In the pantheon of guitar heroes, certain names rise above the rest. Hendrix. Clapton. Page. Beck. Van Halen. But once you get out of the '60s and '70s and into the guitar-crazy '80s, consensus is less clear.
Still, one player who emerged from that decade's hedonistic excess has achieved icon status. He's the cat in the black velvet hat: Slash.
Though the former Guns N' Roses axe-slinger has had his own band (Slash's Snake Pit) and has played in Velvet Revolver since 2004, this self-titled release actually marks his solo debut. It's a guest singer-rich effort (Kid Rock, Fergie, Ozzy Osbourne and Chris Cornell, among others) drenched in Slash's signature sound: the unmistakable crunch of his Les Paul through a dimed Marshall.
Are his songs' lyrics as drenched in rebellion as the GNR hits he's arguably still best known for?
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
"Back From Cali" delivers a cautionary narrative about the Sunshine State's potentially destructive influences. "I'm tired and broken and I lost my way," sings Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy. "I got to leave this angel city/But I can't do it by myself."
"Promise" recalls a woman in whom "heaven's light shined down" and encourages her not to let hardship douse her spirit ("Promise me," sings Cornell, "You won't let them put out your fire"). "Gotten" finds Maroon 5's Adam Levine hoping against hope for a second chance with "the person I adore." But her self-destructive ways have undermined that possibility ("I can't save you/If you don't let me"). Kid Rock voices similar sentiments on "I Hold On."
"Nothing to Say" grapples with faith, doubt and denial. Regarding the latter, M Shadows, from Avenged Sevenfold, sings, "We won't hear the answers 'cause we're scared of what we'll find/ … We try and compensate through our troubled faith/ … and keep searching for a sign." The oddly poignant "Starlight" personifies interstellar illumination as a woman who watches with disappointment as humanity repeats the same mistakes ("She is watching, heart aching with sorrow").
Easily the most problematic moment here is Iggy Pop's obnoxious contribution to "We're All Gonna Die." Facing said fate, he tells a woman, "Gee, I really like your t-ts," counsels drug use ("Let's get high") and talks of public urination ("I wanna whip it out and pee on the ground"). Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmeister offers an unapologetic ode to hard living despite a doctor's suggestion that he change his ways ("Doctor Alibi"). That song also includes a reference to a "shaman." Fergie oozes suggestively teasing sensuality on "Beautiful Dangerous."
On "Crucify the Dead," Ozzy voices Slash's bitterness regarding his relationship with GNR frontman Axl Rose: "We had the same dream/Lived life to the extreme/A loaded gun jammed by a rose," Ozzy sings. "Your ego cursed you 'til you bled/You cannot crucify the dead/To me you're dead." "Nothing to Say" apparently criticizes both God and Christianity ("All hail the mighty father/But love will keep you blind/ … The greatest story ever told/Is only what you make it").
A cry for help on "Back From Cali" includes a profanity: "So if you please, mama, save me/Before I blow this life to h‑‑‑." The album art alludes to the f-word.
Compared to the Guns N' Roses' nihilistic 1987 debut, Slash has come a long way. More songs than not on his solo debut include thoughtful, positive observations about life. Which makes the noxious moments all the more maddening. Slash might not have known better 23 years ago. But there's evidence here to suggest that he does now. Alas, rock 'n' roll rebellion is a hard habit to completely break.