This has been in the works for a loooong time, I actually started it a few weeks ago and then got sidetracked, but it’s all worked out rather fortuitously because a brand spanking new video for the latest single has been released within the past couple of days, so actually the timing’s worked out rather well.
Anyway, I am of course talking about Apocalyptic Love by Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, AKA The Best Album of 2012 (True Fact). Fans will recall that Slash’s self-titled album of 2010 featured a variety of guest vocals from Ian Astbury, Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie, Chris Cornell, Andrew Stockdale, Adam Levine, Lemmy, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop and, of course, Myles Kennedy. Quite the line up! The album was very well received and made the top 5 in 9 countries according to trusty Wikipedia, although sadly only made it to number 17 in the UK, of which we should all be ashamed. Myles Kennedy is probably the most memorable guest vocalist to be associated with Slash, not only because he sang on the vocals for two songs, Starlight (which is one of my favourite songs ever) and Back From Cali, but also because he toured with Slash and delivered comparably powerful and yet far more reliable versions of Guns n’ Roses tracks than old Axl is able to knock out these days (while also arriving on time and refraining from insulting/angering the audience or storming off in a strop, I’m sure). In fact I have it on good authority that if you want to see a Guns n’ Roses gig, you should bypass Axl and his melodramatics and instead go to a Slash gig, where you’ll receive the big Gn’R classics alongside some cracking new tracks courtesy of the vocally talented and all round nicer chap that is Myles Kennedy. But that’s by the by.
Anyway, needless to say I was super excited to hear that Myles would be singing on every track on Apocalyptic Love, mostly because his voice and Slash’s magic guitar playing fingers are such a great combination that I don’t think they could fail to deliver if they tried, but also because they’d already produced a song that I absolutely adore, and I think we should just take a minute to appreciate it because it’s just bloody brilliant.
So, Apocalyptic Love. I will admit that the title is a little silly. I remember a radio presenter saying it could only be worse if it was called Post-Apocalyptic Love, but I quite like it’s cheesiness, it shows they’re not taking themselves too seriously while being simultaneously over-dramatic. (I do, however, find it incredibly difficult to say and type). Now, there are a few things to bear in mind with this album, the most obvious one being that it is first and foremost a Slash album and therefore features all kinds of technical guitar wizardry, all of which is wonderful, naturally. Secondly, it’s a great showcase for the incredible range of Myles Kennedy’s vocals, which really is quite unusual in its breadth. I dread to think what’s being squeezed to produce those high notes. Finally, and this is true of all rock albums but does need some emphasis here, it really does sound best when played LOUD. What’s the point of listening to such great music if you can’t share it with others and give your neighbours a musical education while you’re at it?
So far Apocalyptic Love has produced four singles, the fourth of which (which also happens to be my absolute favourite) was released only a few days ago, hence the super-new video (much to my joy). The first single You’re A Lie made it to number one on the US and Canadian charts. It’s a great choice for a first single, and so much fun to attempt to sing along to, although I must admit that I am lyrically confused by it. I just can’t work out if Myles is singing “You’re a lie” (as the title would suggest) or “you’re a liar”, or if he’s singing “you’re a lie” over the top of shouts of “liar”? I’ve found the best thing to do while singing is to just warble the word a bit, thus covering both bases. Alternatively, just make an indistinct wail, that works just as well. Anyway, lyrical confusion aside, it’s a cracking song with a real driving rhythm and guitar groove, and of course the crazy vocal range I’ve been waffling about. Like a lot of the songs on the album, it ends really cleanly, and I do appreciate a song with a distinct ending. I just can’t be doing with this fade out business or fake endings, I just don’t know how to adjust my bedroom karaoke sessions to fit. Give me a song with a good sharp finish any day of the week. I think it’s probably the best choice of songs for a first single, you really know what you’re getting with the whole album just by hearing one song, and that’s always pleasing.
Second single Standing in the Sun made it to number four on the US and Canadian charts, and for good reason. It’s quite the ear worm, and received an awful lot of radio play (if you listen to the right kind of stations of course, cough cough Planet Rock). It has all the right ingredients, great guitar solo, catchy singable chorus, nice little bridgey bit in the middle. Basically, it ticked all my boxes.
Bad Rain was single number three, and has the kind of rhythmic intro I really appreciate. It’s that sort of gritty, dirty guitar sound that I can never really explain, but is best summed up by “grr”. Again, this is another song to get stuck in your head for ages, with a really satisfying groove and good drive. This is definitely the sort of song I like to shoulder-wiggle to (yes, that is a technical term).
