Ryan and Matt listen to and discuss Appetite for Destruction, the debut album of Guns N’ Roses.
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- Appetite For Destruction (affiliate links)
- Wikipedia: Guns N’ Roses,Appetite for Destruction
- “Sentimental Ballad” on Wikipedia and “21 Best Power Ballads” from The Telegraph
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” definitely has an energy that’s hard to classify. It’s like they were trying play “Freebird,” but got confused and played the singy part and the guitar solo simultaneously.
Appetite may seem more sprawling than anything by, say, Sex Pistols or even Zeppelin; but compared to what G’n’R did with Illusion I+II, Appetite is incredibly concise. It’s a well-crafted statement of the sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll ethos, without the personal vendettas and political ramblings that dilute Illusion. Sure, Illusion also engages in rock-and-roll discourse and meta-discourse, is less monotonous thanks to some proper ballads, and has a few other nifty individual songs across its two-and-a-half hours; but Illusion is also altogether incoherent. Appetite works much better as an album. If they had replaced Sweet Child with, say, November Rain, it would have been worse: the purpose of Sweet Child isn’t to serve as a stand-alone ballad, but to create a moment of innocence that sets the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle into relief.
tl;dr: Guns vs. Roses may be a false dichotomy; but, to quote the famous ‘80s band Guns ‘N’ Butter, “You can taste the bright lights, but there is an opportunity cost.”
Really interesting observations. One of the things we didn’t get to on the podcast but that struck me very strongly while preparing to record was the marked lack of any kind of political content, which is all the more remarkable because the lyrics do engage the discourse of power and social organization—in “Jungle”, almost ethnography. But all this is presented without any sort of normative force: It’s an explication of the various elements in the society Appetite depicts but it’s almost entirely—the degree is dependent on how much irony you hear between the sha-na-na-nas—uncritical of their disposition.
Loved the discussion of the ideas of urbanism in this album. So “Paradise City” and “Welcome to the Jungle” clearly evoke the energy and danger of Los Angeles. That much is clear. But what else was going on with the rest of hair metal during the 80’s?
One interesting contrast is the song “Heaven” by Warrant (which, by the way, is unambiguously a “power ballad”):
“How I love the way you move and the sparkle in your eyes
There’s a color deep inside them like a blue suburban sky”
OK. The lyrics are insipid, but the contrast here is clear. To Warrant, suburbs are great because of their safety, comfort, and lack of air pollution. To G’n’R, cities are great because of their danger and dirtiness.
Worth noting that the late 80’s was a period of rising crime in LA, before it peaked in 1991: