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1989.01.07 - Madison Capital Times, Guns N' Roses: The Guys Your Parents Warned You About

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1989.01.07 - Madison Capital Times, Guns N' Roses: The Guys Your Parents Warned You About Empty 1989.01.07 - Madison Capital Times, Guns N' Roses: The Guys Your Parents Warned You About

Post by Soulmonster on Fri Feb 21, 2020 8:46 am

1989.01.07 - Madison Capital Times, Guns N' Roses: The Guys Your Parents Warned You About Madiso14


Guns N' Roses: the guys your parents warned you about
By Eric Rasmussen

Since its beginning, rock 'n' roll has been the music of youth. Despite the ability of artists such as Bruce Springsteen and John Hiatt to make vital, important music well past the age of 30, the lion's share of important rock comes from those between the ages of 17 and 25.

As such rock 'n' roll can be as good a measure as anything of the attitudes, values and actions of America's (and England's) young people. The rock of the '50s was the rebellious, adolescent fun of Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley; the 1960s showed the music dealing with more complex issues in the songs of The Who and Bob Dylan. The '60s also gave us the raw sexual and violent edge of the Rolling Stones.

The late 1970s saw the economic and social discontent of Britain's youth with the advent of punk, and now rap music gives us the black nationalism of groups like Public Enemy.

So what do we make of Guns N' Roses? Made up of five white males in their early 20s, the band represents a side of America's youth that most people would just as soon ignore. These are the kids our parents warned us about, and they're also one of the biggest sell-ing groups in the country Their debut album, "Appetite for De-struction," has sold 7 million copies. Their new release, "GN'R Lies," is No. 13 on the Billboard charts after four weeks. Whether we like it or not, this is an important band.

At first listen, the violence, sex-ism and drug abuse sung about seems no different from standard heavy metal fare. But unlike, say, Motley Crue or Judas Priest, there's nothing fun about it. Whereas those bands use sex and violence for a quick thrill and an • easy sell, these things are real for Guns N' Roses.

The violence they sing about in "Welcome to the Jungle" is what has surrounded them in Los An-geles, and the heroin addiction in "Mr. Brownstone" is their own.

Lead singer and songwriter Axl Rose doesn't glorify the sexism in "It's So Easy"; he just says:

Turn around I got a use for you
Besides, you ain't got nothin' better to do
And I'm bored."

These are truly frightening songs, all the'more so because Guns N' Roses is so relentlessly honest and unapologetic about them. In interviews, they recognize their own self-destructiveness and admit the only thing keeping them alive and out of jail is rock 'n' roll. This integrity in no way forgives them, nor does it defend their life-style or attitudes. But it does give their music an urgency and importance that rock culture and society in general cannot deny.

What's perhaps most interesting and paradoxical about Guns N' Roses is that the quality of its music clearly shows the musicians to be fairly intelligent people. The musicianship and songwriting on "Appetite for Destruction" are head-and-shoulders above almost any other heavy metal band be-cause they recognize the importance of witty lyrics and subtle, textured instrumentation over simple bombast. Their influences are clear — the Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin — but they never resort to copying past formulas.

Some of the band's best material appears on side two of "GN'R Lies," and, ironically, it's of a slower tempo and mostly acoustic, The bluesy version of "You're Crazy" blows away the hard-rocking rendition that appears on "Appetite," and "Patience" shows that these guys recognize the power of a beautiful, acoustic ballad.

At the end of this quiet beauty, however, lies the most disturbing song the band has done to date, "One in a Million." In the space of six minutes, Axl Rose manages to prove himself a sexist, a homophobe and a racist. For once, Rose lets the ugliness of Los Angeles get the best of him, and he lashes out at the most obvious targets, i.e., any-one who's different.

As usual, however, he refuses to take any responsibility for his attitudes:

Don't point your finger at me
I'm just a small-town white boy (Rose is from Indiana)
Trying to make ends meet.

Rose recognizes the shortcomings of the song on the album jacket, where he writes: "This song is very simple and extremely generic or generalized, my apologies to those who may take offense." Once again, however, that certainly doesn't justify his outlook.

But what does all this tell us about Guns N' Roses and our country's youth? If the lyrics of "It's So Easy" are any indication, there is a growing number of white young people who are intensely dissatisfied with what our mind-numbing, television-ruled country has to offer:

It's so easy, easy
When everybody's tryin' to please me
So easy
But nothin' seems to please me.

The problem is that, instead of turning that dissatisfaction into constructive energy and going beyond the limits of pop culture (like punk at its best did), they are turning instead to sex, violence and drugs. And because there's no easy place to put the blame without accusing themselves, they lay the blame on others — on blacks, immigrants and gays.

This discontent is nothing new, and it would be foolish to claim that all of America's youth is feeling this way. But the fact that Guns N' Roses, and heavy metal in general, are so popular should send us a clear message that something is wrong. Intentionally or not, America may be turning into the only country in the world that eats its young.
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