With the possible exception of a certain W. Axl Rose, there cannot be many figures who have cut such a Marmite-like presence in the music business as Scott Weiland. Even at the height of his fame and notoriety, Weiland cut an often odd figure – feted and lauded by some as a frontman non-pareil, loathed in equal measure by others. Whatever your view of Weiland and his artistic output, either in Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver or his solo work (anyone got that Christmas album?), you always got the idea that Weiland lapped it all up. And then some.
Personally, I bow to no-one in my admiration for STP’s ‘Sex Type Thing’; a rock song of genuine, unbridled swagger, and I have always been in the supporter’s camp for the super-group silliness of the Velvets. Whilst I’m therefore more likely than many to give a positive response to Weiland’s return to the musical fray, even his most vehement naysayers will have to admit that there’s still plenty of life in the man and he’s still got something to offer us. Blaster (Softdrive) is a slightly under the radar release for Weiland with his latest backing band, the clunkily named Wildabouts. Be under no illusion, this is a Weiland solo record and, as efficient and effective as rock musicians these guys are, this is the Scott show.
There’s a Marilyn Manson echo running through the glam stomp of ‘White Lightning’ and the cover of T-Rex’s ‘20th Century Boy’ is lively enough but feels like a record company compromise to me; I would have much preferred to hear him take on something from 70s Alice Cooper or Slade than this: sadly, this version never rises above the perfunctory when it should have shone.
However, that slightly regressive move aside, there’s a playful Californian surf pop vibe underpinning ‘Hotel Rio’, the alt-rock by numbers that ‘Amethyst’ offers reminds me of the 1990s but -self evidently- without the drugged out weirdness that his former band tended to offer. I’m fairly well taken by the sun-bronzed Nirvana schtick of ‘Bleed Out’ and there’s a glammy beat that pushes ‘Beach Pop’ along with a verve and effervescence.
Blaster has arrived with little fanfare and is all the better for it. Whether this is due to Weiland checking whether he has still “got it” (yes, he has) or because he’s also trying out new ideas that don’t quite fit with his “rock god” persona, I know not. Blaster is certainly a much more glammy album; it’s also a happy record suggesting that Weiland has found some artistic peace with himself. Whilst it’s not an out and out classic, given what this artist has been through, the mere fact that he has the show back on the road means we should be discussing Blaster as something approaching a triumph.