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Velvet Revolver 

Contraband (RCA)

Velvet Revolver looks like a can't-miss combo, with most of Guns n' Roses' Use Your Illusion lineup and Scott Weiland, the singer of Stone Temple Pilots; it's the last great arena-rock band backing the singer of the last reliably solid radio-rock group. But there's a reason you don't own a Slash's Snakepit album or Weiland's solo LP.

A great band results from the chemistry of its classic lineup. Once that circle is broken, all the king's producers can't put it back together again. Nostalgic fans warmly receive reunions from such supergroups as Audioslave, the Firm, and Jane's Addiction, but the new bands never measure up. The best you can hope for is a watered-down Van Hagar or Traffic. Three-fifths of kick-ass generally amounts to so-so. And the guys who once had appetites for destruction sound pretty well sated here.

Weiland tries hard to write weighty songs, lining up kings, slaves, angels, and gender-bending junkies. Such images gave Lou Reed and Soundgarden's work some mythological resonance, but now they're just rehashes. The band should play like hired killers, but the glistening production is oddly sterile and restrained, far closer to STP's Tiny Music than to anything from GN'R. Slash's pyrotechnic solo in the blustery single "Slither" is enough to stand out in 2004, but this album's not one for the ages.

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