The album up for review this week is another one celebrating its 25th year being listened to by the world and its 3rd month being listened to by me. It’s the album that Billie Joe Armstrong claimed to be the “best debut album in the history of rock and roll” in his speech at this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony. It’s sold over 18 million copies. It makes even the squarest of squares wanna do a keg stand on a balance beam over a pit of snakes. It’s Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses.
As a first time listener of Appetite for Destruction, it’d be really easy to think that it is totally cheeseball. With the epic guitar solos, Axl’s insane singing, all the girls/booze/party talk, and songs like “Night Train,” I can’t help but conjure up images of a modern day Spinal Tap. Thing is, Appetite came first. It only seems like a joke because I’ve been listening to 25 years worth of people trying to copy what they did. Appetite for Destruction is a genius collection of groundbreaking rock and roll, and without this album, a lot of bands simply wouldn’t exist.
In their celebration of the album, Stereogum discussed how they can’t imagine a world without the song “Paradise City” (track six on AFD), and I’m total proof of that. Dookie was my first cassette, and I listened to all subsequent rock that came out after it, however I never took the time to dive into the classics. Despite this, I still know and have known every word and every riff to this famous song. And now, after my buddy Josh was nice enough to burn me a copy of Appetite, I can sing you through a good chunk of the album.
On my first couple spins of this CD I couldn’t pick out which songs were my favorites, as each one built so well upon the masterpiece that preceded. All members of the band are at the top of their game and Slash steers the ship from stage left as the holy grail of guitar players. I turn into a giggly school girl during “Welcome to the Jungle,” I die for the catchiness of “Mr. Brownstone,” and just straight up melt for everything that “Sweet Child O’ Mine” has got going on. That for me is the song that makes this album.
It starts out with one of the most classic guitar riffs of all time and launches into a soulful conglomeration of tender lyrics, loud instrumentation, and a damn near perfect sense of pacing. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” takes breaks when it needs to, giving each part of the song the weight and breathing room that it deserves. Slash’s sections aren’t just six-string solos. His guitar sings just as much as Axl, driving you much further than if the song depended on words alone. It’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds where no matter what, you’re gonna get lost in the world. Just try and resist it. Don’t believe me? Think back to any karaoke experience where “Sweet Child…” came on. I rest my case.
I think the karaoke test would stand true over most of the songs on Appetite for Destruction, and that’s part of the reason I give this album an A++. It’d be really easy to just get caught up in the nostalgia and hoopla that has surrounded this album since it’s 1987 release, but it all exists for a reason. Axl may have strayed off path, but AFD remains on point, even after all these years.
If you liked this, check out my review of the Replacements’ “Pleased to Meet Me.”