Review Summary: YOU GONNA DIE!
The ferocity and aggression of Appetite For Destruction blows the flawless, bubblegum public image of rock star life out of the water. The gritty, egotistical lyrics of Axl Rose deliver brilliantly against the breakneck, swaggering guitars as the biggest debut album of the 1980s does its stuff. G ‘N R are one of the few bands who knew who they were and what they sounded like from day one. Although the very excess that is the heart of this album would eventually rot through their musical production until they ended up a bunch of spoilt manchildren, Appetite For Destruction is an endearing legacy of how good these boys were at their craft.
The massive blaring of the intro to Welcome To The Jungle sets the album in full swing immediately. The unbelievably good work between Slash and Izzy Stradlin makes for one of rock’s greatest ever intros. The gritty stab of the riff sets the tone for the song (about the darker, dirtier underbelly of Los Angeles under the hyperbole of fame) with some fantastic lines from Axl (“Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day/You learn to live like an animal, in the jungle where we play”) and the singer’s paint-peeling alarm of a screech to blow your mind.
The delusions and pitfalls of fame are addressed in It’s So Easy, Nightrain and Out Ta Get Me. It’s So Easy is about the empty perfection of stardom and ‘nightrain’ is a cheap liquor that the notoriously reckless band would guzzle by the vat in their early, crazy days as it was all they could afford. Out Ta Get Me, holding references to the victimised feeling Axl had during his early days of fame, but also possibly about child abuse.
The best non-hit on the album is Mr. Brownstone, about the heroin addiction between Slash and Izzy that almost destroyed the band. The lyrics are just sensational, detailing the descent from use (I get out of bed around nine/I don’t worry about nothing, no, ‘cause worry’s a waste of my time) to true addiction (Now I get up whenever/ I used to get up on time) with references to how “I used to do a little but the little wouldn’t do, so the little got more and more” and how Mr. Brownstone (possibly the pseudonym of the dealer) was incessantly feeding them heroin.
Paradise City, another super huge hair metal hit, is an outsider’s innocent vision of Los Angeles: a land of milk and honey with green grass and pretty girls. Special mention to the final two minutes, when the tempo swings up to eleven and Slash brings the house down with a full tilt, face melting metal solo.
The blunt My Michelle is Cab Calloway’s lovable ‘Minnie the Moocher’ in filthy decadence: a no good, irredeemable street crawler living very much in the insanity of today without regard to tomorrow. Axl’s death howl of the chorus line is at once brilliant and chilling.
Starting with a deceptively mild cowbell, Think About You is, to this point, the most tender song on the album. G ‘N R would do more of these down the line (Don’t Cry, Patience, November Rain). It is immediately beaten by the biggest hit that the Gunners would ever have: Sweet Child O’ Mine, with a riff as famous as Smoke On The Water, is a tender, poem like ballad with nostalgia and love intertwined. Also features a mind flipping Slash solo that kicks into an absolute epic at 4:08.
The appropriately frenetic You’re Crazy pushes Axl’s voice to the height of his range. His almost awestruck exclamations of “You’re CRAZY!” add some real character to the song.
Anything Goes is a typical song of casual excess and shallow luxury with a groovy solo from Slash, who has pretty much consolidated himself as a great guitarist on this album. The final seductive Siren call of Rocket Queen (with the wonderfully sly one liner “I’ve got a tongue like a razor, a sweet switchblade knife”), at six minutes and a change, brings a wonderfully excessive, aggressive album to a close.
It’s inevitable to concede that Guns ‘N Roses brought about their own destruction. Yet Appetite For Destruction remains as a testament to what they could do, musically and lyrically.