Guns 'n' Roses
"Now These Guys Were Dirtbags"
The Lineup Card (1985-current)
W. Axl Rose (vocals, keyboards)
Slash (guitar) until 1996 also of Slash's Snakepit and Velvet Revolver
Izzy Stradlin (guitar, vocals) until 1991
Duff McKagan (bass, vocals) until 1994 also of Velvet Revolver
Steven Adler (drums) until 1990
Dizzy Reed (keyboards) after 1990
Matt Sorum (drums) 1990-1994 also of The Cult and Velvet Revolver
Gilby Clarke (1991-1993) also of Kills for Thrills
Herein begins the Axl Rose Chinese Democracy Weirdness Era Starting Approximately 1994. Dates are not listed because...who the fuck knows, anyway?
Tommy Stinson (bass) also of the Replacements
Dave Navarro (guitar) also of Jane's Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers
Robert Finck (guitar) also of Nine Inch Nails
Paul Huge (guitar)
Brian Mantia (drums) also of Primus
Richard Fortus (guitar) also of Love Spit Love
Cross Rocks-era Aerosmith with face-tattoo-era Mike Tyson and you've got Guns 'n' Roses, one of the last legitimate early 70's hard rock bands, except one somehow displaced to mid-80's Los Angeles in the thick of the disgusting Day-Glo hair metal culture, and also one of the most entertaining spectacles of hateful Keystone Kops pratfalling self-destructiveness of the modern era. In short, all the stuff that makes rock 'n' roll fun and funny, a band you either loved more than your stinking leather bomber jacket or were dictated by the orthodox alternatives not to like or even pay attention to. Divisive as the Bush Administration and almost as headstrong, this band pretty much summed up the last gasp of truly decadent, misogynistic, and delightfully despicable hooker humping sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll culture this world is likely gonna see in any full public view. This band did what they wanted when they wanted to, including performing sold-out concerts or releasing albums on anything approaching a normal schedule, and that scared the record industry no end. So Guns 'n' Roses were jackasses, they were also challenging, talented jackasses, and at least to a certain extent they represented a sort of short-lived backlash against the beigifying of American culture that had been perpetrated consistently ever since the downfall of punk music. After Guns hit, it felt like everyone had been taken by surprise, like there'd been a tear in the ever-so-finely-stitched corporate culture that had held the mainstream music industry in a hammerlock since 1975. The thing was, unlike the masses of okayish grunge bands that could be mined after Nirvana struck a similar blow from left field four years later, Guns 'n' Roses was pretty much a singular phenomenon. Oh sure, there were other LA-and-elsewhere hair rock bands to go around (and go around they did, before and after Guns hit the scene), but not a single one of them could be taken seriously next to the titan roar of Guns 'n' Roses at their early peak. The world was already too far Disneyfied by 1987 for this band to last for long when showered with cash and voyeuristic press, and they had no vestigal underground cred or weirdness to retreat back to (ala Radiohead) when things got too Days of Our Lives on them. Instead, the band became a sort of bloated joke for its last few years, dropping key members by the wayside (the first being guitarist Izzy Stradlin in 1991) until finally it was just Axl sitting in his mansion studiotwiddling knobs and former Replacements for years on end, forever promising a followup album that insofar seems about as close as actual Democracy for the Chinese is.
Guns were, in fact, a bunch of barely bipedal drug-infested goons led, at least musically, by their guitarists - Cousin It lookalike (and half black, which I'd not usually mention, but considering some of the crap Axl said through the years, that little tidbit might strike you as a comedy goldmine of poetic justice) Slash plays the Joe Perry/Jimmy Page to Izzy Stradlin's Keith Richards/Johnny Thunders shtick. Slash solos somewhat more than might be considered healthy for boys his age, but at least he doesn't subscribe in any way to the fingertapping/false harmonic/whammy-bar-up-the-urethra circle jerk flashiness that was so prevalent in the Eighties. The man is, much like the rest of his band, an emulator of what anyone who grew up in a vacuum absorbing Zeppelin, Cream, Queen, and cheap metal albums might expect to develop into. He can pull off a cool line or two in most of the band's better songs, but he's got about two forward gears stylistically and hands made of lamb chops um...taste-listically. If it can be played more balls out than what it already is, Slash is damn likely to do it, cranking an orchestrated ballad into teeth-clenching displays of vulgar Marshall Stack power, even when a lighter touch might've really saved the day. Hell, the man was probably too floundered to tell what song they were playing anyhow, and with all that 360o hair of his, he probably had doubts as to whether he was even onstage with the right band or not. Ah well, turn the knob up, stick 'em balls out and watch the longhairs wiggle.
His best partner Izzy Stradlin is, to be short, a very, very good emulator of the spirit of his forebears, and the true heart of this band, but the man had a much less developed resistance to Axl Rose's sociopathological bullpatoot and thus left soon after the completion of the Use Your Illusion miniseries in 1991. Though I may not have said this before I heard his two excellent solo albums, I credit much of the greatness of the early-era Guns songwriting to Izzy's input, and remind everyone that the band has released one new original track since he left (and that'd be the rightfully titled Axl solo joint 'Oh My God', from 1998 or somesuch, gracing a Schwarzenegger movie back when he was merely a fading box-office draw). In short, GnR without Izzy Stradlin was the Rolling Stones with Mick Taylor but no Keith Richards - a flashy falsity.
The rhythm section is, erm, not too interesting outside of both original drummer Steven Adler and bassist Duff McKagan nearly offing themselves with drugs during the course of the band's run. Adler was axed in 1990, but was a marginally better pounder than replacement Matt Sorum, a second-stringer from the Cult who was even less interested in subtlety than Slash was. Besides Adler's ouster (which, to be fair, was probably unavoidable), the first major act by Rose in his master plan to reform the band after his own dictation was the addition of hammy keyboardist Dizzy Reed in 1990. Reed no doubt views himself as a sort of Chuck Leavell figure, tinkling along in a barroom style while the guitar players spar, but the man ended up dominating much of the mix on the Illusions, and his presence helped begin the shift from stripped down guitar crunch to orchestrated glop, one that probably ended up driving more nails into it's coffin than even Axl's dimbulb tantrums.
But the star of the show, the one you're all hear to see but won't get to because he's holed up, foetal on the floor of his dressing room howling to his therapist about one time he lost a Matchbox car down a sewer grate, THE poseur of a pipsqueak lead singer, rock's own version of Eazy-E, W Axl "William Bailey" Rose. Rose, to be sure, was a distinctive, original, and effective lead singer, and the visual draw of the band. His rattlesnake wiggle dance and tornado-siren squall/lowdown jive rap dualistic singing style were immediately recognizable and impossible to copy. Hell, visually he wasn't quite as captivating as Iggy Pop or Johnny Rotten, maybe, but for hard rock lead singers, let's just say he beats the crap out of the limp-wristed pelvis-positioning of Robert Plant. The man was charismatic, for damn sure, but he's also a total sociopath. This is a guy who beat his supermodel girlfriend, dove into the audience to beat up a fan with a camera, didn't feel like showing up to calm the riotous crowd when tourmate Metallica's guitarist James Hetfield Buddist-monked himself on a pyrotechnic charge, kept the Rolling Stones waiting on their own tour, replaced Slash's guitar tracks with his childhood pal's on the band's sunset cover of 'Sympathy For the Devil', blah blah blah. The man doesn't have nuts, the man is simply a self-absorbed, childish jerkoff of the first degree, one that was willing to sacrifice everything he'd accomplished with his band simply because he hadn't accomplished it entirely by his own command. If you ask who was behind the amazing intro to 'Welcome to the Jungle', I'd have to say it was probably the entire band, with Axl taking an important role. Ask who was behind the video where Rose is molested by dolphins after attempting suicide, and I have to say the credit has to all go to Captain Ego himself. The man, in short, feels like whatever he does is of extreme importance to those around him, and that anyone who attempts to sanity check him on that is going to get screeched at in a Grade A hissy fit (see the ultimately ridiculous 'Get In the Ring' on Use Your Illusion II, where Axl challenges his critics, by name, to a fistfight. What do you think are the chances of Axl fucking Rose fighting clean? When there isn't a 95 pound Victoria's Secret model to punchingbag around, it ain't so easy anymore eh?) His actions following the 1993-1994 implosion of Guns 'n' Roses have been proof, mounting day by day, that he has now been totally consumed by his ego in a sort of Wall-ish psychological surrender, except with more whining. His Use Your Illusion followup Chinese Democracy, apparently in near constant production since early 1995, has now taken the place of Smile as the album least likely to see release before we have a black, HIV-positive, Shinto lesbian President. I'm sure I won't hear it, at least until Axl finally has to remorph back into Bill Bailey and drive trucks to support himself. And I have a sneaking suspicion all the thousands of hours of tracks will just be:
'All work and no play makes Axl a dull boy. Allwork a ndnop la y m akesA xladul l boy.'
Me? I both like and hate Guns 'n' Roses. If they'd remained what they'd started out as - namely, a great, smelly hard rock band, perhaps I could say I loved them. As it stands, I still really dig at least a portion of their stuff, and either stifle laughter or gag breakfast from overexposure when I hear the rest. None of their albums, even their first one, is great from start to finish, and they became so lousy and egotistical about self-editing that their later work is rife with godawful filler material. Unless you find you absolutely can't get too much of this stuff, either the recent Greatest Hits or, maybe even better, the Live Era album is probably all anyone really needs. Compilation-allergic album track fans can probably start and stop with Appetite for Destruction. The band's solo albums and the one by the semi-reformation group Velvet Revolver are all pretty decent hard rock, though I'm sure any day now Elvis Hughes Barrett Brando will come out with the 300-song Chinese Democracy 20-disc set and set the world right again. Any day now. Yup...any day.
Anyone have any gum for me while I wait?
At one time I would've given this an A+, and at another time not that long ago I probably would've slammed it with a relatively disappointing B, but now that I think about it and all of the straight-up A's I've given to perfectly decent if-not-worshipful hard rock albums like Rocks or AC/DC's Powerage, I realize that Appetite almost falls into that category. Just barely doesn't, in fact. Thing is, Rocks doesn't close out with a second side that includes three crappy failures, and neither album drops the ball with quite the level of nauseating glorification of awfulness as Appetite does on 'Think About You' or 'Rocket Queen', both Crap with a capital Crap. 'Think About You' might've been a decent New York Dolls-y basic rocker if it weren't for the lyrics ('my heart says yes/deep in side I love you best!), which lie somewhere between Hallmark and Air Supply at their smarmiest. If you ever need a tonic to quash whatever respect or fear you might have of Axl's considerable bark, take a listen to him emasculate himself on this shit train. 'Rocket Queen' makes him sound even gayer, if that's possible, as he gives himself the offending title and makes some undoubtedly nasty-butt groupie honk and sigh into the microphone in a rather unconvincing display of fake female orgasm. The story goes that the sexual act in front of the studio mic actually happened, but I believe that about as much as I do O.J. trying to find the real killers, the secretary deleted the 15 minutes of tapes, and the fact that the bowl-haircut dude who used to sit at lunch with me in 7th grade got to 'go down this girls pants' after a baseball game. It's called hype, folks, and when a pretty much unknown band like GnR hits the studio for the first time, they need to do whatever they can to generate some. Some people bite heads off fowl, some take craps in the potted plant by the reception desk at the record company...and some people hire phone sex workers to embellish shit-ass closer songs on their debut albums.
So three songs worth of sad posing aside, the rest of this album is a howling great time. I can, for instance, believe the lyrics to 'Night Train', about everyone's favorite citrus wine less than $2.97 a liter, as I, too, have tasted the Dark Side of the Force, and found that it made my girlfriend not want to be next to me, my speech slur worse than Larry Flynt giving a tongue bath, and make my crap smell, like, 10 times more pungent than it usually does. Same thing with the line 'I used to do a little, but a little wouldn't do it so a little got more and more' on the classic drug tune 'Mr. Brownstone', as it seems that the majority of the band were enthusiasts of the Third World Revenge. Some bands sing about 'Pills', this band sings about booze and powders, and they do it well - down, nasty, and with a sense of loser resignation that acknowledges that, as bad as it might end up making them feel, they really have no choice in the matter but to indulge themselves. True rockers, them.
Appetite pulled off the trick of inserting three of its progeny into the Great Lexicon of Dirtyass Rock 'n' Roll - in order they were 'Welcome to the Jungle', 'Sweet Child O' Mine', and 'Paradise City'. 'Sweet Child' was probably the strangest and furthest out of character, a mid-tempo anthemic rocker that shows off Axl's ability to sing rings around himself and change his voice from a growl to a moan as the phrase happens to dictate. And the phrase dictates a LOT, resulting in this one having as many shades and shifts as it has verses. It's nearly schizoid in this way, but it's also dead-on mesmerizing. Sure, lines about having to 'break down and cry' and hiding in someone's hair are a little fishy, but since I've already lambasted this band for their lack of commitment to not sounding sissyish on anything that isn't full-bore, I'll let this one go. As long as I get fed more bridges like the unexpected 'where do we go?' breakdown, you can sing about hanging abortion doctors and annexing British Columbia for all I care.
'Paradise City' isn't nearly as intricate as all that (hell, 'Sweet Child' has almost a prog-rock feel to it at times), but it's a primo headbanger party tune with a killer hook ('where the grass is green and the girls are pretty'), a great noodle-riffic riff or three, and an absolutely killer double-time section that sounds like the Guns blasting through the stratosphere with fifty cop cars and a hundred angry floozies on their tail. Hells, yeah.
Finally, though it's not like I've been there except for a week at Disney World when I was 10, but 'Welcome to the Jungle' is lodged forever in my brain as Los Angeles in sound - all the violent undercurrent, the threadbare flashiness, the crude sexual outwardness. When the ad for Grand Theft Auto came on TV, I almost sweated my drawers out, the song was used so goddamned well. That was it man - a bandanna-ed gang member hoofing it through some sun-drenched back alley parking lot - that's what 'Welcome to the Jungle' sounds like, and it's probably Guns 'n' Roses best moment. If they ever took control of their territory and defined their band's sound and purpose, it was on this song. 'Paradise City' is a righteous rock track, but too Poison-party-hearty and not quite dangerous enough, and 'Sweet Child Of Mine' is a bit too far on that insincere sensitive-man thing that always fit G'n'R like a thong bikini on Bea Arthur.
Excellent tunes here, but it's truly difficult to look past how the quality of the tunes becomes so astoundingly bad as the album lurches towards the end. Why the need for the sensitive lover tunes? I always suspected they had another half dozen 'My Michelle'-ish malicious character assassination tracks and 'Out To Get Me' paranoia tracks in the can but were persuaded by King Geffen to leave them off in favor of material that might actually not make girls want to chop their nuts off. I can only hope to hear more great stuff like that, and grit my teeth as Axl took the bait and decided the Big Bombastic was the way to go on his later albums. Slash had it right all the time - keep it loud, keep it fast, and sing about what you know - stupid, manipulative women, drugs, and danger. What the fuck does W. Axl Rose know from love and affection, anyway? The guy's about as sincere and caring as a rabid timberwolf with it's ass on fire.
Capn's Final Word: High highs, great self-defining rockers, and an impressive complexity of message and songwriting. When they paint outside their lines is when it begins to look like crayon scribbles.
Chris Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: An amazing album, especially considering the mainstream music scene when this came out. Axl's vocals and the raw energy of the entire band reach out and grab the listener by the throat and never let go. This was the album that forced me to evaluate music with an adult's ear and grow up. It's a damn shame they flamed out, G n' R was poised to be the greatest band ever.
- Geffen 1989
Actually a repackaging of their 1986 local label live debut EP Live $#% Like a Suicide with another EP's worth of live-in-the-studio acoustic tracks, this one is obviously intended to fill the gap between Appetite (still selling in Big Mac numbers even by 1989, by the way) and the heretofore-yet-unnamed Big Followup. Sure, just a little no-brainer product to keep up the hype during the Season of Slash...make it cheap, toss it out there, and watch it sell. Yup.
Except Axl had other plans. Any discussion of this album is forced by law to focus around the final track of the acoustic side, named 'One In a Million', and its two wildly irresponsible verses decrying not only 'immigrants and faggots' but also 'police and niggers'. Now, I'm not post-modern enough to think that Axl wrote lines like 'they speak so many goddamn ways - it's all Greek to me' and 'make a mini-Iran....or spread some fucking disease' in a complete ironic stance, pointing out the obvious ignorance of the narrator in his generalizations of his perceived 'enemies'. Hell no. I think one listen to 'Get In the Ring' shows that Axl is about as well-developed a sense of self-awareness and perception as a socket wrench. The man says what he thinks, even though it's possible he's verbally retarded in his brain filters enough not to really mean it when he says the things he does. I mean, your guitar player is half black, and you're spouting off about niggers and gold chains? How wise is that, exactly?
My idea is this - listen to 'One In a Million' and tell me it doesn't sound like a highly derivative distillation of the David Bowie of The Man Who Sold the World and Ziggy Stardust, with that bassy fuzz guitar and all that. And remember how Bowie would do a bunch of shit and sing about killing babies and whatever simply for shock effect? This is just Guns 'n' Roses trying the same shit with about a tenth of the care and thoughfulness as ol' Die-vid had, and watching it blow up in their faces. I mean, how many redneck fucktards and skinhead subhumans finally thought they'd found their Messiah when they heard Axl spout off like he did? Considering the concept of 'irony' or 'action in the name of provocation' are about as lost on these people as thermodynamics on a chinchilla, I bet the number is larger than the band would like to admit. And let's face it - when your audience becomes racist, homophobic yobs, you're definitely not getting as much of that sweet, sweet poontang as you were the year before. This was a big mistake for this band to make, and the point at which Axl opens his mouth on the second verse of 'One In a Million' represents them stepping over the line from representing a brilliantly vague, formless threat to moronic yobs who don't know when to shut the fuck up.
Anyhoo. The live tracks on this album are dumb, rough sub-rockers taken wholecloth from early Aerosmith, who they cover on 'Mama Kin', most definitely the best song of the side. The rest are all originals, commendably, but the only killer is the very spot-on 'Nice Boys (Don't Play Rock 'n' Roll)'. Neither 'Restless Life' nor 'Move to the City' would have been good enough for inclusion on Appetite, as they both sound...well...repulsive as all hell. They rawk, I suppose, but Jay-zus...Axl needs to tone down his screeching a bit. A vocal tour-de-force like 'Sweet Child O' Mine', these ain't.
Okay, so on Side Acoustic, I'll trash 'One In a Million' and the cheap filler acoustic rework of 'You're Crazy', never one of my favorites off Appetite, (especially since it's lost in the nether regions of the landmine-rife second half), but I'll keep the marvelous 'Wild Horses' rewrite 'Patience' and the fun country rock (Slash picks the blues!) 'Dead Flowers' rewrite 'Used To Love Her (But I Had to Give Her A Black Eye and Make Her Wear Dark Sunglasses For Two Weeks Because She Makes My Miniscule Reproductive Glands Feel Threatened)'. Heh...you think these boys listened to a little Sticky Fingers in 1988? They'd be opening shows for the Stones in '89, but they'd make asses of themselves by going on late and playing crappy, so I guess they'd gotten over their Stones obsession by then. Or had thought they'd become the Stones, one of the two.
Anyway, thinking too hard about this album is like an Iraqi policeman starting a 401(k) - worthless, worthless, worthless. You'll begin to notice that, despite their efforts, Guns 'n' Roses will from here on out never sound as authentic, genuine, and meaningful as they did on Appetite for Destruction, and though they make a decent run for it on all of two tracks here, they're already sounding superficial. That's allright, because Son of Appetite for Destruction is supposed to be out in Spring 1990, isn't it? Isn't it?
Capn's Final Word: The %^& must be for 'shit', and that's what's in Axl's skull on 'One In a Million'. But I sure like Sticky Fingers as much as they do.
Use Your Illusion I- Geffen 1991
Right. Almost five years after their debut record came out, the Buns 'n' Posers finally saw fit to release a legitimate followup, but that followup amounted to the equivalent of a FOUR LP SET packed onto two endless CD's. Things had changed a fair amount in the music scene since Appetite came out (hell, even since Lies came out two-plus years before), and were on the verge of shifting radically with the giant needle for the MTV Metal balloon provided by the alternative explosion of 1992, but they hadn't changed that much. Use Your Illusion was still righteously overhyped prior to release, and along with Metallica's Black Album and U2's Achtung Baby, were the big-budget 'event' releases of late 1991. The fact that G'n'R, with their two gi-normous albums, had done it bigger than anyone else was the surprising part. The simple fact was that no one had expected all of this to come pouring out of the Guns camp like it did. Hell, probably most people (and I definitely knew I was one of these) was expecting nothing more than a party album. But here it was, two and a half hours of something. We had no idea what. But if it was anywhere close in complexity to what we'd been given on Appetite, we were gonna be worshipping at the altar of Rose/Slash for well into the next decade. I remember badgering my tall semi-friend Amanda for cassette copies of it for probably three months, I was so jazzed up to hear the thing.
But what it was sure as shit wasn't that. It wasn't what we'd hoped for, though at times it may have ended up being what we'd expected. For anyone but the most hardcore and the most superficial, Use Your Illusion was simply big and mediocre. The ancient credo that any double album would be twice as good if cut in half may have gone triple for Sandinista!, but it went quadruple for Use Your Illusion. There's probably 40-50 minutes of real killer material here (though a good 10 minutes of that would be the two excellent cover songs), with the rest ranging from dim filler to overblown ego pieces to poseurish nonsense. And I will say this - none of these 30-odd songs could've competed for space on the first side of Appetite for Destruction. As for the real test, that of whether Guns 'n' Roses could equal their surprising debut - they failed worse than a scholarship linebacker in a graduate nuclear chemistry course.
I dunno...the whole 'two albums at once' deal really bothers me, and it did when Bruce Springsteen and the Sesame Street Nobody Band did it at roughly the same time. It's obvious that releasing a double album as two separate records (at least in the Guns' case) was not out of attempting to make any big artistic point (as if this band ever tries to do that anyway), but rather as a way of maximizing sales. Not only are 2-CD combo packs usually priced less than two individual CD's, with individual CD's you get to double the wall space at the Sam Goody display with your product. Less money is spent on promotion than if they'd been released at different times, and the market becomes so saturated with G'n'R buzz that you may even expand on your already considerable audience base. And since I never knew anyone to buy one of these albums without the second one, thus buying into the Geffen machine, I guess the dirty rotten moneygrubbing worked. These albums, too, sold like half price cigarettes. If your premier sales draw turns into a bunch of raving egomaniacs, you may as well make an extra buck for your troubles, eh? Anyway, though I really don't see that much difference between them stylistically, I will for the purposes of not giving myself a brain contusion, discuss the albums separetly and give them separate grades.
