purchasing or not purchasing their first or second albums. Some may have been swayed to purchase their first only to be disappointed and not get their second, while others might have been moved to stay away entirely seeing the band as a mere shadow of the two that formed it or a complete rehash.
Preconceived notions can have a negative effect on any group though and any album.
When I heard the first single off of Libertad I was a little disappointed again as it is far more rock and roll, having stripped away much of the heavy metal and grunge of the previous album and replacing it with something that sounds like much more rough and ready rock and roll. That disappointment had to come from preconceived notions as I actually prefer rough rock normally... I'm listening to this album right now for the 4-5 time as I'm writing this and it's really grown on me. It shows so much growth and the group infusing a lot more classic rock elements into their sound, including some psychedelic, southern and bluesy elements, but also a Sex Pistols esque ferocity that I think the fits them really well... All things I like...
At the same time though, these new directions have also pushed them farther from either GNR or STP, and I wonder if that has led to more backlash from people who were again expecting something different.
I also think there is something for the band members about being in a super group that can be both a blessing and a curse, namely falling into past patterns. With both GNR and STP hugely successful, it would be very easy to continue to write songs in the vein of either, or in the vein of an obvious blend of the two. This might lead to early hits and easy writing but in the long run it wouldn't cut it for me as I could listen to either of those bands to hear that style. Contraband is a good example of this as although it is a good album in its own right, could "Set Me Free" (VR) sound closer to "It's so Easy" (GNR) in terms of vocal style and pattern (Scott Weiland even said that "It's so Easy was the inspiration for that song) and it's easy to hear the roots of "Dirty Little Thing" (VR) in "Sex Type Thing" (STP). All great songs, but their similarities are pretty obvious. I wonder how many would be super groups, and just regular bands have fallen into that trap and ended up rehashing previously successful material.
As I said, this band's latest release seems to be pushing into new territory, but don't get me wrong, there are still obvious moments when they sound like a blend of Guns 'n' Roses and the Stone Temple Pilots, so they're getting there, but probably still trying to overcome their past and probably always will be... at least a little. I think this album is a definite step in the right direction though, and may be the beginning of this band really solidifying a sound all their own... if they can stay together.
Do I think that some of the things I mentioned in this piece are the reasons for such lower sales of the new Velvet Revolver album and that Velvet Revolver are victims of some Curse of the Super Groups?
Maybe... maybe not... I do think that, although easier at first, a "super group" will probably have a harder time making there own unique mark in the long run. As for the album sales, it could be musical trends, the super group thing, or a number of other things... who knows...
These are just some of the things that came to mind while I was listening to Libertad after having read about the album sales. Nothing really groundbreaking, but still worth thinking about. I know I'm guilty of sometimes not giving a group a fair listen because of hype or preconceived notions, and I sure wouldn't want to miss out on great rock and roll for some stupid reason.
That's enough wondering for one day.
This wasn't really a review... more so a bit of wondering about why this album might be going slightly under appreciated. Still, if you're interested, check out the new album from Velvet Revolver. I think it's pretty good... You can buy it directly from Amazon here: Libertad