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Getting Away With It

The Finer Points of Outstaying Your Welcome, Starring Scott Weiland and The Game

Scott Weiland
The Game

By Raymond Cummings | Posted 1/21/2009

Scott Weiland is a nomadic rock 'N' roll wraith who spends his spare time accruing substance-abuse busts, dating an actress-turned-director, and cultivating a cosmetic metrosexuality. The Game is an embattled gangsta rapper who enjoys beef at every other meal.

These two have one thing in common: Each has overstayed his welcome but continues to enjoy mainstream success by luck, or by the grace of God. It isn't that Weiland's chameleonic over-emoting or Game's street hardness don't merit anyone's ducats, but in terms of both studio alchemy and tabloid foibles, neither brings anything especially crucial to the cultural table.

Sure, there's a comfort-food tinge to Weiland's grunge-era bleatings for listeners of a certain age; for some of us, songs like "The Big Empty" call up memories of teenaged Saturdays wasted pacing malls or college classmates who were a bit too into The Crow. While the guy deserves to mount every concert stage that'll have him, his hungry howls owe too much to Clinton-era mores--not to mention that the late Layne Staley and the reclusive Eddie Vedder pre-date him and mine(d) the same flannel canyons with more conviction.

The Game is newer to the national scene, and his problem is a bit different. He's a solid-enough spitter with gravel laced in his rhymes, he's got the street life bona fides to make you buy into his Cali-grit--dude won't shut up about the near-death coma, which he flaunts the way Kanye West used to prattle on about his car crash--and there's a gruff, pragmatic optimism pervading his verses that's compelling theoretically, if a bit shallow in practice. But Game hit rap a few years too late, and he's flipping through the Dr. Dre/Snoop/Death Row playbook--the gangsta chapters more so than the misogynistic ones--a gimmick one shouldn't base an album on, let alone an entire career.

In other words, pop music doesn't need either of these guys as much as they need it. They're analog players in a digital world, making unsustainable, diminishing-returns bank on the by-products of an era few have gotten around to missing just yet. Snicker at Xzibit and Dave Navarro if you must, but they saw the writing on the wall and sold out while the selling was good.

This may strike some Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver fans as sacrilege, but 1998 solo album 12 Bar Blues stands as Weiland's crowning achievement. It was a satisfying pastiche that leapt from touchstone to touchstone--electronica generally, PJ Harvey, David Bowie, even Neil fucking Diamond. Bristling guitar textures and solid performances tied Blues together nicely.

Ten years later, Happy In Galoshes (Softdrive) plays another game of spot-the-influence; whether or not you'll warm to his largesse depends on whether you cop the single-disc edition or the double-disc one. The former finds Weiland chewing credibly through a gussied-up Lagwagon imitation ("Missing Cleveland"), The Wall-era Pink Floyd-ian posturing ("She Sold Her System"), and disco preening ("Fame," which Of Montreal should cover, stat.)

The double-disc edition lards on stuff like dinky metal turd "Hyper-Fuzz-Funny-Car" and folk joke "Sentimental Halos." But schizo car-crash confessional "Paralysis"--a mirror, perhaps, of the singer's bi-polar disorder--enlivens both editions. The tune, which does for Weiland's DUI history what "A Wolf at the Door" did for Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's early aughts mugging, segues back and forth between Red Hot Chili Peppers palm-tree languor and country-rockin' end-zone blitz, mea culpas, and crumbling relationship details: "Did you think I'd be blind, because I walked in circles?/ I know you thought me unkind, cuz I tried to lead you through the minefield/ Instead, I led you to another."

By now, Game albums function as drinking game party aids. Try it yourself: Tilt your St. Ides every time he references some aspect of G-funk iconography or geography during LAX's (Interscope) 77-minute running time; you'll wipe out right quick. Game's perpetual allegiance to Dr. Dre's thug paradigm--despite the fact that the good doctor and his consort, including G-Unit, want nothing to do with him--has, by now, worn as thin as his inclination to crate-dive into hip-hop's sacred archives for raw material.

Production is where LAX really differs from 2005's Documentary and 2006's Doctor's Advocate: those Dre and Dre-sound-a-like car-speaker bangers are gone, replaced by a mish-mash of region-less, decent-if-not-revolutionary contributions by everyone from Nottz to Kanye West. New things we learn about Game: Deelishis was his favorite Flavor of Love contestant, he doesn't let the dust settle on his L.A. Lakers season ticket packages, and he's deluded enough to believe that bookending one's album with rambling prayers from addled has-been DMX is anything other than bad juju.

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