GUNS 'N' ROSES' globe-spanning “Not In This Lifetime” tour will have finally come to an end in 2018, after more than two years of activity, having performed to over 4 MILLION people worldwide. For all of that time it’s been one of the most exciting things happening in rock music in recent memory, despite the fact that it’s been about 30 years since the height of the bands popularity. Excitement aside though, was the tour a fully-fledged success? Was it executed as well as possible for a mega rock revival? Having put together a review of sorts; taking into account the comeback’s roll-out, other reviews of specific shows, and the trajectory the whole journey established, we’ll take it point by point and find out whether or not these guns were firing blanks, or if these roses were once again in full bloom...Maryland's John Jameson elaborates.
The band’s revival officially kicked off at COACHELLA in 2016, as the group sought successfully to shock fans by showing off the reunited duo of AXL ROSE and SLASH. That alone was enough to create a frenzy, who would have ever thought it possible?But it did draw plenty of attention to the show. As for the actual quality of the show, reviews were mixed. Some suggested that nostalgia carried the day, and that while the performance lacked some sort of, trademark injury, it was all-in-all a good listening experience. Others (Such as The San Diego Union Tribune) were more critical, suggesting that the band had aged and grown tame to a degree that made them less than themselves. Oddly, the LACK of dysfunctional nonsense that once defined the band was cited as a negative. All in all we’d say that given the reasonable level of expectation, it all went well - even if it wasn’t as wonderful as it could have been. Essentially, while lacking to some degree, it was still very welcome. [Rating: Just Okay]
Back-tracking from the actual debut show at Coachella, it’s worth recalling any build-up to the Guns N’ Roses reunion too - even though there was in this case practically none. The closest thing there was to a hint or clue, came in the form of an ambiguous, seemingly random highlight reel played as a cinema trailer of sorts in December of 2015. Those paying VERY close attention to all things G'N'R may also have noticed a band-based casino slot game becoming popular around this time as well, though it’s unclear if this was a direct publicity effort from the band. Online slot sites these days tap into all sorts of themes, such that the most fun and lucrative thing about them is the variety. In this vein, G'N'R 'headlined' a game, as did MOTORHEAD and JIMI HENDRIX, and intentionally or not, this may too have played into revving up excitement about the band. However, there was very little direct or overt build-up. As successful as the tour has been, it may have been even more exciting with some kind of anticipatory energy. [Rating: Poor]
This is the broadest category, and the one that matters most, though also the simplest to comment on. As with any band in any tour, Guns N’ Roses by all accounts had varying levels of energy from one night to the next throughout this tour. You can easily dig up reviews of specific shows lamenting the group’s lack of enthusiasm, as well as some praising G'N'R for being as good as ever. The truth of the matter is that it’s largely a matter of perspective. There are even divergent reports about the economics of the show. You may read that the shows aren’t selling out, for instance, but some of this is explained away by the fact that limited seats were available in lots of the larger venues, and the argument is offset by the fact that the show was by most any numerical degree an enormous success. Ultimately, what happened is that an aging, past-its-prime rock group took to the road for two-plus years and rocked concert venues around the world. OF COURSE they weren’t AS good as they were once upon a time. But they were still good. [Rating: As Good As Can Be Expected]
It’s reasonable to argue that the most successful aspect of the “Not In This Lifetime” tour will in the end have been the anticipation it built up for future endeavors. While build-up for the tour itself may have been lacking, Guns N’ Roses has now set the stage for any subsequent album releases or additional tours it may be planning. The band has been fairly tight-lipped about future plans to this point, but it doesn’t take a psychic to guess that a new album will almost certainly be released in due time. And because of these last two years, there will be untold millions of fans ready to send it to the top of the charts the moment it comes out. So as for establishing potential, there’s really nothing negative to say. [Rating: Perfect]
Beige; such a vibrant colour…it’s got so much depth and character, it’s such an interesting and thought-provoking colour…said absolutely NO ONE ever. Beige is usually only found in the unused dust covered section of the B&Q paint chart, or in the mug-shots of Burberry-clad young offenders, but more often than not it’s used descriptively as a negative, aimed at only the blandest, most unexciting things you can think of…and this is where today’s band comes in; let me introduce you to a band called SCRATCH.
Yep, that’s right, Scratch…just Scratch, what an utterly unimaginative name…people mock HIM but at least that’s representative of the occult, but Scratch? I mean, scratch what? My arse? I dread to think of the names you thought WEREN’T good enough! Anyway we’ve only just scratched the surface…see what I did there? THAT’S ABOUT AS GOOD A USE FOR YOUR NAME AS ANY! PUNS! I digress…the band consists of members Ruzbeh Irani and Avinash Lalwani, (Ruz and Avi for short) and not only are they band mates, but childhood friends, yet what DOES make things interesting, is the fact they live thousands of miles apart, in New York and Perth, Australia respectively! This however, is literally all the info we’re given…you may think they were keeping the initial email brief, but no! I’ve checked their Facebook profile AND their actual website and that’s ALL the information! Even their bio is beige! It’s like they aren’t even trying! I’m losing interest already, but, it IS their debut EP so I’ll put it down to inexperience…what’s the EP called…”Scratch”…it’s self-titled…DAMNIT ARE YOU THAT PROUD OF THAT NAME!?!?! Let’s check it out before I burst a blood vessel…
We open up with “Soak” (I'm surprised it wasn't "Sniff") and initially it’s as though we’re heading into country blues-rock territory, but it quickly erupts with a grandiose post-rock dose of tinny guitar and percussion…the vocals are interesting in the sense that, while initially weak, they are belted out in the chorus, giving the track multiple personalities. The pitch of the backing vocals in places however is excruciating, and over its five minutes it crams in a fair amount of style, simultaneously sounding like it’s lost somewhere between U2, RADIOHEAD the PSYCHEDELIC FURS, there’s a very alternative 90’s vibe to this. “Newer Things” follows up and continues the soft vocal delivery over some light indie tones, before again cranking it up for the chorus, allowing for more vigour and general energy from the instrumentation with a slightly more distorted guitar sound, it’s quite 50/50 really.
Next up we have “I Don’t Mind” and they’re happy to point out that it’s the first song they wrote as a band and that it’s one of their favourites…carrying forward the initial soft country blues tone to the guitar, coupled with the mellow vocals, it’s got that saloon vibe to it…you can picture the montage right now; the lone outlaw slowly strolling into town at dawn, drinking liquor and smoking cigars…the subtle attitude of the electric guitar creating an aura of suspense and this is easily the best track on the EP right here, before we finish up on “The Key”. A slow, methodical and utterly lifeless track that just drones on pointlessly with a repetitive riff and a grating, brassy guitar tone, seriously it’s so drowsy…that is until the intense almost punk-rock flurry of the chorus, but sadly these elements don’t complement each other, oh no, this song just feels broken…descending into a barrage of noise at the tracks climax. Was the key in question referring to the intake of cocaine? Because this song literally sounds like they did a studio take of before and after sniffing…ultimately Scratch sound like a band with a multitude of influences, but they’ve yet to settle on an idea as to what they want their sound to be…this sounds very trial and error. Truthfully they’d make a genuinely decent shoegaze based, blues country outfit should they keep things mellow and melodic, but the jarring rock instrumentation and rough vocals don’t benefit them at all. I guess you could say that, they should…start from scratch, which reminds me…FOR THE LOVE OF FUCKS SAKE CHANGE YOUR NAME! 
Now, if you’re from the UK then you are BOUND to know someone, who, when you merely mention the Polish, that will go all South Park on your ass and start shouting “Dey terk er jerbs!!”…but we’re not here to highlight immigration fearing UKIP voting redneck folk, no, we’re here to talk music, and today’s band just happens to be from Warsaw, Poland; Let me introduce you to THE FREUDERS. The four-piece (Consisting of vocalist / guitarist Tymon Adamczky, guitarist Olek Adamski, drummer Jacek Lodi Piatkowski and bassist /programmer Maciek Witkowski) got in touch with me via email and asked me to check out their newest EP by the name of “Omniform”…the tracks have been described as being 4 atoms, distances apart but ready to collide together to exude the powerful force that is this EP, emanating in a metaphorical black hole, sucking you in to the music. That’s a pretty bold statement! Where did they produce this; the fucking Hadron Collider? Let’s check it out…
The EP opens up with “Rhino” and just like the hulking animal itself the idea is that it charges at you with its duel socio-political message of combating terrorism and the idea of lady justice; the government’s that live vicariously through her via means of war and conflict…an incredibly deep track that musically takes on a morose, grunge-fuelled post-rock tone channelling influences such as AFGHAN WHIGS. Mostly spoken word, but thankfully it does come to life for the chorus salvaging something at least from a listening perspective; it’s a decent start. “Alter Ego” follows up and it’s like a constant battle between warring split personalities, like Tymon is speaking of the allowed consumption of his one side by the other, almost singing to himself, but again, aside from an bold yet fuzzy, classic-rock guitar solo at the tracks climax it’s still just another slow, monotonous offering for the most part.
