Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Guns N' Roses

  • Appetite for Destruction [Geffen, 1987] B-
  • G N' R Lies [Geffen, 1988] E
  • Use Your Illusion I [Geffen, 1991] *
  • Use Your Illusion II [Geffen, 1991] Choice Cuts
  • "The Spaghetti Incident?" [Geffen, 1993] A-
  • Chinese Democracy [Geffen, 2008] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Appetite for Destruction [Geffen, 1987]
It's a mug's game to deny the technical facility claimed by one-upping crits and young victims of testosterone poisoning--not only does Axl cruise where other "hard rock" singers strive, but he has a knack for believability, which in this genre is the most technical matter of all. When he melds scream and croon on the big-beat ballad, you understand why some confused young thing in an uplift bra is sure it's love sweet love. But Axl is a sucker for dark romantic abstractions--he doesn't love Night Train, he loves alcoholism. And once that sweet child o' his proves her devotion by sucking his cock for the portacam, the evil slut is ready for "See me hit you you fall down." B-

G N' R Lies [Geffen, 1988]
Axl's voice is a power tool with attachments, Slash's guitar a hype, the groove potent "hard rock," and the songwriting not without its virtues. So figure musical quality at around C plus and take the grade as a call to boycott, a reminder to clean livers who yearn for the wild side that the necessary link between sex-and-drugs and rock-and-roll is a Hollywood fantasy. Anyway, this band isn't even sex and drugs--it's dicking her ass before you smack up with her hatpin. (No wonder they want to do an AIDS benefit.) "One in a Million"--"Immigrants and faggots/They make no sense to me/They come to our country/And think they'll do as they please/Like start some mini-Iran/Or spread some fucking disease/They talk so many goddamn ways/It's all Greek to me"--is disgusting because it's heartfelt and disgusting again because it's a grandstand play. It gives away the "joke" (to quote the chickenshit "apologies" on the cover) about the offed girlfriend the way "Turn around bitch I've got a use for you" gives away "Sweet Child o' Mine." Back when they hit the racks, these posers talked a lot of guff about suicide. I'm still betting they don't have it in them to jump. E

Use Your Illusion I [Geffen, 1991]
what pros ("Don't Damn Me") *

Use Your Illusion II [Geffen, 1991]
"Civil War" Choice Cuts

"The Spaghetti Incident?" [Geffen, 1993]
Talk about your anxiety of influence. As someone who never thought punk had much to do with musicianship or musicianship much to do with GN'R, I remain impressed even with the excitement worn off. I mean, Axl Rose damn near stealing "Human Being" from David Johansen? Because his drummer is so fierce? Fear and UK Subs (!) and Nazareth (!!) tunes that belong on the same record? What would Harold Bloom say? Something about Axl being a shitty songwriter, I hope. Which wouldn't be altogether fair. But hey--criticism is unfair. A-

Chinese Democracy [Geffen, 2008]
Hopeless eccentric spends most of his adult life and a large chunk of his ill-gotten fortune trying to make the perfect album. Succeeds, kind of, on his own totally irrelevant terms. Nobody cares. Since he's no longer capable of leading young white males astray, this effort isn't just pleasurable artistically. It's touching on a human level. Noble, even. I didn't think he had it in him. B+