Every once in a while, a band comes along and manages to restore our faith in good ol’ rock n’ roll. Too much prog? Try The Ramones. Too much punk? Try thrash. Too much Limp Bizkit? Err, try suicide. After an entire decade of bands made of 50% hair and 50% hairspray, the world needed a change. Guns n’ Roses were ones to deliver everyone from them, and Slash was their patron deity. Sure, they borrowed a bit from the hair era, but it was, you know, so much better. Much has been written about Slash’s paradigm defining look and playing- the hard drinking, near death experience ridden, drug-addled guitar hero-in-a-top-hat image has endured, and the new GnR will always be incomplete for that reason.
Thankfully, Slash moved on, and formed the very vital Velvet Revolver with Duff McKagan and bulimic-cadaver-turned-rock-singer Scott Weiland. Now, freed of the bonds of band membership, he’s turned to making the solo record he always was meant to make. Initially, it was lamely titled “Slash and Friends”, but it’s since been shortened to just ‘Slash’. Whew.
So how does it stack up? ‘Ghost’ kicks off, with the standard guitar-soaked hard rock fare, that displays Slash’s still tasteful touch on the instrument. Excellent solo, but then what else is new? One of the notable things about this album is the huge number of guest stars, which is a good and a bad thing. It’s good, ‘cause it adds a lot of variety. It’s also bad, ‘cause I think Slash missed a trick here. Doing Motorhead-like-songs with Lemmy, and Iggy Pop like songs with Iggy “We’re All Gonna Die” (which is nonetheless very memorable) and Ozzy like tracks with Ozzy (“Crucify the Dead”), is kind of limiting. I would’ve been very pleasantly surprised if some of them had been taken out of their comfort zone and made to do something new in the service of Slash’s songs rather than the other way around. That’s why Fergie comes out so well. Aah, Fergie. She’s the surprise of the album, on ‘Beatiful Dangerous’. She gives an extremely sultry performance, with the half-rapped verses being genuinely powerful. This is the album’s song to fuck to. And Slash caps it all off with a great solo. Why isn’t she in a rock band?
Some of the songs veer on unimaginative, and a star cast of the best singers/bass players Slash can muster doesn’t necessarily save them. The guitar solo and the change in tone save ‘Promise’, but the rest of the song is fairly B-side-ish, and Chris Cornell does not save it. Same is the case with ‘Gotten’, which I feel should’ve been done by the much ballsier Fergie than Adam Levine, who seems out of his depth. The album’s biggest disappointment has to be ‘Doctor Alibi’, which completely ruins (RUINS!) Lemmy’s legendary voice by having him mouth juvenile lyrics. “You’ve got some real bad habits/ You’d better stop right quick”. Seriously? Thankfully, things quickly improve on the instrumental track “Watch This”, which features Duff McKagan and Dave Grohl and is full of twisted solos. It sounds like Jeff Beck and Velvet Revolver jumping into a vat of molten lava. There are some incredibly meaty riffs and some truly excellent soloing worth listening to over and over again.
As you might have noticed by now, I think this album is a bit of a mixed bag. There are a few great songs here, if you look deep enough, and Slash has clearly been playing guitar during his off days. And the Fergie song is understandably the lead single. It bloody rocks. At times however, it sounds like GnR 2.0, and at other times it sounds like Slash guesting on his guests’ records rather than the other way around. In the end, a mixed bag. This sounds somewhat right.