Monday, 19 April 2010

Slash, Slash (2010)

Slash’s debut album has been a long time coming. After Velvet Revolver’s hiatus Slash has finally released a solo project, which has his signature guitar-licked style stamped all over it. But is it any good? Enlisting the help from a vast array of high profile rock vocalists, (and some more pop based vocalists, to the dismay of others) drummers, guitarists and bassists, In many respects Slash has compiled a collection of songs all with very different styles, in a similar yet more mainstream approach to that of Tony Iommi’s first solo project in 2000, the founding member of Black Sabbath.

The album opens with Ghost, which has classic Slash on a blistering guitar riffed mission to the max with The Cult’s Ian Ashbury on vocals. There is a huge array of rock royalty on this album, from Ozzy Osbourne on slow builder Crucify the Dead, Audioslave’s Chris Cornell to Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolvers’ bassist Duff McKagen on the instrumental delight that is Watch This, creating a ‘one take’ face melter of a track that burns through the minutes in quick succession.

There is however another aspect to the album other than heavy rock and the swagger of past and present legends, which brings some unexpected guest vocalists to the table. One in particular is The Black Eyed Peas’s Fergie on Beautiful Dangerous, where it sounds as if she’s trying to actually emulate Axel Rose, which completely detracts from the force of the album, leaving it a little bittersweet. Kid Rock also brings a poppy/bluesy element to the album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t stand out as a great track by Slash. M Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold helps add closure to an album that has a good weight to it, encompassing some of the brilliant talents of Mr Saul Hudson (aka Slash) but with the mainstream vocals it’s almost as if other factors were at play when compiling the list of guest contributors. If you’re partial to big hair and bigger guitar riffs that hark back to the nostalgic rock of the 80s and 90s, then this is definitely the album for you. But be warned the mainstream aspects add a slight twinge of disappointment to an otherwise solid record.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders 'Red Light Fever' (2010)

The follow up album to the 2006 self titled debut Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, Red Light Fever shows greater confidence and is a deeper foray into the musical influences of the Foo Fighters’ drummer, where clearly from the outset the sound of the new album is slick, oiled up and full of stand alone energy. With the first album recorded in Drew Hester’s living room, the resident Foo Fighters’ fellow touring percussionist, he reprises his role as engineer on the second album, but this time with more musical friends and is recorded in the Foo Fighters' Studio 606.

Stand out tracks include Not Bad Luck, with its hard thumping, guitar-riffing and Queen-esque sound, Hawkins makes no secret of his musical idols, which is a joy to hear and know that musicians also idolise fellow musicians. Way Down, the first single off the album is effective at encapsulating the sound of the band in a nutshell. The drums are clearly prominent and concise, yet for a band whose lead singer is the drummer; they do not overpower the track or the album. The balance it seems is just right. There are elements of The Beatles on Hole In My Shoe too, and with Brian May and Roger Taylor on board it’s clear Hawkins has employed both his idols and influences to encompass an all round stand out record, that shows progress from the debut yet is still rooted in a passion for ‘70s rock and roll. With a UK release of Red Light Fever scheduled for later this month, and a world tour about to begin, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders are one side project that’s making waves around the world.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Alice in Wonderland 3D (2010)

Tim Burton’s most recent collaboration with Johhny Depp in the 2010 adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, was hyped with great anticipation, and I even found myself caught up in the excitement and buzz surrounding the newest film from one of Hollywood’s greatest offbeat directors. The adaptation of Carroll’s classic story of the same name about a girl who stumbles into a Wonderland could have been an excellent opportunity to put a Burton spin on the already highly imaginative tale.

Burton’s adaptation however is not taken from Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but rather from the sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, along with the poem Jabberwocky, and has thrust these three Carroll stories together and claimed them to be THE Alice in Wonderland. The Jabberwocky was even considered by many who read it to be the biggest load of nonsense ever written. Perfect then for Burton, who if past films are to go by was an excellent candidate to create a mind boggling interpretation of nonsense. Sadly, this awe inspiring adaptation never surfaced, and what we’re left with is a film caught in between a strange children’s fantasy story and a dark, intriguing and entertaining film for adults. In recent years Burton’s films struggled to decipher between the two worlds of children’s fantasy tales and adult motifs, (See Batman/Batman Returns and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) which don’t quite work and Alice in Wonderland is another example of this.

The combination of live action and animation doesn’t quite fit, and the green screen visual effects completely engulf the actors, leaving rather vacant expressions and a unpleasant taste in the mouth. Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska, does well to be the Alice from Wonderland who has no memory of said place, which for the benefit of Burton, allows him to explore the Wonderland (briefly) whilst not having to introduce the characters’ as new, or completely remake the remade Disney animated version in 1951. Burton’s 2010 Alice left me disappointed, in places bored and frustrated that the film did not live up to the hype. The 3D visual effects added little to the film, in some places actually made viewing more difficult and it acted as an unnecessary adage to the film. As a huge Pixar fan, (Dreamworks just doesn’t cut it for me) I enjoy animation and I accept that 3D cinema is sadly the way of the future, but after seeing the trailers before Alice started, I’d have been happy to jump ship and watch Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon in 3D. That’s saying something.