So, then...how do I, Mr. Mojopants, rate these blimps? Strangely enough, the blimp reference sends me onto my point - Guns 'n' Roses, by 1991, had gone from Led Zeppelin II to Presence and In Through The Out Door in a single bound, totally bypassing the 'still vital, yet experimental' phase of their career arc. Sidemen (here, Dizzy Reed) begin to dominate over the founding guitarist(s) by ass-kissing the lead singer and taking advantage of said guitarists' drug habits. Songs that started out as jokes or other obvious throwaways suddenly find themselves in important positions on the albums, songs get longer without getting better, and everyone generally sounds worn down, overprocessed, and outfoxed. It's the sound of a band for whom expectations have gotten so high they
Actually, more accurately, the majority of Lose Your Concentration I more closely resembles the spate of very samey sounding sludgy rockers on the second disc of Physical Graffiti than the bizarre attempts at funk on Presence. The roll from Stonesy blues rockers ('Dust 'n' Bones', 'You Ain't the First') to Sex Pistols quickness ('Perfect Crime', 'Garden of Eden') encountering varying degrees of success, from the fine 'n' listenable ('Right Next Door To Hell', which sounds sort of like a cleaned up 'Restless Life') to the out-and-out vomitessent (all of the songs after 'The Garden' and before 'Coma'). If you thought you could never get bored listening to this band - just wait. They'll have you yawning not long after the zippy Paul McCartney cover, the one decent ballad ('Don't Cry'), and the acoustic blues ('You Ain't the First) come and go. This is the single stretch during which Illusion strikes up any sort of consistency of songwriting and 'Live and Let Die' showcases the best possible version of their new 'big band' keyboards 'n' orchestra sound on a gem of a rocker that, to be honest, sounds pretty fucking good coming from the Gunners. 'Don't Cry' (later reprised with different lyrics on II) is one of the band's better ballads, with the vocals grumbling down low until right before the peak. It's also the only slow track I enjoy on this entire set, as it sounds reasonably genuine and is able to escape the godforsaken production blowjob that 'November Rain' and 'Estranged' get.
After 'You Ain't the First' and the nondescript but harmless 'Bad Obsession' (another Stonesism) the songs begin to tank in quality. Though they sound quite different from one another stylistically, they begin to run together into a big mass of Axl squealing, indistinct guitar riffs, and preschool arrangements. 'Double Talkin' Jive' is a groaningly corny 'angry' track featuring Axl aping hiphop speak, 'November Rain' is an insufferable mass of sub-Elton John-sounding fakey orchestrations that somehow became the biggest hit off of the entire ball of snot, understandable, I suppose, when you realize that some of the biggest hits of 1992 were by assfaces like Michael Bolton. 'I know it's hard to keep an open heart, when even friends seem out to harm you'...awww, life's a bitch, ain't it W. Axl? Goddamn, if you want to hear what I feel to be the antithesis of what Guns 'n' Roses is good at, it's right here, and it's called 'November Rain'.
In fact, between the very strong Faith No More-aping (remember 'Epic'? So do Guns 'n' Roses), Alice Cooper-guesting headbanger 'The Garden' (not to be confused with the shitball 'Garden of Eden' which directly follows it) and the monster closer 'Coma' come a whole stretch of songs that deserve to be on an album like Lindsay Lohan deserves to be on an album. Has there been a more disgusting song than 'Bad Apples' ever recorded by man? Why the fuck don't I remember anything about 'Don't Damn Me', though I've been listening to this album since it came out? How did they make the chorus to 'Dead Horse' sound like Axl was literally chewing off his own testicles while recording it? I guess all that filler crap was just to jack up everyone's impression of the 10-minute death fantasy 'Coma', which has some truly awesome riffs to go with enough voice-overs to make Marv Albert blush. Though I still will call it probably the best song on here (not to mention the most Destruction-y) isn't nearly as earth shattering as I once might've thought it was. I mean, why does Axl have to blather out the final verse in such an irritating, falling-all-over-himself tone? I think the fucker shoulda died and then the band coulda launched into a reprise of the 'November Rain' coda, which is the only good thing about that song.
Confuse Your Contusion II is the same as the first one at heart, only more gimmicky and clearly worse. There's a measly three songs that I would classify as truly Guns-worthy ('Civil War', 'You Could Be Mine', and the cover of 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door', which actually sounds quite similar to 'Civil War') and probably four or five more that rank with the middle-pack filler on I. Everything else is a whole ever-loving smorgasboard of shit. They also make the huge mistake of making this one the Long Song album, packing it with four songs that run over 7 minutes with no justification whatsoever. This is also the one where Dizzy Reed's keyboards begin to dominate the sound in a completely unhealthy way, finally culminating in the vomit-inducing nursery school electronica closer 'My World'. But hell, this is a double album - overlong songs and ego-stroking experiments are to be expected. All you have to do is wait through them on the way to the next great rocker...except you wait, and wait, and wait. And for the most part, the great rocker never comes. I mean, the horrific 40-minute stretch from 'Knockin' to 'You Could Be Mine' makes me reconsider why I've not torn my eardrums from my skull and fed them to the neighbor dog. The group reaches its nasty nadir on 'Get In the Ring', a name-by-name callout of all the journalists who Axl perceives have slighted him to actually have a fight. Yup. Go outside behind the cafeteria and have a little roll in the dirt. Pulling hair, biting, and bitch slapping optional, I suppose. Probably to be negotiated directly before the bout. Anyhow, whenever I hear Axl start in about his fans' 'hard earned money', it's ME who wants to do a little boot-to-ass therapy on Mr. No-Show Rose himself for his delightfully selective memory as regards his actions. Be careful whom you're calling 'bitchy' when you're the one who can't be relied upon to play a sold-out show or seem to control himself from punching out his girlfriend, jackass.
