Review Summary: Slash hides behind his friends when he should be taking the front seat.
Throughout musical history, collaborations have proven to be very hit-and-miss affairs, whatever the style of the artists concerned. We all remember classics such as The Pogues and Kirst MacColl’s Fairytale Of New York
, but there has also been a fair share of horrors that have given the practice a bad name (eg, Mark Ronson featuring… well…anyone). Collaborative albums can be even more hot or cold. Last year Chris Cornell took a massive dump on his legacy in releasing Timbaland produced Scream
, while on the flipside Gorillaz recent effort Plastic Beach
proves that the method can also be used to great success.
The album that is the subject of this review contains a bit of both worlds, and falls somewhere in-between in terms of end product. The names on the guestlist certainly can’t be faulted – in fact, on paper it’s one of the strongest you’re ever likely to see. Perhaps unexpectedly, variety is present with chart-dominating vocalists like Fergie, Kid Rock and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 lending their hands alongside rock royalty such as Ozzy Osbourne, Iggy Pop and Dave Grohl. Many fans won’t need any persuading to go out and buy this record, but a quick glance down the tracklist will certainly prove persuasive for more hesitant customers.
You may have noticed that this review has so far been devoid of any references to the actual artist whose name is stamped on the front of the record – Slash. This is because for the majority of his debut solo album proper, the legendary axeman takes a backseat, with much of the focus being on the aforementioned guests. In fact, up until mid-album fist-pumper Doctor Alibi
it's easy to forget that this is actually a Slash record and not a soundtrack, such is his relative redundancy. It’s not that his distinctive guitar sound isn’t showcased throughout the early stages, but there’s no evidence of the memorable riffs he pulled off frequently with Guns N Roses and to a lesser extent Velvet Revolver. There are, of course, the indulgent solo’s he is equally famed for, but again nothing really stands out up until this point, and as a result much of the opening half sounds lame instrumentally.
This mid-album highlight does, however, turn the tide a little, and from then on the record is far more in line with what you’d expect from one of rocks most iconic musicians. In fact, if everything here sounded like the instrumental that follows, Watch This
, the album would almost certainly be an unqualified success, with Slash’s aggressive metallic riffs combining with Dave Grohl’s typical powerhouse drumming and Duff McKagan’s chunky basslines to impressive effect. The rest of the second half carries on in a similar vein, with songs such as Nothing To Say
featuring far more interesting guitar work than anything from the early stages.
Unfortunately, this upturn in instrumental performance is not complimented by improved songs, and it is this more than anything else that lets the record down. The vast majority of the songs featured are simply generic meat and potatoes hard rock, with predictable structures and underwhelming performances producing fewer hits than misses. The cause certainly isn’t helped by a few lyrical misadventures either, with Iggy Pop’s corker; Gee, I really like your tits/I'll say anything that fits
only one of the more obvious examples of this problem. Sure, the collaborators may have been responsible for penning these words, but Slash could certainly have intervened to prevent certain moments of his album from becoming nothing short of laughable.
The idea of attracting such big names for his solo debut certainly wasn’t a bad one, but poor execution too often lets the record down. There are certainly some pairings such as that with Adam Levine on Gotten
that work well, but these are countered somewhat by moments like Fergie-featuring Beautiful Dangerous
that just sound awkward and rather forced. The sheer number of stars on show and the odd excellent moment make the album a whole passable, yet much of the music on offer leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, the fact that Slash is totally overshadowed by his guests much of the time somewhat defeats the point – it is supposed to be his album after all. Clearly he needs guests to perform full rocking songs, but too often here Slash seems content to take a back seat, and his album suffers as a result.
Nothing To Say