Sound — 9
Scott Weiland's life as a musician has been a marathon of trials and tribulations, both containing moments of stride and moments of utter exhaustion. Big downswings have uncannily led to big upswings for Weiland, whether it was the formation of Velvet Revolver after the disbandment of Stone Temple Pilots, or Weiland successfully revamping STP soon after Velvet Revolver went on indefinite hiatus. But the second coming of STP would end up bearing a cruel twist of fate for Weiland, and after new tensions and difficulties formed between him and the rest of the band, Weiland would "officially" be fired from STP in 2013. Along with both parties suing each other, STP would further twist the knife in Weiland by hiring Linkin Park's frontman Chester Bennington to be the band's new vocalist, both for touring and recording new music.
Easily the most demoralizing downswing yet for Weiland, it duly strengthened his resolve (which is pretty damn strong at this point). If STP were moving on without him, he would have to move on without them as well. Though Weiland is no stranger to working a solo career, his was never really a straight-up rock project, because he had other bands to exercise that musical side. But now, with the formation of his new solo band, Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts, Weiland seeks to establish the next rock music outlet for him.
As expected, some parallels can be drawn between The Wildabouts and STP on the band's debut album, "Blaster." Guitar performance from Weiland and Jeremy Brown (who, tragically, passed away a day before the album's release) is nearly comparable to STP guitarist Dean DeLeo: good, but not extraordinary, with reputable solos in "Modzilla," "Way She Moves," "Amethyst," "Youth Quake" and their cover of T. Rex's "20th Century Boy." On the other hand, bassist Tommy Black makes for a great response to STP's Robert DeLeo, and with great basslines and fills found throughout the album, Black is the most interesting musical force to pay attention to here. And like STP's drummer Eric Kretz, drummer Danny Thompson never really steals the spotlight on the album, but holds his responsibilities on the album fine.
Though there are a few cases of "Blaster" sounding like STP - "Way She Moves" and "Bleed Out" could easily fit on "Tiny Music... Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop," and "Amethyst" sounds like it could be a revitalized rarity from the "Core" era - essentially, the goal of "Blaster" is to amalgamate the many rock influences Weiland draws from, rather than being a stark STP facsimile. These influences travel throughout the history of 20th-century rock - from the vintage garage rock sound (see "Modzilla" and "White Lightning"), and more commercial classic rock (see "Hotel Rio" and "Beach Pop") to the shiny guitar sound of the early alt-rock scene (see "Blue Eyes" and "Youth Quake") - and while The Wildabouts do a good job viscerally rocking out in numerous fashions, the underlying problem in this endeavor is that it's much more an emulation of these influences than it is a reimagining of them. Funky bass a la David Bowie is an integral part of "Modzilla," an Eagles-style guitar solo is heard in the end of "Hotel Rio," Springsteen-evoking piano keys prop up the heartland-rocky "Beach Pop," and the choppy melody in the opening of "Amethyst" is a distinct pastiche of the iconic opening in The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."
Lyrics — 7
Throughout the decades of his career, Weiland's gone from writing heroin-fueled poetry to writing about his struggles with drug addiction. With both topics being deemed a thing of his past, Weiland's lyrics in "Blaster" are mostly focused on relationships. In recounting the past, Weiland goes from portraying the saucy liaison with a paramour in "Hotel Rio" and looking back on stealing his dad's car to take his girlfriend to a show in "Beach Pop" with gleeful nostalgia, to detailing the unhealthy relationship with a former lover in "Bleed Out." But with Weiland's head and heart also wanting to focus on the present, numerous songs are about his wife - spanning from simply appreciating her aesthetic (like in "Way She Moves" and "Blue Eyes") to voicing how important their emotional support for one another is (like in "Parachute" and "Circles"). Weiland does save a spot on the album to address his feelings towards being forced out of STP, and although plenty would (and have) used opportunities like this to tear into their former bandmates with unbridled contempt, Weiland tastefully alludes to the issue with a Bob Dylan reference in the chorus of "Modzilla" ("well you might call it grace, but I'm still writing and cussin' like a rolling stone") to articulate the positive, seeing the closed door of STP as merely an opening of a better door.
Overall Impression — 6
On the plus side, "Blaster" wields a fair amount of rock variance, and the genuine energy of Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts is uncanny - it truly seems that Weiland is enjoying himself in this endeavor more than he could have if he were still in STP. But on the negative side, the music of "Blaster" is too dependent on tracing the lines of its many sonic influences, making the album feel more like a book report about musicians of the past rather than an album inspired by influential musicians of the past.