Rock N Roll stardom is celebrated by the public eye as a life of unsurpassed talent, beauty, wealth, and a more than healthy sex life. But that fable could not be further from the truth of what the fame that comes with talent is. In 1987, people no longer saw that stardom was as glamorous as it seemed, courtesy of a Los Angeles rock going under the alias of Guns N Roses, a name formed by two LA musicians whose pseudonyms were as gritty as the band name- Traci Gun and Axl Rose. Traci left soon after the name sparked, to go from the LA Guns. And when the fresh new Guns N Roses released their debut album, Appetite For Destruction, the world finally knew how fucked up rock star life really is. GNR brought all the volatile, sleazy excess to the forefront, winning themselves a rough fan base, and royally pissing off conservatives and parents alike. But Appetite was not an album that only brought the tough ass attitude out into their music- They backed it up with an explosive talent and bravado that no one had seen for ten years.
With a guitarist, slickly named Slash, that epitomized the appearance of too much testosterone, and a lead singer that wailed louder than Robert Plant, Guns N Roses was easily the most incendiary hard rock band of the late eighties into the early nineties, but would eventually succumb to their own destructive excess of sex, drugs and rock n roll, only after five studio releases, and a mere eight years of adhering loosely to each other. Fueled by ego and libido, Appetite For Destruction has remained the gem of Guns N Rosesí catalogue, and has made countless numbers of Ďgreatest debutí lists. You can see why after listening to it.
Appetite For Destruction is not exactly the most polished album youíll hear in your short life. Everything about the album is loud and gritty. Even the balladry is emphasized to a point where you know itís a hard rock ballad. Axl Roseís voice is like a banshee with a side of grits, and his wail is as piercing as a serrated carving knife. But he doesnít limit himself to a jagged, feminine wail in every song. He intertwines his screams with a deep, raspy vocal range that depicts the excess that this band is famous for. Slash and songwriter/ rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin are a powerhouse of kick ass riffing, sparking fierce solos and spitting fiery hard rock riffs from two Gibson Les Pauls that evoke the early images of Jimmy Page and Joe Perry. And the rhythm section is loud and funky, giving all the groove into a grimy band. Bassist Duff McKaganís basslines are bouncy and fat, while drummer Steven Adler pounds on the skins like a cannibal on a native steel drum, only adding more grit and grime to the mix. Appetite is not an album that just puts forth an image of overindulgence- It takes a piss on you and shoves you facedown in the mud to lap it up. Axlís lyrics are rock n roll tales of glut and horror, with sleazy innuendos packed into play, and an attitude not dissimilar to punk and grunge.
The beauty, on the contrary of Appetite is the sheer genius in the bandís songwriting. While everything seems to be about the grimy lifestyles of underground rock n roll, Axl touches all the hard ass crap with a lone, gorgeous ballad. And between all the interplay of a thundering bass, and gorgeous guitar salvos, is Axlís proposal of true love, about his girlfriend at the time. His lyrics are poetic and metaphorical, not cynical and dark like the other songs. And on Rocket Queen, my personal highlight on the album (along with Nightrain), Axlís softest lyrics emerge much later in the tune, backed by a talk-box guitar solo and the funkiest bass/drum groove on the whole album. But itís back to dirty, soiled narratives about cheap vodka and getting loaded on it (Nightrain) and the psychological warfare that comes with relationship conflict (Youíre Crazy). And then thereís the guitar work. Slash and Izzy have never been on better terms, harmonically. The two spit riffs out as if Steven Seagalís steel toed boots kicked you in the jaw, and ripping dueling solos with one another. Slash shows all the emotion he has to offer, and on songs like Sweet Child Oí Mine, Paradise City, and the foul postured Out Ta Get Me, he demonstrates his genius with mind melting solos. The fusion of blues and hard rock in the guitar riffing is a force to be reckoned with, and successfully drive the band into legendary status. Appetite is responsible for some of the most anthemic songs put out to date. Welcome to the Jungle is probably the most well known, hummed songs in hard rock of the past twenty years or so, and the feel good intro to Paradise City is enough to hook you into the catchy chorus. Hard rock can be catchy and fun, yet maintain a nihilistic point of view, and thatís exactly what Guns N Rosesí magnum opus puts forth- Old Fashioned hard rock with enough catch and hook to suck in anyone.
Appetite For Destruction is everything its name implies. Itís a chaotic whirlwind of grime, grease, and erratic narcissism that is empowered by its own excess. Fueled by ego and innuendo, Guns N Roses released what is arguably the best debut album of all time, and made a fan base from three songs, alone. Every member of GNR is talented, whether you choose to believe so or not. They are a rock band with style and groove, rhyme and reason, of grit and grime. And if it be a song about migrating to the slums of LA, being out of your brain on heroin (Mr. Brownstone) or a girl who drowns herself in false ecstasy (My Michelle), Guns N Roses open your mind to a world of hate, filth, and internal demons. Groove and talent are just fabrications of the poise. There is nothing nonchalant about Appetite For Destruction, and thatís how Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler wanted it to be- An album that self destructs with power. Music that is enough to change your mind, and get off your ass. So be proud that such drug influenced power can ultimately be rewarding for your sake. Because no matter how wasted Guns N Roses might have been when they wrote Appetite For Destruction, it is enough to blow your mind, and kick you in the nads with a roar so loud, youíll go numb. Be thankful for it, because Chinese Democracy probably will never be as good as this.