Style: Alternative/Hard Rock
Release Date: 11 Feb 2022
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I've heard some prior material by the surprising but vibrant collaboration between Slash of Guns n' Roses fame and Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, but with the latter's backing band, known as the Conspirators. I couldn't tell you which songs, but I certainly haven't heard any of the three albums they've put out previously. Given how this one plays out, I should find those, because the team up is a fascinating one.
I've read that they were aiming for a slightly different sound this time out, so went to Nashville to work with a country music producer, Dave Cobb. While they seem to be happy with his work and I'm not going to complain about it, I'm not hearing any overt country influence here. The album starts out as alternative rock, played in a mildly grungy, downbeat vein with odd moments of perkiness. I found this a little odd in the opening two songs, as it felt like two halves of the collaboration going in different directions. As it ran on, those two sides came together more and more, bringing in an eager hard rock edge and ending on a sublime note with a fantastic closer.
Those two openers are The River is Rising, the album's first single, and Whatever Gets You By. The former really isn't my sort of thing until Slash gets serious a couple of minute and change into the song, when everything gets lively and joyous. It seems all too brief a moment, because it shifts on back into the alt rock vibe it had established, but fortunately it comes back a minute later to take the song home. Slash livens up the latter too, not just with his solo but the build into it. It's worth mentioning that neither is a lively song otherwise, so Slash's contributions, as joyous as they are, make these tracks feel schizophrenic.
However, C'est la Vie is perkier from the outset and the rest of the album gradually agreeing to be a more upbeat affair, ditching the pessimistic cloud so often a feature of American alternate rock since grunge and allowing in at least a little of the party vibe that Guns n' Roses had so much fun with. Talking of Slash's old band, Fill My World starts out in that sort of style, though it moves into becoming a Bryan Adams sort of straight ahead rock song with perhaps a side of Journey. It was a second single off the album and, to my thinking, the most obviously commercial song here, though it runs longer than the traditional three minutes.
I liked a lot of moments in the second half. The riff that kicks off April Fool is firmly Guns n' Roses in approach but with a very different backing band. The unbridled passion of the third single, Call Off the Dogs, suggests that the Conspirators decided that may be they want to be Gn'R after all (or, when it gets to the prominent bass in the midsection, Motörhead). If Slash played the odd one out on the opening tracks, Myles Kennedy definitely takes that role on this one without remotely attempting to sound like Axl Rose. However, not one of these songs matches Fill My World until we get to the closer, which is easily my favourite song here.
That's Fall Back to Earth which initially feels almost like a tame way for the album to wrap up, but it really builds and turns into quite the epic. At six and a half minutes, it's a minute longer than Fill My World, which in turn is a minute longer than anything else on offer. Most of the songs are lean and occasionally mean, but this one has every intention of taking as long as it takes and it's all the better for that. It's definitely an older school song than anything else here, building gloriously in a way more typical of the seventies than the nineties, and featuring some really nice mixing of high vocal notes and soloing guitars.
Attempting to put all of that together, I'd say that 4 is a journey of an album, inconsistent in approach but interesting all the way. There's nothing I'd call out as bad, even acknowledging that much of it was recorded live in the studio, little mistakes included, but not all of it works. At least they follow the good old showbiz maxim of leaving us wanting more, by wrapping up with the real highlight of the album that prompts us to go right back to track one and start all over again. Not that it could have gone anywhere else on the album, of course. I haven't heard anything so obviously a closing track in a long while. It's certainly what I'm taking away most from this album.
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