Album Review, Guns N' Roses, "Use Your Illusion 1&2"

Well, after a ridiculous amount of hype that probably saw the death of a forest of trees to print it on and enough controversy to put Iran-gate in the shade, the new GUNS N' ROSES epics have arrived!!

Will they bring world peace? Will they feed the starving millions in the Third World? I hardly think so. But I can inform you of one fact, and that is, in my humble opinion that these are a collection of great songs, taking you on an autobiographical trip through the heads of "The most dangerous band in the world."

So, fasten your safety belts, extinguish whatever the hell it is you are smoking and if you want to use the toilet, you'll just have to wait 'til we're airborne. 

First Use Your Illusion 1: Right Next Door To Hell thrashes through like an express train fired up with gelignite in its burner, with Axl spitting hatred with the power of a human gattling gun. It's a good one with which to make the first incision.

Dust and Bones, a mid tempo stomp, is the first track featuring Izzy's vocal talents, closely followed by the WINGS classic Live And Let Die. I was a bit sceptical when I heart that they were going to use this but it's turned out pretty well.

One of my faves is Don’t Cry. I’m sure you are aware that there are two versions of this song. Use Your Illusion 2 carries the lyrically alternative rendition, which is equally as good.

In case you're worried that they've tried to remake Appetite For Destruction, forget it. There's no formula to this band. I rather think that they are worth the time, despite all the bollocks shadowing them.

Moving right along here (cos I’ve got a deadline to meet and I’m a lazy bastard), Bad Obsession and the excellent if somewhat sexist Back Off Bitch reek of venom, which seeps through into Double Talkin’ Jive, another of Izzy's self-penned, self-expressed babes, with Axl taking on backing vocals and Slash winding the proceedings up with a fine bit of picking on a classical guitar.

November Rain, another great ballad to compete with Don’t Cry, is, again, damn good, with Axl tinkling the ivories and backing vocals supplied by a cast that is made up for the greater part by unknowns. There's a definite Beatlesy influence in the writing, such as on The Garden, with its dreamy sound that slithers into a nightmare when ALICE COOPER joins in. Let's face it, he could make a lullaby sound like a chanting at a black mass. Cathartic overdose is a pretty close sentiment.

Ripping along, Bad Apples, Dead Horse, and Coma completeUse Your Illusion 1, fluctuating between tongue-in-cheek to intense darkness. Not your METALLICA darkness, but a pretty gloomy sewer nonetheless.

I'd recommend reading the lyrics to each song. It beats the shit out of most of the interviews I've scanned through. Plus it enhances the listening pleasure.

And we're on to Use Your Illusion 2 and the fantastic Civil War. I’ve loved this since it first came out the Nobody's Child charity appeal album for the Romanian orphans.

14 Years: again we’ve got Izzy warbling. It was a bit strange to see him singing at their recent live shows, but it does work once your get used to the fact. And Axl on piano? Another twist that impressed me. Kinda makes the whole thing gel really.

Yesterdays: another fine songaroo – I’m sorry this is a brief overview, but I hope you get the general feel of things. After DYLAN’s simple timeless creation, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, we hit stormy, shark-infested waters where the only thing being pulled are teeth with a monkey wrench. Get In The Ring gives a firm middle finger to all who've crossed the band. There's a name check there that is supposed to shame but will also be used to fame certain individuals of the rock press. This angry theme is carried through with Shotgun Blues, another beaut.

These albums are everything I wasn't expecting (I'll probably be accused of kissing ass, but who cares, I love what I hear). Breakdown, puts the two former songs into perspective, kinda like the calm after the storm.

Side 3 is splattered with sex and loneliness, but not in ballad form, more like a stake to the heart, with the exception of So Fine, which slides in and out of mood swings. Duff takes up vocal duties, sounding a bit like BOWIE in parts. Side 4 houses You Could Be Mine, plus the aforementioned alternative version of Don’t Cry, plus a great number going by the name of Estranged, another ballad of epic proportions and multi-coloured harmonies. The proceedings are rounded off with a weird rap thing from Axl, accompanied by an intense synthetic cloud of keyboards and drums. G N' R are one of the best bands to come forward for years, despite the shite.

There was the added danger on their recent visit here, and indeed on this collection, that they could become parodies of themselves, but, as someone stated to me a while ago, "GUNS N' ROSES have had do to a lot of growing up in a short space of time." I guess that unless you are on that side of the fence it's hard to feel what it's like to be so publicly exposed. Grade A+

Peter Grant
Riff Raff
October 1991
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