Review Summary: Axl’s mantra was an astounding array of flaws that perfectly summarize what an uncompromising prick looks like. And that is precisely the reason he is directly responsible for arguably the greatest hard rock record of all-time.
One of the more interesting paradoxes in life is the confounding fact that benevolence is rarely rewarded in a tangible sense and malevolence is often met with a great bounty. All of us have that friend who whines about how “nice guys finish last” as they contemplate going into a warm bathtub and applying the straight razor while listening to Elliott Smith’s second album because their girlfriend dumped them for a total a$shole, but it’s not just limited to them, and oddly enough, they aren’t full of sh*t. As long as the human quality of malevolence is met with some degree of intelligence, there is little question that person has a much greater chance of succeeding in this world than the guy who hugs puppies on Saturdays and is so nice to everybody that its impossibly easy to take his money, bang his wife, and get him to thank you afterward. This conundrum is most evident and prevalent in the business world, but it can easily be applied to more subjective subjects like art. An astute example of this lies in the study of one William Bruce Bailey of Indiana, aka, W. Axl Rose.
There is little doubt Axl has at least 3 major crippling personality disorders, legitimately enjoys inflicting pain upon others, cares about absolutely nothing but himself, worships at the altar of Axl Rose, narcissist, and revels in an astonishing universe of unmatched douchebaggery. According to Dante, there are 9 circles of hell applied to the distinct personality flaw of the individual and 7 deadly sins. Axl has at least 14 of the combined defective personality traits. The man is sinister and sly enough to slide under a door without grease and explosive and crazy enough to barge headfirst through it when he doesn’t get his way, similar to a toddler screaming for a bottle but about 7,685 times more dangerous. Sleazier than a politician, more vengeful than a menstruating female whose husband just f*cked her sister, and more recalcitrant than your average felon, Axl’s mantra was an astounding array of flaws that perfectly summarize what an uncompromising prick looks like. And that is precisely the reason he is directly responsible for arguably the greatest hard rock record of all-time.
“Appetite for Destruction” is famous for myriad reasons. 20 million albums sold, the presence of three of the most iconic songs in the history of hard rock, the notoriety, the drugs, the egos, they all added up to a fascinating carnage impossible for human nature to ignore. I could give you hundreds of reasons why Appetite is a great album. I could talk about the anthemic chorus of “Paradise City,” the intro to “Sweet Child O Mine,” how damn epic “Rocket Queen” is, the universal love for “Welcome to the Jungle,” how Guns N Roses laid waste to bands like Poison and Warrant by being an AC/DC/Aerosmith hybrid with a lot more raunch and melody at the same time, how awesome it was when Axl talked about Mad Dog 20/20, heroin, prostitutes, bondage sex, and every time he said f*ck in a tone that meant serious Goddamn business. All of that matters in a certain sense but none of it matters when we are discussing it as a pantheon album. The primary reason “Appetite” stands alone in its genre goes way beyond beastly riffs, killer solos, hooks, subject matter, energy, and anything else you can think of. Its clear separation is based upon the fact it literally embodies the unwritten notion of what hard and cock rock actually is. Every note, every riff, every line embodies a filthy sleaze, even when Axl is trying really damn hard to be introspective.
If you really think about the intangible reasons why people like this kind of music it’s easy to see how “Appetite” is the textbook definition of exactly what it should sound like. It’s easily the most “rock n roll” album of its genre and it isn’t even close (rock n’ roll meaning the well-publicized ideal of “sex, drugs, and rock n roll.”) I won’t dismiss the remaining band member’s accomplishments; “Appetite” wouldn’t be what it is without Izzy’s dirtier-than-Angus riffs, Duff’s rolling, infatuating bass grooves, and Slash’s eviscerating solos. But what ties it all together is this notion of sleaze, the fact that the sound and subject matter was absolutely no act to sell records. What you heard was actually who this band was, and the quintessential element that tied it all together was Axl. When Axl boasts about how the band always went on late in “Mr. Brownstone,” it’s because they literally could not stand, let alone perform, unless they were loaded up on black tar heroin. There is absolutely nobody else in rock that can pull off the misogyny of “It’s So Easy,” the outlaw underpinnings of “Out To Get Me,” the abusive, alcoholic overtones of “Nighttrain,” the impossibly judgmental “Welcome to the Jungle,” and the roach-motel sleaze of “My Michelle” other than Axl, for no other reason than every sardonic concept, every overpoweringly arrogant boast he made was precisely who he was.
There were a lot of bands in the '80s who released timeless albums and jams we still remember, but none of them came close to capturing people’s attention like Axl and company. Guns N Roses in their prime were beyond a force of nature. If they would have existed in the internet era the internet itself would have exploded. This was beyond a collection of misfits; it was a brood of talented yet unequivocally flawed malcontents, all tied together by an insane yet brilliant leader. Axl wasn’t the only person in the band who slept with a bottle of vodka by the bed stand and ran out of veins to riddle with heroin, but he was easily the most cunning. Some people just think he’s a douche, but those are the ones that are more easily suckered by not realizing the man was a cartoonish evil genius. You can imagine him laughing maniacally after every episode, every million made, not because his plan was working, but because he was literally out of his mind yet intelligent enough to keep playing puppeteer. As time went on, the insanity slowly eroded the brilliance and we now have a bloated, corn row brandishing Axl and “Chinese Democracy,” but there is absolutely zero question during the brief stint in time when the madness collided with brilliance and the true embodiment of personality to music led to the creation of arguably the greatest hard rock record of all time. And it wouldn’t have happened if Axl wasn’t a colossal charlatan, a disgusting lowlife, a king among a$sholes. God bless him.