Review Summary: It will no doubt pass the airwaves unnoticed, and that's a shame.......
For those of you who don’t know (that is probably most of you) Stone Temple Pilots and Ex Velvet Revolver front man Scott Weiland has indeed released his second solo album “Happy" in Galoshes. Coming a decade after his sorely underrated debut 12 Bar Blues. This is definitely belated and as par usual Weiland has had bad press involving a DUI charge, a 192 hour prison stint and being kicked from his after mentioned super group.
That’s too bad really; as such typical headlines have overshadowed the personal turmoil he has been through for the past two years: Losing a brother to a drug overdose in 2007 and now in the process of separating from his wife of 8 years, Mary Forsberg, that’s pretty upsetting stuff to live with. Naturally Weiland said that these personal issues would form the basis of Galoshes conceptually and they have.
With such information at hand it sounds too easy to praise Galoshes out of sympathy. What is surprising though is no matter how much pain lies within the songs I found Weiland’s pop instincts so well refined and whimsical that one gets caught up in the music and the sheer iconoclasm of it all first. That doesn’t mean Weiland has made a lazy effort at putting words to his pain. It means he’s so in love with his music and so confident of his abilities that he doesn’t need to lay everything on the table for the listener to decipher. This is a good thing because whilst I have said Weiland is not a lazy writer, he tries too hard to make his lyrics as ambitious as the music. Galoshes best moments lyrically are when he does the complete opposite and simply says things how they really are. This is evident on the touching ode to his brother “Arch Angel” and the virtual remake of his song “Son” found on 12 Bar Blues “Killing Me Sweetly”
Musically like on 12 Bar Blues, Galoshes is all over the place and at times becomes a work that can’t be categorized. This will be a surprise for listeners who thought Weiland to just be a dinosaur of the 90’s (aka many down at the ultimate guitar forums) but he’s better than that and for those who loved 12 Bar Blues, Galoshes is the rational next step in Weiland’s evolution. For those who disliked that album it might be advised you stay away though. This is not the same album however. Despite commercial success being the last thing Galoshes wants to achieve, some of the songs here sound more polished and accessible than those on his debut.
"Missing Cleveland" was definitely made with Stone Temple Pilots in mind and it is a catchy beast at that, filled with a stomping guitar rhythm, rolling bass lines and a chorus ready for the stadium. But even better is the irresistible "Blind Confusion" a spacey, driving rocker which is possibly the best thing Weiland has penned in a long time. You just can’t help singing to its monster chorus and questioning chants
The first 3 tracks are the most instant on the disc. That doesn’t mean Weiland suddenly stumbles from here on but what comes after sounds like a completely different artist. “Paralysis” chosen as a current single even accompanied with a music video is Weiland once again wearing his Bowie influence for all to see. The song is good and it did grow on me but he has done and does do better, such as on the druggy "She Sold Her System" which could have fit perfectly on 12 Bar Blues. This song also shows off Weiland’s ability as a vocalist, crooning in a breezy falsetto.
If there is a point where the man notably does wrong it’s on the middle section of the disc. He fails to reinvent Bowie’s "Fame" which is just too contrived no matter how well produced the crunching guitar lines and slick beats (courtesy of Paul Oakonfield) are. "Crash" opens promisingly with its hypnotic vocals and dreamy instrumentation but is killed by a chorus that goes nowhere and "Big Black Monster", whilst it plays well is ultimately forgettable. I was quite fond of Killing Me Sweetly though, which as I mentioned before did sound like a remake of Son (at least on a vocal level) but given time the tracks weeping strings, Bossa Nova rhythm and convincing marital angst make it at least acceptable.
Probably the section where many casual listeners will switch off is the long crawl out of tracks 10 to 13 (if you count the hidden Christian hymn “Be Not Afraid”) “Beautiful Day” sounds like a Mike Patton experiment throwing throbbing bass and trumpet notes down into a dark pool of eerie synth strings and steel drums. The chorus is even more bizarre as Weiland seems to exorcise his inner Beach Boyisms against a sound fit for killer clowns (well ok Mike Patton again) This is a song that in time will earn the love of some and hatred of others (I happen to love it)
Ending the album on emotional catharsis is the take no prisoners’ ballad "Pictures and Computers" and squeaky bubble gum pop, the touching Arch Angel. Pictures contains gorgeous vocals and dreamy production values constantly vulnerable to an assault of orchestral trumpet counter melodies and in turns soothing electronics (sound weird enough for you) it’s a powerful but difficult song. The same can be said for Weiland’s take on the Christian hymn Be Not Afraid which is easily the cover he should have chosen for the album instead of Fame. We get Be Not Afraid as a hidden track but still part of the suit none the less. Weiland's voice is only accompanied by a heavily reverbed guitar and for the first time he is completely intelligible. The song is a bid for hope and endurance in times where ones faith is being tested and quite frankly in Weiland’s shoes he is an individual who needs the hymn most and that makes the cover something which is honest and not contrived unlike Fame.
I should just be honest at this point and tell you that this won’t be for everyone’s tastes. To some this will be fascinating and to others it will just be a fascinating mess but in a time where many of Weiland’s peers indulge in misogynistic c0ck rock (ala Nickelback) the same convoluted angst as yesteryears record (ala Staind) and smug super groups run around in circles for none existent vocalists (ala Velvet Revolver) an album like "Happy" In Galoshes is appreciated.