Guns N' Roses Greatest Hits Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

No one ever changed the world with a bottle of Jack Daniels and an inability to say...

Chris Jones 2004

Never has the word 'stopgap' been so apt. With the five-years-in-gestation Chinese Democracy album by single remaining G'n'R member (Axl Rose) reaching mythical status, and with gigs cancelled and the band in disarray, Geffen have little choice but to offer us this album. Not such an easy task when you consider that these 'bad' boys have only managed 5 albums in 17 years (actually only three proper ones). Their Stone Roses-challenging work rate makes for slim pickings for any would-be compiler, so no one's going to be surprised at the tracks on offer here.

Of course being notorious for your anti-social behaviour and third world-supporting drug habit is a pretty good excuse for a low work rate. And didn't these boys come along and save rock'n'roll? Casting a timeworn eye over these offerings suggests that history may not see it quite that way. The fact is that, in context, G'n'R were a very American aberration. Always hailed as some mutant hybrid between hard rock and punk attitude, Slash and Co. were more the illegitimate offspring of earlier, poodle-haired LA monstrosities such as Motley Crue. The look was pure cartoon; Johnny Thunders meets Keith Richards in a transsexual bar. Any reference to punk makes the common error of mistaking acting like a five year old after a long birthday party with challenging cultural mores in a constructive manner. No one ever changed the world with a bottle of Jack Daniels and an inability to say 'no thanks, I've had enough'.

What is really bewildering is how they conquered the world back then. This kind of stadium rawk was frankly dated by the late 80s, so why did we take them to our hearts? The clue's in three of the first four tracks (''Welcome To The Jungle'', ''Sweet Child O' Mine'', ''Patience''). All lifted from their breakthrough album Appetite For Destruction they show a band who, although they hated each other and had a singer with a voice like Bruce Dickinson on steroids, still knew that if you had a good riff and a lovely melody there was no stopping you.

Unfortunately, after that no one could. While their Neanderthal stance was a brief respite to the over-pc 80s (check the unpleasant original cover to the first album) nobody told the band it was a joke. Four addled years later they gave us the unwieldy Use Your Illusion(I & II)double offering with ill-advised cover versions and maudlin ballads (showing off Axl's sensitive side, natch). Only their Terminator II-marketed ''You Could Be Mine'' retained the fire of their early work. And even that starts with the lovely lines: 'I'm a cold heartbreaker - fit to burn - and I'll rip your heart in two. And I'll leave you lyin' on the bed.' Charming...

So, less a guilty pleasure than a warning to all people who think spandex, heroin and anger management problems are like, cool, man. These days a band like the Darkness, who retain a sense of irony, wit and their own transience in the scheme of things, make a man whose name is a naughty anagram and has mates with names like Izzy, Slash and Dufflook a little silly. Their day has truly passed...

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