Ok – after almost 30 years, it’s time to come clean.
Slash wasn’t ever my second cousin.
It started (of course it did) with two horny 14-year-old boys who fancied the Austrian exchange student we had at school for a fortnight. We were at lunch and this girl (for the life of me I can’t remember her name) said that she really liked Guns N Roses. The “Use Your Illusion” albums had just come out – they were everyone’s favourite band then – and the next words out of my mouth haunted me for years after: “oh really,” I said. “Slash is my second cousin.” My best mate – the same one then as now – to his eternal credit, went with it too. And I perpetuated the lie throughout the rest of my school career, even claiming I had been backstage at Wembley Stadium gig when Skid Row supported (I wasn’t even there, my late mother wouldn’t let me go. That was how rock n roll we were….) but didn’t take pics as “Slash, you see, doesn’t like the publicity.”
The problem was I could back this almighty bollocks up with flimsy facts. I was born in Stoke on Trent (where everyone thinks Slash is from) and my nan’s maiden name was really Hudson, just like his real name. That, though is as far as it goes. To be honest, considering Slash is just about the coolest man on the planet, its doubtful that he ever resorted to such bullshit to pull girls. My problem you see, is I could never play the guitar. It’s hard to look cool when your ears stick out like mine and you can’t pull off a top hat.
And there’s that moment on every Slash album where he does it. That solo that only he does that proves he’s still the best. And you don’t have to wait long for it on “Living The Dream” either. It’s on the first song “The Call Of The Wild” and, brothers and sisters, that means the boy is back
He’s back with the same Conspirators as before. Myles Kennedy sounds better here than on the dull stuff Alter Bridge do, and he’s back with an album that – like the last “World On Fire” one works on the principal that there’s never enough bombast, and that if less is more than just think how much more more would be.
But it is striking that the lyrics seem a little bit more raw this time. On “…Wild” for example, there’s a line about the modern world that chimes: “it’s an aggravation, it’s a mystery,” offers Kennedy, “so many find their solace in technology. An abomination. It’s a new disease. The time has come to power down and breathe…” but, there’s always been a warts and all reality to the “Slash” sonic brew, and although this is a modern sounding, crisp, arena ready production, then there is here too.
There’s a menace in the groove of “Serve You Right” and just like always with Slash, there’s a song on here that is just about the best you’ll hear anywhere in 2018. This time it’s “My Antidote” “I guess I’ve been defined by my condition, I guess I’ve been defined by what they want…” is a striking first line, but more than that, it is everything that modern classic rock (if that is a phrase) should be.
To continue the idea that this record takes everyone to different places than before, there is a Southern rock tinge to “Mind Your Manners,” and there’s something of the Soundgarden about “Lost Inside The Girl”, which broods moodily.
Being totally honest, I’ve always preferred Slash when things are rocking and rolling, “Read Between The Lines” does that, but on its own terms, “Slow Grind” has a bit of bluesy boogie, before opening out with some swinging bass that hits like an Anthony Joshua right hook, and, as if to counterbalance this, there is real, genuine emotion in the words: “I am a desperate man, who longs to stop the aching, I am a desperate man who longs to find someone” this is not the drug taking, hooker shagging of the 80s, this is, perhaps, the fallout.
“Driving Rain” is more like the expected. A sort of Black Stone Cherry thing, it stomps, merrily and noisily about its work, “The Great Pretender” does its best to reprise “Don’t Cry” (it does a good job too) and “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams” sounds epic enough to reach for the sky – but still does its work in three and a half minutes.
Although this is shorter than “World On Fire” (which would have been album of the year if it had trimmed the fat) there’s still the throwaway one which stops it being a 10/10, the one here is “Sugar Cane” – which sounds like a GnR b-side (no bad thing, but this record has so much better).
So Slash, then? Still “Living The Dream” after all these years, and still absolutely awesome. And most definitely not related to me.