Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Number 795 - Guns n Roses


Number 795

Guns N' Roses

"Civil War"

(1991)
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Genre:Hard Rock
Truely groundbreaking music in 1991, a combination of hard rock with as equally hard hitting lyrics about war and loss. Guns N' Roses were on top of the game in 91 with "Use your Illusion" 1 and 2 both being released in the same year....."Messy but fascinating, the albums showcased a more ambitious band; while there were still a fair number of full-throttle guitar rockers, there were stabs at Elton John-style balladry, acoustic blues, horn sections, female backup singers, ten-minute art rock epics with several different sections, and a good number of introspective, soul-searching lyrics. In short, they were now making art; amazingly, they were successful at it. The albums sold very well initially, but while they had seemed destined to set the pace for the decade to come, that turned out not to be the case at all."

"Nirvana's Nevermind hit number one in early 1992, suddenly making Guns N' Roses -- with all of their pretensions, impressionistic videos, models, and rock star excesses -- seem very uncool. Rose handled the change by becoming a dictator, or at least a petty tyrant; his in-concert temper tantrums became legendary, even going so far as to incite a riot in Montreal. Stradlin left by the end of 1991, and with his departure the band lost their best songwriter; he was replaced by ex-Kills for Thrills guitarist Gilby Clarke. The band didn't fully grasp the shift in hard rock until 1993, when they released an album of punk covers, The Spaghetti Incident?; it received some good reviews, but the band failed to capture the reckless spirit of not only the original versions, but their own Appetite for Destruction. By the middle of 1994, there were rumors flying that the band was about to break up, since Rose wanted to pursue a new, more industrial direction and Slash wanted to stick with their blues-inflected hard rock.
For Elton John see Number 531
What does Rolling Stone think of Guns n Roses?
When Guns n' Roses recorded their major-label debut in 1987, after a few years of slogging in L.A. clubs, they titled it Appetite for Destruction. It was a proclamation that they would rail against and knock down anything that stood in their way; it would become a banner adopted by millions who wanted to turn their dead-end street into a freeway. Four years later, when the band is closer to its destination than its members ever had any right to expect, Guns n' Roses release two follow-up albums: Use Your Illusion I and II. The title is a confession; now that the physical barriers are gone and nothing stands in their way except maybe their own myth, they've got to set their sights on something less tangible. "Old at heart," Axl Rose sings on "Estranged," from II, "but I'm only twenty-eight." Like Aerosmith in the classic "Dream On," they realize that to go on, you've got to have faith.
With Use Your Illusion II, the band rewards the loyal legions – with fourteen songs, which range from ballad to battle, pretty to vulgar, worldly to incredibly naive. The seven-minute power ballad "Civil War," which opens the album (and which previously appeared on the Romanian orphan-relief album Nobody's Child), begins with fingers studiously squeaking on acoustic-guitar strings and a few lines of dialogue from Cool Hand Luke, then drops the band's characteristic patriotism for amplified rage and a sober look at political deceit: "So I never fell for Vietnam/We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all/That you can't trust freedom when it's not in your hands."
Because the band is reaching beyond its own experience on this song, Axl's question "What's so civil 'bout war, anyway?" – backed by thunderclaps and rainfall – is almost excusable. The outstanding cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is epic, beautiful and heartfelt, with little flourishes like guns cocking behind the obvious verse ("Mama put my guns in the ground/I can't shoot them anymore") and Axl wailing as only Axl does, through his discolored teeth, turning vowels into primitive cries of pain or resolve. Quite a few songs mine the territory of love gone awry: the spiteful "14 Years," the disillusioned "Locomotive," the lonely (and very long) "Estranged" and the bittersweet "Don't Cry" (a different version from the one that appears on I), which is chapter 2 of "Sweet Child o' Mine," the song that, at least in the summer of '88, bridged the distance between rural route and urban drawing room. The clunkers on II are "Shotgun Blues," a sonic assault with surprisingly little impact, and "Get in the Ring," which challenges the band's detractors by name but basically hits below the belt. On Appetite it was "Feel my serpentine"; on Illusion II it's "Suck my fuckin' dick" – meant in a different spirit, yes, but it's beneath them just the same.
Axl Rose has stopped teasing his hair, taken a few of the chains off his cowboy boots, left the pink lipstick to Skid Row's Sebastian Bach and gotten a bit of perspective. So he shouldn't be bothered by his critics, because even with years of practice, no one has come close to that snaky dance of his, that dance that whips victimization, menace and struggle into one fluid, triumphant motion. (RS 615)
For Bob Dylan see Number 929 & Number 841
For more Guns 'N Roses see Number 557
Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number (3 other songs but not Civil War ~ pity) and the Album ranked at Number (Not "Illusion" but Appetite checked in)
This song has a crowbarred rating of 64.3 out of 108 pts

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