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Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

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Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:55 am

You know where you are? You’re in Counterbalance, baby! And Guns N’ Roses 1987 debut is the 60th most acclaimed album of all time -- take that one to heart!

Klinger: I can’t tell you how pleased I am that we are finally getting to Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction. After all, according to Acclaimed Music’s rankings, once we get through this week’s Counterbalance, it will be 13 blissful years before I’m once again required to listen to Axl Rose on purpose.

As I’ve listened to Appetite for Destruction these past few weeks, one thought has occurred to me over and over: “Shut up, Axl Rose. Stop screeching in that upper register that sounds like a dentist drill. Stop burbling in that lower range that makes you sound like that dancing frog from the Warner Bros. cartoons. And for the love of God, if you insist on singing your eighth-grader lyrics, please stop punctuating them with pointless inanities like ‘Take that one to heart!’ It doesn’t make you edgy, Axl. It just makes you sound silly. In the name of all that is holy, please, Axl Rose, please shut up.”

So you can see why this week is something of a relief for me.

Mendelsohn: Well, that makes two of us. But despite all of that, I find this album absolutely fascinating. So let’s back up a minute and unpack a few things for discussion. Number one, Axl has a unique vocal approach—it’s high-pitched, it’s whiny, and for some unknown reason, the public loved it. Two, this is the first album we’ve hit where profanity is used as a casual throwaway lyric, a byproduct of the culture as opposed to shock value intended as an artistic statement. And three, if you want to talk about rock and roll—real, quintessential rock and roll, live-fast-and-die-young rock and roll, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends rock and roll—Guns N’ Roses pretty much has it in spades.

The thing I find so fascinating about Guns N’ Roses, and especially Appetite for Destruction, is just how well-loved it is across the spectrum. Everybody loved this album. Men loved it because it rocked hard, it was dirty and heavy, and appealed to the burgeoning mainstream biker culture. Women loved it because Axl was the pinnacle of badass, don’t-bring-him-home-to-mama boyfriends, but the music still had enough pop sensibilities to draw them in as listeners. Kids loved it because they thought their parents would hate it, plus Axl’s lyrics are targeted squarely at the teen-angst set.

To this day, I’m still surprised by how much still like this album. One of my favorite party games includes making derogatory comments about Guns N’ Roses and watching people stumble over each other to defend them, after which they normally break into a couple a cappella bars of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

Klinger: It is interesting how beloved Appetite for Destruction is, especially considering I remember this album being more controversial than respected when it first came out. But having vented my spleen about their silly, silly lead singer, I do have up a few thoughts as to why Guns N’ Roses have found their way into the upper reaches of the Great List. First, an unprovable theory.

One of rock’s more enduring canards is the idea that Nirvana’s Nevermind signaled the death of hair metal, but I submit that the first seeds in the demise of that much-maligned genre were planted right here with this album. Guns N’ Roses may have sprung up from the same L.A. scene that launched Poison, et al, but they did avoid the glam trappings that were so clearly destined to have a short shelf life. In a sense, I argue, Guns N’ Roses beat candy metal at its own game, and that set Nirvana up to deliver the final blow.

And their ability to dodge dodgy trends extended into their music. Slash, for example, was one of the few new-generation guitarists whose sound wasn’t beholden to Eddie Van Halen and his widdly-woo finger-tapping. And Izzy Stradlin could have/should have been the heir to the dissolute rock titans of the previous generation. All of this counts for something, and if I didn’t have to endure petulant nonsense like “Out ta Get Me”, I might be right there with your party guests, Mendelsohn.

Mendelsohn: I think your unproveable theory might end up holding a lot of water. Guns N’ Roses offered a link between the spandexed hair farmers and the flannel-wearing grungers and without that link, we might hypothesize, Nirvana would not have been as readily accepted as they were. Simply moving the music listening populace from the power ballads and “hard rock” of hair metal to the stripped down dirge of Seattle’s new rock isn’t just going to happen. Guns N’ Roses heavy retooling of blues, rock, and punk acted as a way to soften the ears of the regular listener, preparing them for something a little less flashy.

Appetite for Destruction came out at the absolute right time for a lot of people in my generation. Guns N’ Roses was kind of like the gateway drug into a wider world of music. They were kids when Guns N’ Roses hit and not too long afterward you have Nevermind, joined the same year by Metallica’s “Black Album”. It was a great time for rock and its heavier sub genres. I didn’t come to the party by way of GNR so my relationship with Appetite is tenuous at best, but I can see why this album would be so highly regarded.

Klinger: I was 18 when this album came out and had just discovered the magical curative properties of beer, so I was demographically on target. But at around the same time I had stumbled into the island of misfit toys that was college radio, so I had pretty much opted out of all of this by then. Of course, the singles were all over the place, and there were even times when I could be convinced that “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” were basically solid pop singles. And if the selections on their 1993 covers album The Spaghetti Incident? serve as an accurate depiction of their roots, Guns N’ Roses share more DNA with the Alternative Nation than either side would care to admit. Duff McKagan did, after all, cut his teeth in Seattle’s punk scene.

Where GNR parts company is in their inordinately enthusiastic embrace of the rock lifestyle, and I think that’s been something of a stumbling block, for me at least. Don’t get me wrong, I’m first in line to champion, say, the Rolling Stones, who for a while there wouldn’t shut up about Sweet Lady H. But the Stones’ debut album wasn’t chockablock with Schedule 1 serenades. To paraphrase Tony Montana, you gotta have the audience first. Then when you have the audience, you get the addiction. Then when you have the addiction, then you write the songs about how hard it is to be a drug addicted rock star. To do otherwise strikes me as unseemly. Unseemly, Mendelsohn!

Mendelsohn: There are a lot of unseemly things about this record and that’s the last thing I want to discuss before we drop Axl and Co. like a bad haircut. Appetite for Destruction marks the first time on the list where we encounter the overt use of profanity. We’ve encountered it before with Public Enemy (used righteously), the Sex Pistols (used to shock), and Nirvana (no big deal, it was the ‘90s, our ears had been liberated). Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the word “fuck” or all of its endless and wonderful conjugations—it’s my go-to expletive—but from a strictly cultural standpoint, the use of profanity doesn’t make many appearances in the top 100 and if it does, it’s nothing as gratuitous as what we find here, with Axl acting like a little kid who learned a new word his parents don’t want him shouting in public.

I might just be grasping at straws, but this is the first record we’ve done that the profanity has stuck out. What do you think? Does Appetite signal a shift in lyrical sensibility? Is it merely a sign of the times? Or is Axl stretching for something to say and just dropping F-bombs as a way to garner attention? I mean, subject-wise, there isn’t anything on this record that hasn’t been said a million times before and much more poetically at that. Maybe I just got old all of the sudden and didn’t notice.

Klinger: I know I got old, but that’s making me less likely to be shocked by profanity—I’m more offended by Axl’s ill-advised “Yowza” at the end of “Mr. Brownstone” than I am any salty language. As I was listening to Rose in a song like “It’s So Easy”, I couldn’t help thinking that he was dropping profanity to cover for the fact that the lyrics in the chorus aren’t really all that strong (in all fairness, they are Duff McKagan’s lyrics, though). I’ve noticed that singers may throw in a swear when they’re trying to ratchet up a song that’s not moving forward under its own power. I can’t help thinking that’s at least part of the case here.

But you know what? At the end of the day, albums like this are critic-proof. I can’t begrudge anyone who heard Appetite for Destruction the way it was meant to be heard, but I didn’t listen to this album when I was cruising around with my buddies drinking Coors Light. If I had, I might even love it. I’d be more willing to forgive Axl Rose his excesses, and I’d be more able to appreciate the fun that can come from their brand of mindless hedonism.

See you in 2024, Axl.

Source: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/151428-/
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:56 am

What the fuck? This is one of the most shitty reviews I have ever read. It's only criticism and mostly about the profanity. Is PopMatters some Christian music blog? Fuck'em!
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by 666 on Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:21 am

I actually agree with most of what they are saying.
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:29 am

@666 wrote:I actually agree with most of what they are saying.

I find the review utterly worthless. After reading it again I am left with four things: They don't like Axl's voice (fair enough), they think the lyrics are banal (yeah, they were written by kids), the react to all the profanity (we're in 2011, people shouldn't be shocked by the occasional swear word), and they think GN'R opened up for the grunge explosion. That is ALL I get from a review of one of the best rock records ever.
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by 666 on Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:40 am

It is not one of the best rock records ever. That's the point. GNR fans think it is. It is for a 13 year old kid in 1987 or a 13 year old discovering it now. When you grow older and listen to it with different perspective, you realize that it's overrated to the max. More than half the album can be considered filler. Axl's lyrics are not very good. They are cliche riddled and still are to this day... that is, when they make some sort of sense. And about the profanity, they are referring to how it was in 1987 when it came out.



They do offer positives as well.
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:58 am

I think it ranks among top 20 rock records on most rankings...I would expect serious reviewers to actually talk about the music, the individual band member's qualities, etc.
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:59 am

And it's not so much that I disagree with what they are saying, it's more a critique of their endless droning on irrelevant things when they are supposed to review music. They are not writing a thesis on the origination of profanity in rock music.
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by 666 on Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:21 pm

The profanity on AFD was a big reason for its "coolness" at the time. It is very relevant to any review of the album. It was a mainstream rock album with so-called profanity weaved throughout and at the time, that was unheard of.

When most people talk about GNR, they mostly focus on Axl, Axl's voice, etc and Slash's guitar. Nobody ever talks about Duff's bass lines. It's just the way it is. Granted, they are focusing mostly on Axl but most people consider GNR to be Axl's band anyway. They do give props to both Slash and Izzy, however briefly it may be.

As a disillusioned, cranky, cynical, old GNR fan, I can appreciate this discussion on AFD all these years later. When it came out, I was sucked in by the excesses of it all too and thought it was the coolest thing since Fonzie. 25 years later, I can look back and see how it was the perfect record for me and lots of other teenagers at the time but I don't think it's held up well. I can't ever sit and listen to the whole album anymore. It all seems so cheesy to me now. But it does conjure up memories of a time when I was young and that's a great thing and a wonderful testament to music.
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Re: Counterbalance No. 60: Guns N’ Roses’ 'Appetite for Destruction'

Post by Soulmonster on Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:24 am

The profanity may have been relevant in 1987 but unless you are discussing why the album was shocking back then it is not relevant in a review of the music in 2011. But I guess this is not meant to be a normal music review but rather an analysis of why the record became popular in the first place, and if so it is natural to mention the strong language used.

I am in the same situation as you although I do appreciate AFD still even if I agree that the general perception of the record is way overblown. I don't agree that it is full of fillers though. But I do find it banal and cheesy, at least parts of it.
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