The Drama You've Been Craving
Monday Jan. 8, 2001
The Unwelcome Return Of Guns 'N Roses
After seven years, Axl Rose returns to the stage. Yawn..
By Michael Goldberg
It was perhaps fitting, that Guns N' Roses should appear -- after a seven-year absence -- in that hell that masquerades as "Paradise City," Las Vegas. "I have traversed a treacherous sea of horrors to be with you here tonight," Axl Rose, the only remaining original member of the band said during a House of Blues performance in the early hours of the New Year, according to a New York Times report.
Well no one asked you to make the trip, Axl.
I do not welcome the return of either Axl Rose, or a new version of Guns N' Roses, the band that he now dominates. I always hated Guns 'N Roses, and time has not changed my opinion of a much-overrated third-rate rock band. A band that was a disgrace to rock 'n' roll. Bad, as we all know, is often good. Oasis were "bad"; the Stooges were "bad." But Guns 'N Roses were "bad" in a bad way.
I paid little attention to them before their creepy album, you know, the one called Appetite for Destruction (released in August 1987) with artwork that depicted a women in the aftermath of what looked like a rape, became a hit. But indifference turned to active dislike when they became MTV staples, and their pseudo rock infected already vapid commercial rock radio.
I couldn't stand Axl Rose's screechy, off-key excuse for a voice when he was singing Guns "N Roses originals, and even more so when he and the band decimated Bob Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door." Listen to those old records and you will again hear that particularly irritating vocal tic of Rose's, which he used over and over again. At times, when I paid attention, it almost made me physically ill.
Cobain Didn't Like 'Em Either
I found nothing redeeming about Appetite for Destruction, although I certainly understood the appeal of the band to a generation of teenagers who wanted a hard rock band of their own that would piss off their parents the way Rolling Stones' records pissed off their parents' parents.
Rose, back in the day, was an ignorant buffoon; I'm sure you recall the homophobic lyric in the song "One in a Million." Was its inclusion on the follow-up to Appetite for Destruction calculated to cause controversy or the way Rose actually felt, or both?
The group did all the cliched out-of-control rock star moves: ripped up hotel rooms, ignited rioting at a concert, etc., etc.
The late Kurt Cobain publicly trashed Guns N' Roses, a band he disliked due to, among other things, their sexism.
Like A Chemical Brothers Remix
So now a new version of Guns N' Roses is back (the others left, or were fired by Rose, years ago); a new album, reportedly titled Chinese Democracy, is due this summer.
The band backing Rose in Vegas included former members of the Replacements, Primus, the Replicants and Nine Inch Nails, plus avant-garde guitarist Buckethead.
For those that got in to the House of Blues (paying $150 or more) who expected to hear something new, the show was a tease, according to Times reporter Neil Strauss.
Most of the two-hour set was filled with oldies including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Mr. Brownstone," and "Paradise City." Just a few new songs, songs with a different sound, were performed. "...only in the first song of their encore, a hard-driving electronic rave-up that sounded like a Chemical Brothers remix of Guns 'N Roses, did the audience get a glimpse of the music that the band really seemed to want to play," wrote Strauss.
Hard Rock Dunderheads
Rose's timing for a comeback is certainly good. With some of his bastard children, most notably Limp Biskit, currently in vogue, the new generation of hard rock fans might be willing to give Axl a chance. I hope not.
Guns N' Roses, and a certain kind of lousy band that came before and after them (Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, Whitesnake, etc., etc.) are as far from real rock 'n' roll as a blockbuster such as "Titanic" is from cinema.
Rose is a pretender. Him and his original band mates did their best to look, act and sound like rockers. But they weren't. They were the loser kids smoking in the parking lot behind the high school. They were talentless, heartless and artless. But hey, a lot of people watch lousy sitcoms like "Coach" and "Frasier." The likes of Axl Rose will always be forming bands, and there will always be a following for them.
As for Axl himself, my sense is that it's over. I'll be Shocked if the new Guns N' Roses album makes many waves. Axl makes music for 13-year-olds, but today's 13-year-olds don't want their dad's hard rock band.
Of course there's the oldies circuit (ah, now Vegas makes sense), which might, ultimately, work for Axl. He'd have to reunite with Slash and the others to pull that off, and that could take another seven years.
In The Game
Sally Timms & Jon Langford, Songs of False Hope and High Values (Bloodshot): On holiday from the Mekons, singer/songwriters Sally Timms and Jon Langford have crafted a modernist collection of folk tales set to a hybrid country-folk-bluegrass sound instrumentation includes banjo, mandolin and Hawaiian guitar. When they duet, as they do on "I Picked Up the Pieces," they echo that very British, very smart ethos of Richard and Linda Thompson, but their solo turns are equally sharp. Sally covers Floyd Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and Dolly Parton's "Down From Dover." I prefer the originals, including "Horses" and "I Picked Up the Pieces," which transcend time and space. This album is issued in a limited edition of 2000 copies (I bought #1255). Locate one now, or pay the price.
Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.
© 2000, 2001 Michael Goldberg. All rights reserved.