Good ol’ Guns N’ Roses. I love ‘em. Oh, think of me what you will for saying it, I don’t care. These guys sounded unlike anything else out there and, frankly, they still do today. They mattered, and for good reason. And yeah, they’ve become somewhat of a joke around music circles since they disbanded. We all knew Axl was dealing with his own crap, but when he announced the imminent release of their new record, Chinese Democracy, several years ago, people laughed when nothing has yet come of it. But, whatever. They were vital when it counted.
I was feeling nostalgic recently, so I threw this old friend named Appetite into the player. That buzz saw intro right off the top of the first track still sends shivers down my spine all these years later (ye gods, it was 21 years ago!). As the song builds it just takes off and the damn thing never even comes close to touching down. The whole album is like that. It’s all jagged sounds, cowbells in pretty much every song, and the sense that this controlled chaos could fall apart at any moment… yet it never quite does.
The key to listening, as I’ve learned over all of these years of doing just that, is to focus your attention on what Slash is doing. The riffs, the solos, all of it. Sure, it’s easy to be distracted by what Axl’s screaming about debauchery and addictions and misogyny and whatever else. It is equally easy to allow the pummeling beat from the bass and drums combination make you shake whatcha got like Baloo the Bear, but don’t be misled. The real beauty and power in this record (and, frankly, on all of their releases) rests in what Slash relentlessly rips from his powerful Les Paul. Here is where the music soars, lives and breathes. Here is a serrated edge on the finely honed thing we call the blues. Damn. The guy is scary good.
We tend to mock what is ingloriously dubbed ‘hair metal,’ and rightly so. I don’t care if it’s making a comeback amongst the dipshits these days. It was silly the first time around and it will suck even more royally in each new birth because nothing is weaker than an unoriginal revival of something that should just have had the good sense to stay dead.
I never included Guns N’ Roses in the ranks of the Spandex and eyeliner brigade with Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi (and Ratt, Cinderella and on and on…). No, somehow, their music sounded rougher, edgier, and just crazy enough to be ready to jump off the stage and fight anybody for any reason at all. Whereas, the legion of pretenders to the sound had an often incredibly amusing posture, exciting stage shows with lots of lights and smoke and crap (to mask all the nothing actually happening), and they sure knew just what to say, but it didn’t ever sound like there was anything backing it up. It was obviously aimed at the fame machine, radio, and all the young kids who needed something loud to play to piss off their parents. And I know G’n’R was calculated too, but to me it doesn’t sound like it in the same way. They come across more like they could quit tomorrow and go back to the gutter, and what of it?
Enough. This is a classic record. It’s a template for all aspiring rockers. Every track here stomps, shouts and balls-out rawks. Play it as loud as you can stand it, and then turn it up some more. In fact, the louder you play it, the better it gets. I highly recommend blowing the dust off your copy and giving it a spin. And for you ADD-addled, single/hit-skipping young ‘uns trekking off on this journey for the first time, download this to your iPod and play the whole album on some good headphones. Yes, the hits are here, but this beauty works best as a whole, so let it play through and revel in all of it. You’ll feel like you’re ten feet tall when it’s done.
01 Welcome To The Jungle
02 It’s So Easy
04 Out Ta Get Me
05 Mr. Brownstone
06 Paradise City
07 My Michelle
08 Think About You
09 Sweet Child O’ Mine
10 You’re Crazy
11 Anything Goes
12 Rocket Queen