The Seattle bands get credit for killing ’80s hair metal, but maybe it really started right here. “Appetite for Destruction” is akin to bands like Motley Crue, Poison, etc., only in its use of big guitars and pounding drums. This is a decidedly dirtier and, in a way, more honest record than its contemporaries. When Axl Rose sings about love, lust, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, it doesn’t feel glamorous at all, and it’s done with a sneer and a snarl, not a smile.
It’s hard to believe this record is nearly a quarter century old. It doesn’t sound that way. From the opening growl of “Welcome to the Jungle” through to propulsive closer “Rocket Queen,” “Appetite for Destruction” is as violent, menacing, and invigorating as ever. Guitarists Slash and Izzy Straddlin fire more riffs at one another in one song than many of today’s navel-gazing indie pansies stumble across in entire albums. And Rose’s voice was the most dynamic rock music had heard since Robert Plant stopped singing for Led Zeppelin.
What struck me most when listening to this record for the first time in years was its range. There’s a lot going on under the surface that I didn’t catch before, most notably GN’R’s use of the blues and Southern rock. Granted, they put their own high-octane spin on it, but songs like “Anything Goes” and “Think About You” surprised me in that way. Also, it’s depth: there’s no reason to skip any song, and they manage to be all of a piece without sounding the same. Each new track brings a melody you just want to sink your teeth into. The hits, meanwhile, now decades removed from constant airplay, remind why they became huge in the first place. Good gracious that bass drum/snare intro to “Paradise City” sounds good at high volume, while the riff for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is one of the greatest ever written.
It’s a shame Guns N’ Roses never delivered another album as good as this one. Perhaps that was impossible.
Favorite Track: “Mr. Brownstone”
Least Favorite Track: “Anything Goes”