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WELL I’LL BE DAMNED: SLASH ACTUALLY RELEASED TWO GOOD SONGS IN ONE DAY

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Between his suicide-inducingly awful rape of “Paradise City,” his unveiling of the best cover art of 1988, and his general campaign to embarrass himself in public, I’d pretty much assumed that Slash’s new, self-titled solo album was going to be about as enjoyable as life as one of Axl Rose’s shirts. But on Friday Slash released not one, but two songs – one the first single for said solo album, the other a benefit track for Haiti – both of which, to my complete and total amazement, are really quite good.

We’ve actually heard a kinda lackluster live version of the album single, “By the Sword,” which features vocals by Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale. I tend to come from the Mike Patton school of thinking with regards to Wolfmother, but for whatever reason, Stockdale’s Robert Plant impersonation doesn’t bother me one bit here – in fact, I really like his performance, even if the lyrics are pretty dumb (Sample: “With the horses that you ride/And the feelings left inside/Comes a time you need leave all that behind.” Leave what behind? The horses? The feelings? The horses and the feelings? ‘Cause I think a man could reasonably part with one or the other, but BOTH? P’shaw!). But the riff is so catchy that it’s been stuck in my head for most of the weekend, and the guitar solo is epic, bluesy, classic Slash, the kind of thing that reminds me why I had this dude’s poster on my wall when I was an adolescent:

Then there’s this “Mother Maria” song, which is part of the Download to Donate for Haiti compilation. The vocals are by Beth Hart, with whom I’m not really familiar, but she sounds pretty good to me. It’s pretty much a coffee-shop song, but it’s a really good coffee-shop song:

These two tracks show Slash aging gracefully, and prove that when he just chills and sets out to make something for the classic rock set – e.g., not an attempt to appear hip by following decade-old trends, or a too self-conscious stab at recreating his heyday – he is capable of making good music in the 21st century. Saul Hudson was a child of the 70s anyway – might as well accept it.

In fact, I like these songs so much that, moving forward, I’m going to try this thing called “optimism” when considering his solo album. I’m not sure if it’s really for me, but all the kids say it’s just tops!

Slash’s Slash comes out in April on EMI. Download to Donate for Haiti is out now.

-AR

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