Wednesday, January 19, 2011
And in this corner, weighing in at 850 pounds...
When I first started typing this post it was going to be about Guns N' Roses' most recent album, Chinese Democracy, but I decided to just make this an all-encompassing GNR post- what I like about them, what you should like about them, and maybe some info for people who don't know much about this awesome band.
Those of my followers who are Guns N' Roses fans may have already noticed that the name of my blog is taken from a song from their second (technically third) studio album, Use Your Illusion I (released in 1991). I make it no secret that I love Guns N' Roses, which always gets me flak from various groups of people. In a way I can understand where they are coming from. I used to dislike Guns as well...before I listened to them. Actually listened to them, I mean. Everyone has heard "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle," but how many people have heard "Mr. Brownstone" or "Locomotive?"
I've found on multiple occasions that if you really explore a band's catalog you discover that their best songs are almost never the most well-known. It's tough to get over the stigma of listening to such a massively popular band as Guns N' Roses, though. Hipsters and other people who hate anything that is popular will certainly tell you that you have shit musical taste, but that's fine, they will just never appreciate the majestic masterpiece that is "Estranged."
The song was popular at the time of its release, mainly due to this video (the most expensive music video ever at the time), but is certainly not one of their most well-known songs now. It's a shame, because in my opinion it is the greatest song of all time and embodies everything that is great about Guns N' Roses that people fail to recognize. It's not a mindless hard rock song, it's an intricate and complex musical journey through the entire spectrum of human emotion over an epic 9 and a half minutes.
There was a thread recently on a forum I post on that said Slash was overrated. I'm not sure what to think of that. Certainly he's not the greatest guitarist of all time, but in my opinion he is easily in the top 10 (possibly the top 5, it depends on how I'm feeling). "Estranged" demonstrates exactly why: he's tasteful. Taste is one of the most important qualities a guitarist can have, and Slash has it in spades. He rarely overplays. He can play fast, obviously, and does (when the song calls for it), but he also comes up with incredible melodic ideas. Slash's melodic sense is his greatest strength. The guitar melodies in "Estranged" are fantastic.
Slash's tone is legendary, as well. People have been trying for almost 25 years to replicate the tone he got on Appetite For Destruction, GNR's debut (and also the best-selling debut album of all time). It had a crazy amount of distortion but was never muddy like a lot of metal guitar players.
Songs like "Sweet Child o' Mine" show just how easily Slash could switch from a tasteful, melodic, beautiful solo to a heavy, fast, hard rock solo and they show just how easily Guns N' Roses could switch from tasteful, melodic, beautiful ballads to heavy, fast, hard rock songs. It baffles me that so many people think of Guns as a one-dimensional rock band, judging them on songs like "Welcome to the Jungle" instead of songs like "Estranged."
I often run into people that say they don't like the band because of Axl Rose's voice, to which I reply, "Which voice?" Axl is one of the most dynamic vocalists in the history of humanity. Look no further than GNR Lies (their actual second album, made up of three new songs and a bunch of old songs re-released) for the perfect example. Anyone unfamiliar with the band would have no idea that Axl Rose sings "Patience" (trust me, I had no idea myself when I first heard it). It sounds nothing like the gravelly, howling Axl Rose that we all know, and that's the genius of him. He uses his voice like a guitar in a way- just as a guitarist can play clean and distorted, Axl Rose can sing clean or distorted. Just as a guitarist can use a wah-wah pedal, Axl Rose can make his voice sound like a wah-wah pedal. Compare his voice on "Reckless Life" to "Patience." It sounds like two completely different singers.
People love to hate on Axl though. He's made it quite easy through many of his actions, like appearing on stage late on a regular basis, using racial and homophobic slurs in a song, and firing various band members and driving the rest to quit. As a result of this, even people who like Guns N' Roses hate Axl and his new version of the band. Many of them hate the newest album, Chinese Democracy, on principle, without even listening to it.
The truth is, Chinese Democracy is a good album, with many songs that are pretty good and a few songs that are truly great. No, it's not Appetite, but why would it be? What is the point in releasing the same album over and over again? You can listen to Nickelback and the like if you are into bands with no musical development.
I, on the other hand, will be enjoying great songs like "I.R.S.," "Street of Dreams" and "Chinese Democracy," and watching the new band tear through the old stuff perfectly:
I've seen Slash's band live, but nothing beats the original singer shredding on the songs he wrote himself. Here's a video from 2010:
Whatever it was that Axl Rose had, he's still got it.