Anyway, I buy very little of Choose Your Intrusion II, but what I do ('Civil War', '14 Years', 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door', the savage 'You Could Be Mine', and parts of 'Estranged') is pretty decent stuff. It's just that the rest drags like a '79 Chevette filled with three Kansas City Chief offensive guards. Too many ballads. Too much pussy-assed whining. Too many choruses that are simply nasty for the sake of being nasty.
Well, after this, pretty much you didn't have the ol' Guns 'n' Roses to kick around anymore, at least with any new original music anyhow. It was pretty clear by the end of their zillion-show '91-'93 tour that things were grinding to a halt, but the signs of strain are all over these two albums. Axl's megalomania and the squishy nature of the sidemen's engagement (except for piano tinkler Dizzy, who flat-out dominates much of the Illusion II mix) are all over these two records. The band was just too big and grotesque to carry on...plus, how the hell were they ever going to follow up this mess? Wait ten years and release a 20-CD set? Whoa...whoaa....don't get any ideas, Rose.
Capn's Final Word: Outside of a few tracks here and there, just about all of both of these albums is a disappointment to me, and when the two most well-balanced songs are the covers, it might be time to check and see if your bandanna might be on a little too tight around your rapidly-expanding head.
Incident?!" - Geffen 1993
Putting the title of your album gives me hives. Hives and piles. I'm swollen at both ends. There's something about the fact that I know this is supposed to be some reference to an in-joke about some nasty thing done to a groupie or a hotel lobby or some newborn infant or something that bugs the ever-loving former Lindsay Lohan thigh-fat outta my ass. Either that or it must be because I'm actually listening to Guns 'n' Roses' despicably godawful covers album, the first song from which is a version of 'Since I Don't Have You' (you know...'IIIIII don't have love to share....and IIIIII don't have crotchless panties to wear....and IIIII don't have anyone.....And IIIIII don't have....tranny fun!') upon which Slashy's bitchy-little-ass lead guitar tone sounds like it's boring a hole through my jaw to attack my cavities from underneath. The covers album was another early-90's fad, along with Unplugged performances, tall black people hair, and kids saying 'Cowabunga' until you broke their skulls open, and it's yet another one of those things that, like college, seem like a good idea at the time but ten years down the road you really just wish you had all that money you spent. Or not, since this piecacrap has plagued dollar bins since the first Clinton administration. Jay-sus. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but Guns 'n' Roses covering other people's songs is like your local Burger King deciding it's time to start serving sushi and tacos tripitas. I don't trust it, and neither should you, and not for bad reason, either. Guns 'n' Roses may have a fairly good track record regarding covers on the Diffusion albums, those were also songs that would probably sound good if coming from a sadist jumping up and down on a piano made of tortured stray dogs. Covering the New York Dolls or the Heartbreakers or Fear or the Misfits takes skills and righteousness the Gunners just simply don't have, and like most mouth-breathing men, when these guys don't have the right tool, they just pick up their biggest tool (Axl) and whack the motherfucker until something pays with its life.
Not only does this band make mincemeat of old doo-wop songs last seen filling out the American Graffiti soundtrack LP, they also make the Damned sound like 'Move to the City' ('New Rose') and make a totally unnecessary cover of 'Hair of the Dog', except to show that Axl stole quite a bit of his act from the hairy Scottish-afro dude who sings lead for that band, along with Rob Halford, Steven Tyler, and Garamyel the Smurf-Eating Cat of course. The Misfits cover stinks, as does the New York Dolls one, as the Big Ass, No Pass Guns band of 1993 has absolutely none of the lithe dexterity to play that stuff with any of the rockin' groove those bands had. The assholish new drummer and 'how the fuck am I playing in this band when I should be back salting fries at the Carl's Jr.?' new guitarist have a lot to do with that, as this band has about as much responsiveness as an 85-year old driving an oil tanker. The grooves here, alas, suck one and all. Plus, not only was it pretty despicable to include a fucking gnarly, garbledy-gook Charles Manson song, making it much, much worse was the fact that the band was too sissy to even list it in the album credits. Instead, it's tacked onto the end of the nearly-as-terrible Fear cover that officially closes the album. Come on, guys, this is like spraypainting 'The principal is the president of NAMBLA and his chair smells like schoolchildren's lost innocence!' on the school cafeteria wall and then trying to cover it up by moving a fake tree in front of it.
