Books

Slash by Slash, Anthony Bozza

Somewhere between Slash living the junkie-cum-rock star lifestyle and recounting that life, there is a profound disconnect.


Slash

Publisher: Harper Entertainment
ISBN: 0061351423
Author: Anthony Bozza
Price: $27.95
Display Artist: Slash, Anthony Bozza
Length: 480
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2007-10
Amazon

So what exactly is a rock 'n' roll “biography”? It’s usually a thinly veiled backstage pass with which readers can live vicariously through their heroes’ respective fame, fortune, and fate. And, depending on the notorious nature of the artist in question, such access is expected, rather than coming as a byproduct of a given subject’s life story.

Mötley Crüe set the tell-all bar quite high some years back with The Dirt, a raucous collection of war stories from one of music’s most infamous hell-raising bands. In Crüe’s case, a healthy amount of dirt was dished, confirming previously known exploits, as well as presenting illuminating new lows in debauched excessiveness. The book’s runaway success (and surprising crossover appeal) came from reaching, and subsequently surpassing, readers’ expectations.

Yet as dirty as The Dirt was, such cannot be said about Slash, the purported expose on the Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist’s life and times. Penned by Slash and author/journalist Anthony Bozza, the near 500 page tome carried much pre-publication promise for what it was to offer: Guns fans would revel in their band’s misdeeds to the same extent that Cruebees did with The Dirt; urban legends would be confirmed or debunked as to the band’s numerous breakdowns and ultimate break up; we’d hear all the nasty little secrets about the Guns’ legacy, in addition to being in the dive bars, strip clubs, five-star hotels, and shooting galleries that hosted Slash and his compadres.

Oh, to hear the lurid accounts of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, from the modern day Keith Richards! With sufficient fodder to become an instant classic, and potentially formidable rival to The Dirt, Slash amazingly -- no, inexplicably -- sounds flatter than a dead E string.

How could this happen? Slash’s story is rife with addiction, alcoholism, and membership in one of history’s most legendary groups. He may not be as technically (or inherently) skilled as Jimi Hendrix or Randy Rhoads, but his guitar playing bears a unique sound and texture, serving as the bedrock from which the Guns N’ Roses catalogue still resonates so strongly. Yet somewhere between Slash living the junkie-cum-rock star lifestyle, and recounting the same life, there is a profound disconnect; the writing is bland and lifeless, condemning a remarkable rise from gutter to penthouse to unsatisfying pedestrian status.

Blame it on Bozza’s inability to translate Slash’s tale into anything more than a static rock resume; blame it on Slash’s own methodical “voice” as he sifts through the drug and alcohol drenched memories; blame it on the publisher for not wanting more from the final draft, and casting a blind eye toward the numerous copyediting errors. But blame it on someone, for Slash could have been, should have been, so much more.

That's not to say the book is completely without merit. Admittedly, Slash displays an understated sense of humor when critiquing his Sunset Strip contemporaries during Guns N’ Roses initial lean days, referring to RATT's Stephen Pearcy as "a complete moron", expressing unmitigated disdain for Poison and Great White, or heaping praise (and admiration) on the hard-charging Crüe. Earlier on, the description of his quasi-vagabond childhood is interesting, from BMX-obsessed teen to drug and alcohol infused street urchin.

As a product of a bi-racial Bohemian couple, Slash certainly faced a multitude of social challenges; alas, he addresses his formative years with matter-of-fact candor, and rarely delves into any tangible substance, despite routinely delving into a variety of substances. It's established that once his passion for bikes was supplanted by guitars, he rapidly grew beyond his years, chemically, sexually, and musically. But once readers are served the platter of young Saul Hudson knocking around the LA scene, getting high, getting laid, and getting in tune, the collective appetite for destruction is quickly satiated, leaving the sordid tale ... well, somewhat yawn-inducing.

Even the recounting of Guns N’ Roses' meteoric rise and flame out lacks the true storyteller's sheen. This was a band after all, which dared to deviate from the prevailing Hollywood '80s Aqua Net curve, harnessing an intense, bluesy rage for its sound, and a grimy gutterpunk flair for its attitude. And it didn't take an eternity for Guns N' Roses to ascend from populating a decrepit storage unit/practice space to becoming the world's biggest, and baddest, musical commodity. That fact alone begged for thorough description and introspection, yet the Guns N’ Roses saga is presented primarily at the surface level, with Slash loping through the band's roughly five-year major label trajectory with minimal emotion.

And during this placid regurgitation, Slash's band mates are relegated to one-dimensional status. Bassist Duff McKagan is little more than a passive cardboard cut-out; guitarist Izzy Stradlin is painted with empty brushstrokes as an addict-turned-teetotaler; drummer Steven Adler is acknowledged to have been an original co-partner in crime, but with scant attention paid to his life-threatening descent into the post-Guns N’ Roses abyss. Secondary Guns N’ Roses members, Matt Sorum, and, more so, Gilby Clarke, are glossed over as mere footnotes to the saga.

Only vocalist/antagonist Axl Rose has any depth in Slash's story, and even then, it's far from substantial. He's given fairly even-handed treatment, yet is portrayed as obsessive, eccentric, and domineering. Yes, Slash, we know that. But how did your egos clash? At what point did Axl's penchant for grandiosity and bombast become insurmountably divisive? Did Guns N’ Roses really jump the shark when keyboards and back-up singers were added? And are readers to believe that your professional integrity was never compromised while under the influence? So many questions, so few answers.

With page after page of anecdotes and missed opportunities to tell more, perhaps the book's greatest shortcoming is its principal. Slash's status as functioning addict/alcoholic/guitar god is widely held (and often glorified), and it's not inconceivable that the decades of abuse have simply taken a toll on him. Maybe it's not that Slash can't tell his story well, but rather that he can't tell his story well, as the bulk of it has dissipated into a smoky haze.

His most recent creative endeavor, Velvet Revolver, is also given short shrift, despite it being commercially successful and critically acclaimed. And in a glaring bit of partisanship, Slash fails to elaborate on the unpredictability of vocalist Scott Weiland, caused by the singer's own track record of addiction and related eccentricities. If much of the Guns N’ Roses implosion can be laid at Axl's feet, then c'mon Slash, you need to deal ’em up straight and talk about how Velvet Revolver's fortunes are precariously tied to Weiland's avoidance of the daily police blotter.

Overall, Slash is a fast read, peppered with generic rock star snippets of overindulgence, with a passable history of a legendary band and one of its founding members. It isn’t on par with The Dirt, though Guns N' Roses fans will undoubtedly delight in their favorite axeman's tales of yore, indifferent to the depth, or lack thereof, within. But it can't be overlooked, that a person so integral to Guns N’ Roses' success, has failed to make the same impression on the literary world that he has on the music industry. With a robust 480 page framework to work with, Slash leaves a distinctly underwhelming impression ... not bad by any means, but far short of expectations.

4

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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