It's fashionable to knock Scott Weiland but it's almost too easy. His oversized mouth, life, and, antics have worn people out, making him something of a punch line. He is more famous for being famous than for any actual contributions he may have made along the way. Only the Dave-n-Sammy wars with the brothers Van Halen can top the embarrassing, immature episode that saw Weiland depart from his band of convenience, Velvet Revolver, to return to the smoldering ashes of his former band, Stone Temple Pilots.
Happy in Galoshes is a chaotic record that bears the scars of a decade of tumult. It's easy to lay the blame for the chaos at the creator's feet and to be sure some of it belongs there, but not all the wounds were self-inflicted. This is Weiland's first solo record in a decade, made during a period when he would feud with STP's former label, Atlantic Records and VR drummer Matt Sorum, end a marriage, and bury a brother. Last year, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Intermittent struggles with substance abuse and the consequences also continued to dog him.
It's no great surprise Weiland's music gets overshadowed, but it is a shame. He obviously had plenty of life experiences to draw upon when writing for the album, but decoding his lyrics is a distraction. The main reason to listen to any Scott Weiland record is to experience his gift for melody. I'm sure there are people who have memorized lyrics to STP and VR songs, but I'm not one of them. I'm lucky if I know the choruses. I can hum a few bars, though, and that's the gift of his music: melodies wrapped in an amalgam of shiny wrappers. Some are bloated and bombastic while others are spare. Even when the riffs are derivative and the influences are obvious, they all add up to something uniquely Weiland. Stepping out on his own with only his own ego to feed has allowed him to make the power pop record we should have always assumed he had him.
Before we examine the record, it's important to know there are two different versions of it. The single-disc edition is 12 tracks and is available everywhere, including Best Buy. Best Buy has an exclusive edition that is expanded to 20 tracks spread across two discs. The 2-CD edition is sequenced slightly differently, meaning this is not an album plus bonus disc packaging.
Both editions of the album open with first single “Missing Cleveland.” The first time I saw the title I wondered if he was kidding. I've never been to Cleveland, but I've also never heard anyone sing of missing it. The song sounds like something that would have fit nicely between STP's Purple and Tiny Music…From the Vatican Gift Shop, combining the fuzz and crunch of the guitar sounds of those two records. “Tangle With Your Mind” shines brighter. Weiland and collaborator Doug Grean again build the melody with layered vocals and guitars, but they shake up the power pop formula by unexpectedly adorning the song with banjo and dulcimer.
Other highlights include “Killing Me Sweetly,” a breezy, California pop song with gentle acoustic guitars and bossa nova rhythm and the bizarre, messy “Beautiful Day.” The electronic blips that open “Crash” mask the sensational power pop intentions of its chorus. “Sometimes Chicken Soup” is a silly title and Weiland's vocal strain is sometimes a bit off putting, but ultimately this is a lovely little number with a dopey title. The juxtaposition of banjo and electronic elements gives this great texture.
No STP or Velvet Revolver record is free from filler, and unfortunately those records were also often marred with the occasional flat out miss. The same is true on Happy in Galoshes. Weiland is an admitted disciple of David Bowie and that's actually one of the things I like about him. Weiland covering Bowie is a lot like Oasis covering The Beatles; casual listeners and catty rock critics already assume they're doing it on their original material so an actual cover is at best unnecessary. I'm neither the casual nor the catty fan, but even I can't excuse what he did to Bowie's “Fame.” On an album where nothing should sound out of place, “Fame” clearly does. His cover of The Smiths' “Reel Around The Fountain” is less awful but it adds nothing to the album.