Use Your Illusion I

Guns N' Roses

Geffen, 1991

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


How much different would the rock world have been if Guns 'N Roses had released the follow-up to Appetite For Destruction only a year or two later, instead of in 1991? Maybe nothing would have changed, but it's food for thought, given the breathless anticipation, hype and lines that accompanied this disc and Use Your Illusion II.

Evidently unable to whittle down the best songs to a single disc, and in a fit of what would become unbridled hubris, Guns released two discs on the same day. DV alum "Gordon Gekko" posited that both Illusions were all one very long release and should be treated as such. But both have different personalities, and for those who want to dig deeper than the radio hits, it's a daunting task to sort through nearly 30 songs in search of the best.

Perhaps sensing that most people would go for the first volume first, Axl and company load this disc with the hard rockers that both resemble Appetite and the band's continuing debt to Aerosmith and the Stones. The second volume is the one with the epics, the ballads and the experiments, for the most part, while this one – apart from "November Rain" – is mostly balls-out hard rock.

Owing to internal tensions and creeping professionalism, Guns crafted an album that sounds like the brilliant my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Appetite in spots but then goes beyond, piling on instruments, song length and actual songs (16 on this disc alone). An uncomfortable amount of filler, then, runs rampant between the good songs, such as the boozy "You Ain't The First," the original version of "Don't Cry," "Dust N' Bones," the dull wrongheaded cover of "Live And Let Die" and the early Aerosmith tribute "Bad Obsession," right down to the harmonica.

Only in a few spots does this quintet equal the danger that makes Appetite such a thrill, even to this day, instead of sounding like a band trying to mimic what made them great. "Right Next Door To Hell," the hyper-kinetic "Garden Of Eden" and "Perfect Crime" are gasoline-chugging sons of bitches that fire on all cylinders, as is the misogynistic kiss-off "Back Off Bitch," one of those type of songs that made politicians and moms get all fired up back in the day so they could pretend to care about family values, or whatever. I was only eight years old when a cousin played Appetite at a family gathering, and it was thrilling, scary, cool as hell. I suspect it was like that for a lot of people, and sadly, Use Your Illusion doesn't rise to that level.

"November Rain" still divides people, with some saying the nine-minute power ballad (with strings!) and its accompanying video are testaments to overblown ego; others consider it a fine example of Axl's sensitive side, like "Sweet Child O' Mine," and consider it a far better ballad than anything Poison, Whitesnake, et al ever attempted to make a few bucks and get girls to drop their pants. What's funny is that the song falls in between both camps, its pomposity not seeming forced for commercial values, but an outgrowth of the band's less dominant personality, suggesting that "Back Off Bitch" is the pose and this is who they really are. Take it as you will.

That tune is placed in the middle of the disc as a natural midpoint, then is followed by another classic rock block of hard rock filler, with only "Garden Of Eden" and maybe the Steven Tyler-isms of "Dead Horse" rising above until the 10-minute closer "Coma." Not quite successful as a set piece, the track is still impressive in its length, multi-part suites and Slash's fantastic playing; he and Izzy Stradlin own this record as much as Axl's howl and Matt Sorum's drums.

Trimmed by a good six or seven songs, there is a good hard rock album to be found that, while not holding much of a candle to Appetite, still has those moments that remind you why you loved Guns in the first place. Those people are advised to check out this first installment of Use Your Illusion, but they might be disappointed at the amount of filler and the sheer length.

Rating: C

User Rating: B


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