Guns N' Roses
Appetite for Destruction



August 31st, 2006 | 2281 replies

Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Without wishing to overstate the case, there's an argument to be made that many of the most heated arguments on the forums attached to sputnikmusic.com, although petty and irrelevant to the outside observer, are in fact following in the footsteps of ancient philosophical thought. Whether or not the participants in the debates in question are aware of this is an interesting question, but, even by my standards of tangents in music reviews, utterly irrelevant. The debate over objective and subjective knowledge is one that remains as popular today as it has done throughout the recorded history of mankind, and it is perhaps inevitable that any debate about popular music will, at some stage, quite possibly involve this age-old favourite. I consider myself firmly in the camp that believes that there is simply no such thing as objectively good or bad music. There's one problem with this belief, however, namely that it makes mocking the taste of the people that have bought the most popular albums of all time rather more difficult than I might like. While there are many albums on the all-time best-selling list that astound me, there is a special place in my heart for both Appetite For Destruction and Back In Black. For while virtually no-one argues that the Titanic Soundtrack or Let's Talk About Love by Celine Dion rank among the top albums of all time, these two hard rock albums have not only sold over 60 million copies between them, but are also frequently cited as among the best albums in the hard rock genre. To inexplicably quote James Lovell, "Houston, we have a problem".

This problem is perhaps shown most clearly in the very first song on the album, Welcome To The Jungle. As the first song on the band’s first studio album, the standard approach to describing Welcome To The Jungle tends to include words and phrases such as “explosive”, “wake-up call”, “shocking” and “introduction to Axl Rose’s yowling vocals”. Indeed, the song is often cited as among the most seminal moments of popular music in the 1980s, such is its alleged impact. If, however, the alleged impact of Welcome To The Jungle were somehow surgically removed from the popular consciousness, all that is left is a song that’s more or less “hard rock by numbers”. It’s a song that is so fundamentally senseless and unpleasant, being full as it is of Axl Rose’s fratboy style boasting that it was actually used by the United States military during the 1989 invasion of Panama as part of a campaign to force Manuel Noriega from office. Let’s put it another way. Welcome To The Jungle is so diabolically horrible that it forces dictators to leave office. It’s So Easy is, if anything, even worse with the exception of the bridges when Axl decides to sing, rather than resort to atypically low, borderline spoken-word vocals. These moments provide hints of the melodies of which Guns N Roses were capable during the best moments of their career, but the song other than that is eminently forgettable.

Oddly enough, the same is true of many of the songs here. Given Slash’s reputation as one of the pre-eminent guitarists of the modern era, what’s striking about this album is how few of the songs are genuinely memorable. Admittedly, if you’ve listened to enough music it’s very possible to predict what the band’s going to do next at pretty much any point in any given song, but with the exception of Paradise City, Sweet Child O’Mine and Mr. Brownstone, there’s a pronounced paucity of memorable moments of the album. Mr. Brownstone, with Axl’s husky semi-rapped vocals heading into an all too brief chorus complement one of the few times when Slash seems to have made a conscious effort to try and make his solo fit the song, rather than simply record something and then shove it into a half-formed song. Mr. Brownstone also helps showcase the oft-forgotten strength of Guns N Roses, namely the presence of Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan in the band. Although Axl Rose and Slash have always received most of the plaudits for their role within the band, the rhythm section of the group frequently seems to be holding in the band against the worst of their musical excesses, in an ironic case of life conspicuously not imitating art. Even on some of the album’s most forgettable moments (Out Ta Get Me being a prime example), it is still notable how Stradlin provides the initial impetus for the song that gives the listener false hope that it won’t be an uninspired stomp through hard rock staples.

Virtually everything that could be written about Paradise City has been written, and most of it remains true. It’s indisputably one of the biggest, most popular hard rock songs ever written, and the combination of one of the band’s best riffs, Axl showing that he can preen with the best of them, and the final two minutes of pure, unadulterated mayhem all make it quite probably the band’s finest six and three quarter minutes of their entire career. In between this and the restrained, all-conquering Sweet Child O’Mine come My Michelle and Think About You, which suffer by comparison. While Think About You is one of the stronger songs on the album, helped greatly by the sudden appearance of what sounds remarkably like a synthesizer, it also suffers from the repeated problem of the inappropriate Slash solo, although it is nevertheless an improvement on My Michelle, which initially sounds as if it could be Guns N Roses exploring an entirely more introspective side to themselves courtesy of Stradlin’s subtle rhythm guitar before Axl starts singing about daddy working in porno, and Mummy dying because of heroin use. While much of the praise for Appetite For Destruction takes into account the fact that it portrays a realistic account of life in certain areas of Los Angeles, Axl’s lyrics frequently become repetitive over the course of this album, losing whatever shock value they may once have possessed.

It would also be futile to pretend that my personal enjoyment of this album isn’t greatly effected by Axl Rose’s singing style itself, which is the single most divisive part of the music of Guns N Roses. Although there are songs on which it becomes tolerable, this owes in large part to the quality of the music behind him, which masks the full effect of his singing style. With anything other than the band behind him playing to the peak of their ability, however, his vocals often grate intensely on the listener, making getting through Appetite For Destruction in its entirety more difficult than it might be thought.

The album itself, however, closes on a comparatively strong note courtesy of Rocket Queen, although before that point both You’re Crazy and Anything Goes make a powerful case for sending the album back to the shops. Both songs add very little to the album, beyond realising while listening to the lyrics of You’re Crazy that Axl is strangely capable of whining like a child deprived of his candy floss given his carefully crafted image over the rest of the album. Although Rocket Queen itself features the famous orgasmic moaning interlude which is every bit as crass as it sounds on paper, the adventurous nature of the song, containing both distinct sides of Guns N Roses makes it one of their better experiments, while also making the dour, mindless nature of at least half of the songs on this album even less tolerable.

Although Appetite For Destruction may not be the single most overrated album among otherwise rational music fans, I would have to say that it deserves an honourable mention. With perhaps three songs on here that come close to justifying its phenomenal sales record and critical acclaim, all too many of the remaining nine songs are the kind of song that could easily appear on the 6th or 7th album from a hard rock band that’s long passed over the hill. Having not been alive in the United States in 1987, I can’t possibly judge whether Appetite For Destruction really made the cultural impact for which it is renowned, or, if it did, why it happened. But all my musical senses make it utterly inexplicable as to why it still frequently features prominently in lists of the best albums ever made.

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August 31st 2006


Although I disagree with nearly everything you just said, this is an extremely well written review, as usual. It's infact so convincing, that you've got me listening to one of my favorite albums of all time, to make sure I wasn't wrong about it all along.

But na I still love this thing, I find it cathartic. Although I usually look for much 'deeper' things in music, i'm always busting out the sleaze.

""Turn around Bit[I]ch I got a use for you / Besides you ain't got nothing better to do / and I'm bored"[/I]" - Haha, I love it.This Message Edited On 08.31.06

August 31st 2006


Extremely well said Med, I've grown out of this album, but, your points are extremely valid. Paradise City does own though.

August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Damnit! I wanted a n00b to review so that mine wasn't still the worst of the bunch. Anywho, great work etc. etc. /votes

Apocalyptic Raids
August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

That was a great review, Med.

I however, love this album :p

August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

nicely written review, Med. That goes without saying. But I think you miss the mark here. Perhaps you said it best with your take on the whole subjective/objective thing in your first paragraph. But this album is far from "poor" by any standard. If you go by how overrated it is by some then perhaps when you listen to it you do kind of go "WTF is everyone talking about". But taken on its own standards it's pretty good stuff.

