Friday, April 30, 2010

Slash - Slash [music review]

* Released April 6th
Slash is billed as the top hat aficionado and iconic guitarist's first solo album, which is somewhat misleading, as his Slash's Snakepit outfit put out albums in 1995 and 2000 (It's Five O'Clock Somewhere and Ain't Life Grand, respectively). That project might have consisted of Slash and a set band, but there's no doubt that Saul Hudson (his birth name) was calling all the shots. Their debut release produced a handful of decent tunes, but neither album warranted much revisiting on the CD player. His latest uneven set ends up being doomed to suffer the same fate, only being saved from the ignominy of a used CD store trade-in by the fact I bought an autographed copy online from Newbury Comics (check out my post about them here).
The album was written and recorded during the downtime brought on from the inactivity from Slash's main gig, Velvet Revolver, who have been spinning their wheels the last couple of years looking for a replacement for departed vocalist/diva Scott Weiland. This time around he goes the Carlos Santana route, working with an array of mostly well-known vocalists from different genres, anchored by a rhythm section of bassist Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction, Alanis Morissette) and Josh Freese (Jane's Addiction, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, and uh, latter day Guns N' Roses...how's that for symmetry?) that plays on all the tracks but one. The songs were mostly assembled via a lot of back and forth/long distance writing between Slash and the guest vocalists, each of whom receive a writing credit on their respective song (Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge is the only singer who appears on more than track).
Here's a sequential, track-by-track review, with the guest vocalist's name in parentheses:
"Ghost" (Ian Astbury): Easily the best song of the bunch (by a landslide) and one that wouldn't have been out of place on Astbury's band's (The Cult) previous couple of albums. A complex, creeping guitar line snakes its way through the song, acting as a badass counterpoint to the straightforward power chords that also populate the track. Former GNR bandmate Izzy Stradlin contributes additional guitar (the only guitar on the album that isn't from Slash), offering a welcome (if too brief) glimpse of the memorable guitar interplay the two created on the classic Appetite For Destruction, which still hasn't lost any of its edge, even after 23 (!) years.
"Crucify The Dead" (Ozzy Osbourne): Pretty standard Ozzy fare, although Slash's solo is one of the better ones on an album loaded with top notch guitar work. I've been an Ozzy fan for a good 30 years now, but I must admit that my level of interest in his musical career has been eroding the past few years faster than the brain cells in the Ozzman's noggin. Is it me, or has his voice always been this grating?
"Beautiful Dangerous" (Fergie): This musical pairing has garnered the most attention from the album, much of it negative and questioning Slash's willingness to work with such a hack. In my opinion, Fergie's group, the Black Eyed Peas, have concocted some of the worst musical (and fashion) atrocities in recent memory ("My Humps" anybody?). That said, the woman does have a decent voice. Her appearance with U2 and Mick Jagger on the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert was completely overrated, though. Here, she acquits herself competently, bringing an all-too-familiar level of skankiness to the lyrics and vocal delivery.
"Back From Cali" (Myles Kennedy): I wasn't very familiar with this musician, except for knowing he was being touted as a replacement for Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin (that may be a dream gig, but dude, are you nuts?) and that he fronted Alter Bridge, which 3/4 of Creed formed after that band mercifully imploded. Kennedy has an extremely strong rock voice, which gets a full workout on this slower bluesy number, that, appropriately, has a definite Zeppelin feel.
"Promise" (Chris Cornell): Cornell sings on the album's second strongest track, covering familiar Audioslave and Soundgarden territory and thankfully steering well clear of anything resembling the colossally misguided musical direction he went in on his recent solo album, Scream (read my, ahem, less than kind review here).
"By The Sword" (Andrew Stockdale): An acoustic slide delta blues intro gives way to Slash's classic, full-on, Les-Paul-through-a-Marshall-stack onslaught. Shame about the vocals, though...Stockdale's (from Wolfmother) vocal style is an unwelcoming, whiny reminder that the world already has one Jack White. That's more than enough, thank you.
"Gotten" (Adam Levine): As if lyrics like "You just get me like I've never been gotten before" weren't bad enough, it's even worse that they're coming out of the mouth of Adam Levine, singer from the butter-knife-dull, smooth rock band Maroon 5. Other than a few tasteful licks here and there, this cut does the least to showcase Slash's musical identity.
"Doctor Alibi" (Lemmy): Yet another example of a musical collaboration from this album coming off as half-baked filler.
"Watch This": This track is an instrumental that features a pretty impressive rhythm section of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) on drums and Slash's GNR and Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagan. Unfortunately, Grohl declined Slash's invite to sing on the track, which leaves us with a song that has a good groove, but the aimlessness inherent to most instrumental music. By far, the most disappointing song on the album, given the talent involved.
"I Hold On" (Kid Rock): After enjoying Kid Rock's music back when he first made a name for himself, I completely lost interest for a good decade before rediscovering him last year. It'd be an understatement to say that this track is nothing special, however.
"Nothing To Say" (M. Shadows): Things get a lot heavier on this one, as you'd expect for a song involving the lead vocalist of metal band Avenged Sevenfold. Slash and Shadows may have brought the heavy, but they left behind the quality.
"Starlight" (Myles Kennedy): A passable power ballad.
"Saint Is A Sinner Too" (Rocco DeLuca): The shit sandwich gets even thicker with this terrible number that has Slash shelving the electric guitars and keeping it totally acoustic. DeLuca, relatively unknown, does himself no favours by laying heavily on the falsetto, resulting in a song that I knew I'd never want to hear again before I even hit the one minute mark. It wouldn't have salvaged the end result, but Slash originally wanted Radiohead's Thom Yorke to sing on it. What happened? "I didn't have the balls to call him", as he said in a recent interview. It's nice to know that even superstars get starstruck once in a while, too.
"We're All Gonna Die" (Iggy Pop): The album's final track stems the tide of mostly putridness that preceded it to at least exit on a high note. Iggy brings a looseness to the song that is sorely lacking on the rest of the album.
Stylistically, the album is all over the place and just far too overreaching. For the most part, Slash steers the sound of each track too much towards the style and comfort zone of the specific vocalist he's partnered with, which ends up leaving the album feeling more like an assembled group of vocalists who put together a project with Slash as the guest guitarist on each of the tracks than the other way around. In the end, there's simply a serious lack of memorable tunes and the whole endeavour comes off feeling like a highly forgettable vanity project.
Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

2 comments:

  1. Overall, I liked this album a lot more than you but would have to agree with your top three tracks – Ghost and Promise. I love to crank Ghost in a quiet room and watch people jump.

    The Kid Rock track is pretty decent but I was surprised by your hatred toward Fergie. Wow! At least you recognize that she has a great voice and that is all that matters when you're listening to the music isn't it? I thought this was a music review and not a music video or fashion review?

    Yeah the disc is all over the place but that is what makes it interesting. I'll take whatever new Slash music I can get these days. This disc fits the bill for me.

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  2. Are you serious? Musical talent doesn't mean much if you apply it to songs that are RIDICULOUSLY crap, which the Black Eyed Peas are.

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