Monday, July 16, 2007

No. 61: Appetite For Destruction

(original, banned cover)

(actual cover)
Band: Guns 'N Roses
Album: Appetite For Destruction
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Some stars burn brightly and burn out quickly. Guns 'R Roses are now a punchline ("Chinese Democracy?"), but this record is brilliant. While Motley Crue and L.A. Guns were too glam and Metallica was too hard, Guns 'N Roses played the hard-partying, bad boy role as well as anyone.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: For those who don't like hedonistic, dark music, this is not the record for you. "Appetite For Destruction" teeters from songs about bum wine and heroin ("Nighttrain" and "Mr. Brownstone," respectively) to a pair of hits bitching about Los Angeles ("Paradise City" and "Welcome to the Jungle").
Best song: Is there a better warmup song than "Welcome to the Jungle?" I say no.
Worst song: "Rocket Queen" isn't so great.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely, positively yes.

I don't want to say that "Appetite For Destruction" is the pinnacle of hard rock that's not quite metal (because I have no idea if we've reached the pinnacle yet), though it's close. There are few records are furiously "rock star" as glam as this one.

Think about it: You have the cowbell-tastic drumming of Steven Adler, the glam rock rhythm guitar of Izzy Stradlin, the blues-based crunch of Slash's lead guitar and the David Lee Roth-esque wail of W. Axl Rose. It's nearly a perfect storm.

The results are staggering, indeed. From the opening scream/lead riff of "Welcome to the Jungle" to the arguably best guitar solo in the history of rock and roll (in "Sweet Child of Mine"), Guns 'N Roses played the sex, drugs and rock card as well as anyone.

"Appetite For Destruction" is that. "Mr. Brownstone" makes heroin sound as glamorous as it does destructive (and includes the delightful parallel structure wordplay of "waking up" vs. the show), while "Nighttrain" makes bum wine sound like fun (despite the fact that the actual Night Train will make you violently ill). "It's So Easy" is rhythmic in the same way the Yardbirds' "Train Kept a'Rollin'," while "My Michelle" is the red-headed stepchild of the triumvirate of songs slamming Los Angeles. The other two in that holy trinity -- "Paradise City" and "Welcome to the Jungle" -- need little explanation, other than to say that they're great.