And yes, this album did have a great cultural impact in the States in '87. It was out for a year (or more) before MTV made it a hit, and G n R was basically just a little street band made up of busted up bands from Hollywood. This album, raw and emotional and howling almost single handedly killed off the hair metal poser bands of the eighties and paved the way for what later became the "grunge" scene from Seattle to bust out. Countless bands in the late eighties just couldn't keep pace with this hard rock band with a subtle street punk edge and they just folded. End of story. The real deal had finally arrived and they exposed every cheap hairspray band as wannabes from here to there and everywhere in between. This is one of the most important albums of the past 20 years, and on top of that it just kicks arse. Certainly far more deserving then a 2.

EDIT: meh. don't read this. just see my Sound Off....This Message Edited On 08.31.06

August 31st 2006


This is basically what I think of the album. Rock on Med!

August 31st 2006


nicely written review, Med. That goes without saying. But I think you miss the mark here. Perhaps you said it best with your take on the whole subjective/objective thing in your first paragraph. But this album is far from "poor" by any standard.

It's poor by my standard. :p I said that I don't believe that there are any objective criteria by which music can be measured, and that basically means (to me), that since I don't like this album very much and think that it's not that good even within the genre, that it's poor.

Cultural significance is interesting when judging music, but I try not to include it in my ratings. Nevermind is seen by loads of people (incorrectly, in my opinion) as one of the most important albums ever made, but I don't think that really matters in a CD review, although I'll admit that I go on about it every now and again. Were you living in California when this came out?

Anyway, thanks for the comments and things, everyone.

Staff Reviewer
August 31st 2006


This review is going down in history as something important.
I am not sure what, but I do look forward to Spat Out Plath's response... if he makes one! DUN DUN DUN.

August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I really love Welcome to the Jungle. In fact I think it's their best song. But I agree that they have a lot of unmemorable songs on this album.

August 31st 2006


I love you.

August 31st 2006


really smart review right here, even though i disagree on the rating. I agree with JXD, G'N'R were one of the most real hard rock bands of the decade

Siberian Khatru
August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

This is a very well written review. I can relate to what your saying about the easily forgotten filler. However, I would give them more credit for the high energy in the music Nightrain in particular. I think Gn'R improved immensely on the Use Your Illusion albums. Everything fit better and they starting varying their style into more majestic epics or southern sounding songs.

I think that once you get down to it, whether you dislike or like Gn’R is based on whether or not you can tolerate Axl’s voice.

August 31st 2006


An excellent review. Of course. :thumb:

August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I love Axl's voice but I think some of their music is boring.

August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

Good review. I agree on most points, but I hate Paradise City. Axl's vocals are possibly at their most annoying in that song. And they are often annoying. Having said that, most of the songs would be quite good with another singer, and the occasional wankfest of a guitar solo removed.

August 31st 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Fantastic review. I've never been a G&R fan, but I enjoy this album quite a bit. All I really have to say is that wether it is overated or not this album undeniably rocks and made a huge impact on the music world and I know you explained why that really doesn't matter, but when millions of people first heard this record they must have felt like finely we have somthing that really rocks out like things used to and its hard to say this album really isn't any thing special to those millions of people that first enjoyed it. But thats just my take on albums that were hugely popular that some people think do not deserve the praise they deserve. Then (to ramble on more) theres the whole thing with what makes music good and what I always consider good music is music that makes you feel or think makes you want to get up and do somthing, so then I guess the question is does Apetite for Destruction do those things? I leave my opinion there. Excellent review.

August 31st 2006


I think with any "classic" album you should never believe the hype, when i bought the stone roses first album id never heard any hype and loved it, but a lot of people passionatley hate that band, same for a lot of people who got this back in 87 i guess

September 1st 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

I disagree with you entirely and compleatly and think you should be shot after being set upon by dogs.

But that dosn't change the fact that that's a wicked review. =D Gj man.

Digging: Weatherday - Come In

September 1st 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Although Axl Rose and Slash have always received most of the platitudes

Perhaps those two are the most platitudinal, but I think you mean "plaudits"?

I don't really know enough about Guns n Roses to offer a solid viewpoint on this album, but I like the singles. Review sucks but what else can I expect from Meddy.

September 1st 2006


i like axl's voice. really great review.

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