Album Review: Scott Weiland and The Wildabouts’ “Blaster”
Here is an actual excerpt from Scott Weiland’s actual diary (which I may or may not be making up): “Had a dream last night wherein I was kicking some ass. Had a good breakfast this morning and then kicked some ass. Tomorrow is a big day. So much ass to kick and only two feet. Alas.”
Yeah, he’s still got it … but that might not be enough.
Remember the initial Smashing Pumpkins breakup? Billy Corgan formed quasi-supergroup Zwan and released “Mary Star Of The Sea,” which was completely amazing. But it just wasn’t Pumpkins, and listeners—thirsting for another “Siamese Dream” or “Mellon Collie”—waffled about whether it really hit the sweet spot.
Similarly, the big problem with Scott Weiland is that he set the bar impossibly high for himself with Stone Temple Pilots. Perhaps to say that he “peaked” is too much, because who knows what the future holds. But only the cream of the crop have managed to reach 100 mph and stay there or even trump their previous successes. While Weiland has managed efforts like The Magnificent Bastards and Velvet Revolver, he’s has had his fair share of personal struggles (jail, rehab, divorce, etc.) to distract him along the way. In fact, even this project has already hit a roadbump, with the death of his guitarist, Jeremy Brown, on March 30—the day before this album’s release.
What’s a rockstar to do? It would be risky to try to switch genres. Seal and Sting both fell on their faces trying to enter the jazz world, and Paul McCartney and Billy Joel’s forays into the orchestral world have not exactly yielded standard repertoire. Weiland already tried (unsuccessfully) resurrecting STP in 2009. There was really only one way for Weiland: forward.
So listeners who anticipate a Scott Weiland project are always waiting for another mind blower like “Core” or “Purple” (which “Blaster” is most certainly not), and listening with biased, post-”Purple” ears, it’s hard to be satisfied—which leads to the next question: to what audience is Weiland playing in 2015?
As long as a middle-aged, reputably unpredictable Weiland is trying to rock generation X like he used to, he’s swimming upstream—even if he’s kicking as much ass as possible. And if he’s trying to rock a teenage/college-age crowd, one has to ask whether he’s even relevant anymore. Kids still listen to The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, if only because they’re trying to be cool. But as big as STP was, it’s hard to place them next to Zep. Whether or not the current generation has the history chops to get what The Wildabouts are doing is hard to say: “Blaster” feels way more like a ’70s tribute album than an attempt to recreate STP.
At any rate, “Blaster,” released by any other band, would be hailed as a big success. As Scott Weiland’s current reincarnation, it’s at least a solid step towards wiping the slate clean of previous attempts to redeem himself.
“Modzilla” is a clear Blue Oyster Cult reference, and besides a lukewarm guitar solo, it rocks about as hard as one could ask, sounding almost like a hybrid between old STP and Alice In Chains. A sexier track, “Way She Moves”, is rife with “doot doots” and lies somewhere between John (Cougar?) Mellencamp or T-Rex, with a chorus that could definitely have been ripped from “Tiny Music” and a bridge that echoes Stephen Tyler.
The U2-like intro to “Amethyst” is quickly destroyed by heavy guitars. The first meaningful guitar solo happens in this track, and Weiland’s self-harmonized vocals are thankfully as good as any. “White Lightning” is a slow, stompy, drum-smashing shuffle, and you can feel the pathos of the past decade or two: “Can’t you feel me baby / I’m standin’ alone by myself.”
The radio-friendly “Blue Eyes” strongly evokes The Cure, and Kurt Cobain really could have written the hook and verse to “Bleed Out,” but the song definitely doesn’t have the desperate energy typical of Nirvana; it remains a little too cool for that.
And then there’s the puzzling “Youth Quake.” At this point in the album, Weiland, certainly jean-clad, yells about the kids “dressed in black” and really does sound like he’s on the outside looking in. Then it gets worse, with the kitchy mess that is “Beach Pop.” One word: “facepalm.” It’s difficult to tell if they’re trying to be cute or what, but this campy disaster should have never made it out the front door of the recording studio. “Parachute” seems to imitate Aerosmith at points, and as with a lot of the songs on this album, the verse is a hard-assed, in-your-face guitar swagger followed by a totally “meh” chorus that should have just stayed home.
Their cover of T-Rex’s “20th Century Boy” is solid enough … although it’s a little weird hearing an aging Weiland sing to us about how rock ‘n’ roll should be (or that he wants to be our “boy toy”). An acoustic “Circles” is tinted with banjo and slide guitar and serves to echo Weiland’s personal and musical struggles as well as honor his wife: “We got things on the new sunrise.”
If nothing else, Weiland gets props for perseverance. Overall, “Blaster” blows Velvet Revolver away, although it falls far short of the glory of STP’s heyday. I’d say that, if Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts are as hard-hitting live as they are in the studio, they’ve gotta put on a good show; but with Jeremy Brown’s untimely passing, I suppose Weiland is at least momentarily back in limbo. If nothing else—and if only for all the ’90s children out there—“Blaster” is definitely worth a listen.