“Brotherhood” continues this approach with another sluggish, grunge-based, mostly spoken work piece, only offering slight melody with the brief chorus…slightly droning, even layering what sounds like whale-song inspired instrumentation within the latter half of the track, allowing for a somewhat shoegaze experience but it still feels and sounds lazy, before closing track “Shipwreck” takes you on a nihilistic journey through the zombified mind of a sailor going through the motions at sea…fed up of his Captain’s seemingly endless quest, the voyage at sea becoming bleak, the repetition pushing him to almost breaking point…the mantra of “we sink – we drown” the only thought seemingly keeping him going, veering off at the end like he secretly wishes to end his existence in the cold sea below. With the grunge elements still driving the music there’s also subtle prog influences here too and at points you can hear the bands appreciation of TOOL creeping through, giving us the EP’s only other notable point of interest really.
Mind you with that said it, doesn’t take away from the fact that, overall, the seventeen minutes of music that makes up this EP is arguably some of the dreariest you’ll likely hear all year…even instrumentally, aside from a few interesting guitar licks and ideas, it’s just a really lacklustre listen, both uneventful and unexciting. They may share a name with Sigmund Freud, historically possibly the world’s foremost leading name in neurology and psychoanalytic research, but even he would struggle to find motivation here, sadly this EP really is that boring. 
That awkward moment when your girl asks you over for ‘Netflix & Chill’ but the Netflix is so good that the chill doesn’t happen…this, my friends, is what happens when you discover “Stranger Things”. Only two seasons strong, the Netflix original has garnered one of the strongest cult followings in recent TV history with its throwback 80’s tones and quaint sense of pop-culture nostalgia, combining sci-fi and low-key horror with classic teen-flick vibes, all wrapped up in homage to the likes of Stephen King. One of its main strengths is it’s incredible young cast and today we’re going to be focusing on one in particular; Finn Wolfhard. Now still only 15 years old the Canadian has shown some incredibly impressive acting chops not only with his drama and emotional skills in Stranger Things, but also in the remake of the aforementioned Stephen King’s “IT”, where he got to embrace a more comedic role and pulled it off brilliantly.
This isn’t Cinemassacre however and we’re not here to review movies, but luckily Finn is a young lad of many talents and it’s here I’m going to point you in the direction of a band by the name of CALPURNIA, which he somehow finds the time for between film and TV! Founded in Vancouver just last year by Finn (Who’s on guitar and vocals) plus drummer Malcolm Craig, the band is completed by guitarist / vocalist Ayla Tesler-Mabe and bassist Jack Anderson, and they have already released a debut EP of original content entitled “Scout”. The question is, at their young age, do we find ourselves with another HANSON or heaven forbid, AARON CARTER? Let’s find out…
The EP opens up with a track called “Louie” and to my surprise we’ve got this restrained, stripped back, blues country type piece, but it also utilises a subtle, almost Caribbean tone; rich in its tinny-guitar and lulling ambiance. It’s an unexpectedly mature sound (Unless it’s been inspired by Spongebob) and nowhere near the energetic, colourful indie-pop I was expecting. The rawness of the track is hammered home by Finn’s vocals which here sound their weakest from a production perspective, but it only adds to the tracks character, really embracing the original feel for minimalist bluegrass. “Wasting Time” maintains the overall tone musically but here we have a little more of that energy I expected, embracing more of an early rock ‘n’ roll feel and it’s got a genuinely solid guitar solo to boot; this is much better.
“Greyhound” is a twee, melodic, up-beat track that’s disguising a certain sadness, as the story finds our character following a break up, travelling to a show alone after buying two tickets, you can feel his disappointment…the accompanying video too has a simple but effective message portraying everyone in life has a different path, but it’s all about the journey in the end as life always tends to work out eventually. Lead single “City Boy” returns to that raw, bluesy tone but has a simple but enjoyable chorus with gang vocals and happy-go-lucky vibe. “Blame” and “Waves” then round off the EP with a quirky, up-tempo indie piece and a more, relaxed, shoegaze inspired track respectively; the latter allowing Ayla to take a more prominent role vocally. Ultimately as I said previously the sound they’ve gone for is far more mature than what could have been expected and I don’t mean that with any sense of detriment…there’s zero sign of any commercial manufacturing here and it shows it’s not just a PR ploy to make Finn even more famous, this is about a BAND, not just Finn and that needs to be highlighted. They’ve written this EP the way THEY wanted it, and while it’s a little rough around the edges, if it’s something they want to stick at, working around Finn’s acting schedule, they have all the genuine potential to be a solid blues rock band; the talent is already there it just needs a little fine tuning. Let’s just hope Finn’s not eaten by a Demogorgon or some shit in Stranger Things season 3, or this project might find itself upside down too. 
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Gavin J Griffiths, a.k.a GavTheGothicChav, lover of new music and supporter of bands. Inspired by a mixture of horror and comedy, and fueled by a blend of alcohol and sarcasm...if you're singer / in a band and would like a review written up, please do get in touch via the email address at the top of the page and I'll get back to you ASAP. Much love x