Scott Weiland gets happy, Bowie-ish, idiosyncratic … messy

[1 December 2008]

By Ben Wener

The Orange County Register (MCT)

SCOTT WEILAND, “Happy in Galoshes” - This, his first solo album since “12 Bar Blues” a decade ago, won’t convince you to like the guy. But if like me you already do, there’s half a damn good post-alt ‘90s rock bouillabaisse to savor in this slop.

It’s mostly at the start: “Missing Cleveland” is a winning single even if you still can’t take the way he sings. “Tangle with Your Mind” is a more instantly appealing Counting Crows song than Adam Duritz seems willing to make much anymore. Despite a vocal performance almost as annoying as any by Vince Neil and some new-wave posturing that makes me think Scott knows it’s all a put-on, “Blind Confusion” is a not-entirely-bad bid to be taken seriously by the indie crowd.

“She Sold Her System” is nice nite-nite dreamscaping, glittering digitally (and only fleetingly) like Yoshimi-style Flaming Lips and lulling with layered harmonizing. And he wrote “Paralysis” with a Gwen-free No Doubt; Adrian Young plays drums as well, and it’s clear all involved wanted to make an ‘80s-vintage Bowie record - although especially Weiland, who in his delivery pretty blatantly mimics not just ghoulish Thin White Duke warble but also “Ashes to Ashes” staccato.

That five-track opening run is mildly impressive, something to make, oh, Perry Farrell envious. But “Paralysis” is also the tipping point toward missteps that follow and ultimately sink this valiant attempt at establishing a new sort of Scott Weiland.

The mid-disc cover of “Fame,” for instance, is ruinous, so off-the-mark and obviously handled, the only justification I can imagine for it is that Scott didn’t trust young’uns would pick up on subtler Bowie references - better to just spell it out, then, right?

“Killing Me Sweetly” is sweet music with forgivably sappy lyrics and a memorable chorus worthy of Fountains of Wayne or (anyone remember anymore?) Jellyfish - but it’s unpleasantly undone by nattering verses as reedy verbally as they are vocally. “Big Black Monster” is a title better reserved for STP, or a particularly wicked metal band - anything fiercer than the feeble stab at electro-fuzz menace Weiland weakly coughs up. That’s just one of too many meandering, disjointed songs that don’t feel fully formed. Even worse: the kinda pretty but kinda endless “Pictures & Computers (I’m Not Superman),” as convoluted as its title. And be warned: the drearily drawn-out hidden track is hidden for a reason; it’s all the proof any naysayer needs that Scott Weiland cannot, in fact, sing.

Yet how’s this for crazy inconsistency: The second best track here (“Missing Cleveland” is the single for a reason) is also the most clumsily connected piece on the disc. It’s called “Beautiful” when it’s actually winsome and jovial, an otherwise superbly executed Beach Boys/Queen pastiche (also reminiscent of Jellyfish, and Aimee Mann, and he must like old Nilsson records) that could prove to those same naysayers that Scott Weiland can, in fact, sing - and with much more surprise than all those overplayed hooks he’s known for combined.

I admire him for having the guts to make this while having spent most of the year playing everywhere from the Hollywood Bowl to Morongo Casino with the DeLeo brothers. I like that he’d dare release (and independently!) something so clearly idiosyncratic at the very point when fans would naturally clamor for an STP reunion record. And I can’t help but root for him, happy that he’s “happy,” even in the face of family death and rocky wedlock. But as with virtually everything else in his catalog, this one’s a spotty mess.

(Grade: B-minus)

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/66368-scott-weiland-gets-happy-bowie-ish-idiosyncratic-messy/