Buggles review

Slash's Snakepit - Ain't Life Grand

I duped a copy of the original Snakepit album several years ago, and for a long time it was a welcome addition to my car stereo, making any long distance freeway trip a little more bearable. It rocked as well and any G-n-R album and seemed free from the palpable tension and ego trips that, in my opinion, had dismantled the Gunner's "Use Your Illusion" albums. Snakepit sounded like pals jamming, just doing it for the fun of it. There were clearly no expectations that the band would turn into a permanent gig and I think that gave the whole project a certain fluidity it wouldn't have had otherwise.

And then, a couple of years later, Slash's Snakepit did become a "real" band and released a second album. I was dimly aware of it, and remember hearing that the original group had been entirely replaced with new members, but I laid off picking it up until several reputable friends ceaselessly promoted it to me. It turned out to be as good, if not better, than the first. The line up change had little effect on the music (which was primarily driven by Slash anyway) aside from the vocals gaining a guttural quality not found in original vox man, Eric Dover. Otherwise, the newer version supported Slash's bluesy sludge very capably.

So what's the appeal of the whole thing? I've been a big Slash fan since he first popped up on MTV with the high rotation G-n-R video for "Sweet Child of Mine." With his dangling cigarette, bottle of Jack and 50's style top hat, Slash defined the concept of "cool," encouraging me to make serious attempts at becoming both a blues guitar master and advanced alcoholic. (Neither goal was achieved.) I've always asserted that he's one of the most interesting characters in the pantheon of rock and roll and a creature of massive contradictions. There was no denying he was skilled musician but he seemed (in the days of the Gunners) quite willing to blow it all over drugs and booze. He was half black in a genre that defined white trash. (Of course the middle class rock critics and social philosophers at Spin and Rolling Stone have always hid from the fact that blue collar whites of the Kid Rock variety have far more social contact with blacks than they, themselves could ever hope to.) Amidst a scene filled with the blonde pretty boys such as Warrant or Poison, Slash seemed a dark, shaggy recluse who actively rejected the pomposity of hair metal for a genuine dedication to music. (Indeed, Slash auditioned for Poison in the mid eighties and rumor says he was rejected because he wasn't pretty enough.)

It's standard procedure in music reviews to do a cut by cut examination of the album, giving each selection an individual examination. With Snakepit's "Ain't Life Grand," I see little point in following that model, as the album is essentially one giant song. One giant, endless blues riff, broken up with distorted arpeggios, street wise lyrics, and Joe Perry-esque guitars solos. It may sound like a bad thing, indeed in lesser hands it would be, but under Slash's direction it succeeds. His sound is adamantly anti-now; there is no influence of hip hop or Nu-metal and Fred Durst would be as welcome here as he would at a meeting for the Feminist Majority. The album harks back towards the music Slash has always promoted, preaching the virtue of seventies rock apostles like Aerosmith (pre-sobriety); the New York Dolls and AC/DC. And on "Ain't Life Grand," "guitar solo" is not a bad word (allright, motherfucker... "words".) Slash salt and peppers every song with his usual tasty licks and bluesy fills while also manages to pull of passages that approach the technical mastery of Yngwie Malmsteen without sounding like a coke addled clod. (No mean feat!)

Ultimately, this is a pointless review. You knew before you read this whether you'd have any interest in buying (or downloading) this album. Such is the state of music that people purchase music based more on what it will say about themselves as opposed to whether they feel they will enjoy it. All I can say is: check it out... if you're not a douche!

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