Now, I find this latest single really exciting because I just love, love, LOVE this song, and to be honest I don’t know why it wasn’t released as a single earlier! It’s called Anastasia and it just brings me so much joy, my neighbours must be very familiar with this one by now. (Trust me, you really have to crank it up with this one, it deserves to be appreciated at full volume). The video has only just been released and also makes me very happy, I’m so jealous of the crowd, they look like they’re having the most amazing time. When I started planning this review a few weeks ago (yes, I plan), one of the notes I made (yes, I make notes) said “Should have been a single!!” And now it is! And the fact of that makes me so happy, I just want everyone to listen to it and love it as much as I do. There are many reasons why this song is my absolute favourite. It’s got the combination of gentle acoustic intro going into stomping electric overdrive, which can be so hit and miss but when it’s done right it just works. It’s super catchy, has a great rhythm and a cracking chorus that is SO much fun to belt out at the top of your lungs. In a way it’s a song of two halves, although it flows so naturally. My absolute favourite bit (yes I have a favourite bit) is the first guitar solo leading into the last chorus, because it’s a great build for the second half of the song, which is a couple of minutes of lovely twiddly guitar bits after the singing’s finished. It’s just fabulous and I love it, and I don’t understand how anyone could ever not love it. In fact, I think I’ll play it again right now.
Another highlight (although obviously the whole album’s killer) is the title track Apocalyptic Love. As the title would suggest, it’s about squeezing in a bit of sexy time before “The End”, and is a really punchy way to kick off the album with another enjoyable guitar solo. Halo has quite the intro build and picks up pace to a really stomping chorus, with a fun sort-of-breakdown bit with voice effects on Myles’ part and more shoulder-wiggling on my part. Again, super catchy and enjoyable. Shots Fired is another song that I love (are you sensing a pattern?), it’s all gunslinger with such a good groove and, I think, a bit of a Velvet Revolver vibe. More punchy choruses, more dirty guitars, another fun sort-of-breakdown-bit – at the risk of sounding like a clichéd American teenager, it’s pretty badass. As Slash himself would say, R n’ Fn’ R! Then there’s One Last Thrill which is so fast I don’t have a clue what Myles is singing, but it sounds good. The rhythm in the verses sort of reminds me of Status Quo’s version of Get Out of Denver, although that’s probably just me. No More Heroes has a super fun twiddly guitar intro, but is a bit calmer. I’m not entirely sure what the lyrical message is meant to be, but it’s worth a listen purely for Slash’s guitarical genius (I am making that an adjective), and the variety of riffs and melodies he plays in just one song. We Will Roam is another slightly more gentle and laid back song, while Far and Away is even more toned down and as close to a ballad as this album gets. Not For Me starts gently but gets a bit more dramatic and stompy, while Hard and Fast is exactly what it says on the tin – it’s the shortest track with real drive, and another fun intro. To be honest, normally people say “all killer no filler” and I’ll nod politely while tending to disagree a tad, but there really isn’t a bad track on this album. Every song has a place, and it all really works together.
I got my copy of Apocalyptic Love in the Classic Rock fanpack, which means it not only came with two bonus tracks but also a full edition of Classic Rock devoted entirely to the album and artists, complete with a double sided poster and even (gasp!) a badge! Carolina is the first bonus track, it’s got a cool, smooth sound with some kind of guitar effect which I like but have no idea what it is. It might be a wah-wah because the noise it makes sounds a bit like wah-wah, which would make sense, but I know absolutely nothing about guitar effects so I just don’t know. (Please enlighten me!) The second bonus track is Crazy Life, which is a real feel-good and upbeat song and, I think, relates so well to what we’ve all heard of Slash and his Gn’R days.
There’s no debating the cold, hard truth, which is that this album is absolutely The Best Album of 2012. Hopefully this review has demonstrated that, but if you have any sense at all you’ll have already laid your hands on a copy, in which case you’ll know that this is a True Fact. Slash, and Myles, I doff my (top)hat to you sirs. Bloody well done.
Track listing: 1) Apocalyptic Love, 2) One Last Thrill, 3) Standing in the Sun, 4) You’re a Lie, 5) No More Heroes, 6) Halo, 7) We Will Roam, 8) Anastasia, 9) Not for Me, 10) Bad Rain, 11) Hard and Fast, 12) Far and Away, 13) Shots Fired. Bonus tracks: 14) Carolina, 15) Crazy Life.