Photo Courtesy of: Katarina Benzova/Chicago Sun Times
It’s unfortunate that the downfall of Guns N’ Roses, the so-called “most dangerous band in the world,” was foreshadowed from the instant they arrived on the Sunset Strip.
Their danger lay in a band that could cross the divides of pretension and sleaze to impress the masses, whether by their talent or by being able to get away with their profane and angry lyrics.
But danger is temporary. In order to feel unsettled in a situation, most other situations must be pleasant or more bearable and can be returned to once the danger is gone.
And danger has certainly left GN’R.
Following an almost total band rift in 1993, singer Axl Rose believed that it was his duty to continue making music under the GN’R mantle. What has since been a successful touring career, including headlining many festivals such as Austin City Limits, eventually was blessed with (or perhaps unwillingly given custody of) the second most expensive album ever made, 2008’s Chinese Democracy.
The album eventually did get released to mixed reviews, but it became clear even then that the band was headed for the same fate as the rest of its hair metal cousins: an embarrassing caricature of its former self.
The reason this is worth bringing up is because now, in 2021, these titans of music are putting out songs with titles like “ABSURD” and “Hard Skool.” Rock and roll…
These two GN’R songs are downright abysmal. As cliche as Rose’s lyrics have been in the past, the raw anger and emotion that he brought to whatever idea he sang about elevated the machismo energy to a more respectable light. That emotion has disappeared completely from these recent releases, and Rose now sings profane lyrics only to be profane, not to prove a point or accentuate what he feels.
In the most Axl Rose way to criticize Axl Rose, it sounds as if he went into a karaoke bar with a checklist on how to write a metal song, got blackout drunk, and took the mic out of someone else’s hand to relive his glory days.
Brutal, yes, but accurate.
It’s not as if the rest of the band is short of criticism either. Slash’s guitar riff in “ABSURD” sounds like it’s been sped up to one and a half times its original speed, which detracts from what fans know he is capable of, sounding like he’s trying to mask lack of interest with modern production. McKagan’s bass line could have saved the track, but it’s barely audible due to the heavily distorted vocals and ear-piercing guitar.
Guns N’ Roses has lost sight of their appeal in an attempt to chase trends. They care too much, they’re trying too hard, and they’re devoid of emotion.
The band departed from its original vision without a strong enough back catalog to fall back onto. They aren’t like other artists such as Metallica and The Clash from a few years before who could afford to put out bad material because of their strong foundation which took years to develop. The seeds of Guns N’ Roses’ downfall were sown too soon after they broke into the mainstream, and if they continue on this track, they’ll end up with other bands who took themselves too seriously too soon.
It’s not like Rose or any other member of the band needs to keep making music, as Rose’s net worth is estimated at $200 million, so perhaps it’s time for Rose to retire to the Paradise City he sang about all those years ago and let what he left behind be appreciated for what it was.
This story was originally published on The Chatterbox on November 1, 2021.