Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Slash - Ain't Life Grand
(Koch '00)

Featuring a whole new band of ragtag 'Merican rock warriors (seem like nice regular guys), Snakepit '00 (and indeed '99: this was recorded last summer) is a big general rock thing that does loud soulful sparked stadium rock right. And it's not insignificant that Jack Douglas produces the thing, Ain't Life Grand coming off as a seamless, corporate but warm cross between Aerosmith, G'NR and classic rock styles that are influenced by funk, vocalist Rod Jackson reciting soul history from Otis Redding to Lenny Kravitz, really putting a dimension to the album which steers it from what might have been quite G'NR without him. Many styles, all of them proud, robust, boastful, roaring, positive arena rock, even the mellower moments paying rent like a good Aerosmith album, adding to the cohesion through full electric arrangements, resulting in a record of elaborate self-contained vignettes which cohere effortlessly due to Rod, Jack and of course Slash's fluidity and tone, neither of which have changed one iota since Axl hassles. Feels like winning, sounds like rock stars the way they used to make them: laughs, light conversation, long hair, music for pleasure.
Rating 8.5

Life Of Agony - Unplugged At The Lowlands Festival '97
(Roadrunner '00)

Second and stated to be the last of the post-break-up Life Of the Agony documents, Unplugged offers four different situations. Track 9 is a remakes of Other Side Of The River, Seasons is a rocking recent live track (97), and tracks 10-15 are sweaty, despairing, foul-mouthed live tracks from early '94. But the centerpiece is the uncut 40 minute mellow set (not really unplugged) that comprises the first eight tracks. Recorded at the side tent at a big festival (the band played full-on doom-stomping for 15,000 the night before), this strikes me as the way the band was going, definitely Keith. And they do a good job of it too. It feels like mellow Soundgarden and at times Agents Of Oblivion. Keith can croon and his band get through the uneventful, casual arrangements without incident. Kind of depressing. Cool band that just drifted apart, the future plans of its individuals explained fully in the liner notes.
Rating 7

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