The good news is that not even Guns 'n' Roses can kill 'Raw Power', still one of the main indicators that Martian invaders will never take Detroit alive. But this album is cheap and nasty, and as unnecessary as they come. The fact that you can buy it for a dollar should not sway you in your resolve. You can buy a blowjob from a 68-year-old Albanian dockworker with trenchmouth for a dollar, but that don't mean you should be searching your living room couch cushions, now does it?
Capn's Final Word: Guh. Is this worse than the Duran Duran covers album? What would you think is worse, fey former coverboys doing Grandmaster Flash or jerkoff lonhairs doing Charlie Manson?
Live Era '87-'93
- Geffen 1999
Now, reviewing these sorts of big-blowout double live bonesuckers, especially the posthumous kind that have absolutely no historical context, is an utter drag on the ol' undercarriage, you know. I've probably told you this a thousand times already, but the more of this fantabulous hobby called free music reviewin' I engage in, the more I realize a truism about live albums - for the most part, bands divide themselves into one of three camps as re: the recording of a live show. Either you're a Jammer, Slammer, or Scammer. For Jammers, (e.g., the Dead, most jazz guys, some funk outfits, Keith Partridge) the concert experience is to serve as only a launching pad for their improvisational badassedness. Each show is different from the one before, each one is an event, and the quality of the performance can rank from the transcendent to the utter snail-snottedness. Also, as an audience member, if you don't dig solos, yer going to be more distracted than a Mormon witnessing at a Monte Carlo topless beach.
Slammers include any band that takes their usual songs and either just bashes through them at full ball with little to no regard to tempo, subtlety, or correctness, or otherwise twists and perverts them . Whatever the case, the studio versions apparently aren't good enough, and the band is there to prove they can do it one better - or one weirder. The classic example that immediately pops to mind is the Ramones and fellow punkers like the Stooges, but oddly enough some of the most surprising Slammer albums come by way of bands otherwise regarded as, well...pussies. Like the Moody Blues. Who could possibly have predicted that Caught Live +5 would sound more like the MC5's Kick Out the Jams, Motherfuckers than any Vangelis album you can spew out? Neat trick.
Scammers include pretty much everyone else. These artists recreate their studio recordings as closely as possible with varying success in a live setting, but the recorded results are almost always predictable, reliable, and uninteresting. For me, I can't rate a live album like this much higher than a B+ without damn fine reason to do so, usually as a result of crossing over into one of the other two categories. Now, there ain't nothin' wrong with wanting to see artists like this play live, but shelling out the big bucks for their 2-CD mondo-riffic live album, taking it home, finding a sharp object to pop that goddamn shrink wrap off of it with, and tossing it in the ol' microwave and figuring out that it's pretty much just a cheapo Greatest Hits with added crowd noise is just a pain in the fucking nose. For the people who already own the albums, it's even worse.
Guns 'n' Roses are Scammers. As much as you'd think they might be Slammers (and as much as they'd like to think they are), they take no chances with this live record other than including a version of just about every song they ever recorded. The reggae insert, the horn solo in 'Move to the City', and the overbearing backup singers on all the Illusion-era recordings all spell out the sickly obvious - Guns 'n' Roses 1993 were turning into a Vegas act that couldn't rely on their core members to keep the groove going strong enough. They sound like they're standing a million miles apart from each other onstage, the tempos dragging, playing to a stadium crowd that cares more about the size of Axl's codpiece than the righteous groove the band should be capable of striking up. Maybe you dig the Illusion material enough to want to sit through this chubby-butt band's sloppy trundling, but you can see that I'm lukewarm about that stuff at best. HEaring it live sure doesn't change my mindset very much.
This sense of bloat isn't at all the case with the strong Appetite-era performances that start this one off, but the band at that point was still not adventurous enough to let themselves too far off the studio arrangement security blanket. They rock far more on versions of 'Mr. Brownstone' or ''Welcome to the Jungle' than in their later incarnation, but it's just not far enough away from the already great performances on that studio album to make seeking this thing out worthwhile. As for rarities, you've got a very, very weird choice of Black Sabbath's ballad 'It's Alright' (off Technical Ecstasy, heh heh) and, umm...I guess the cover photo has some neat old posters. I'm sure there's a book in there as well. For $35, they better include a book or I'm taking a jewel case, filling it with cat diahhrea, and mailing it back. Hell, I'll even give 'em 10 for 1 penny as long as they pay my exorbitant shipping and handling costs. Sheeit...whores and coke don't come cheap nowadays, do they?
Anyhow, this album does take frigging forever to finally finish, but considering the only real stinkers on here are 'Pretty Tied Up' and that frigging 'Rocket Queen' (now 8 1/2 minutes of jamming icepicks into your ocular foramen instead of merely 7 minutes of it), this does make for a fairly passable compilation album for those wise souls out there who don't feel like buying the real Fun Poseurs albums.
Capn's Final Word: Yawn. Endless album compiling uninteresting live renditions of their most familiar work. Talk about seeing this movie before.