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The Rose For The Gun
on 30 December 2006
This is a very different beast from "Appetite", or even UYI Vol 1. Whilst Guns always could rip it up and tear it out with the best of them (and they do so brilliantly on Vol 1's "Perfect Crime", "Right Next Door To Hell", "Bad Obsession" and so on), on this album there's a concerted effort to display musical and emotional growth. Axl was always a broader musican than Slash - a fact evident from the fact that on this moderately-paced album, Slash only has 3 or 4 writing credits. This is very much Axl's baby, although the quibbling over credits (unlike "Appetite", which is band-credited) already suggests the loss of band solidarity. This album is less of a stomping hard-rock album and more of a classic rock album, where the act is established and they can now stretch their wings. Slash has already said that the UYI albums are their equivalent of the White Album.
The songwriting is I think consistently stunning. There's more, and more varied, emotion too. God only knows why "Estranged" isn't more recognised - it's one of the pinnacles of their acheivement, a cold, disconsolate beginning, shifting (via one of Slash's finest ever lines) to a sneering, callow hauteur, then a sad, yearning instrumental, to a open and warming ending, closing on an almost desperate note. "So Fine", sung wonderfully by Duff, has shivers and sighs of pure emotion, a rock ballad of unusual exquisiteness. "Locomotion", like "Estranged", considers the end of relationships and the realisation of emotional emptiness, Axl's nasal, almost-sneering delivery suggestive of the immaturity he's singing about. "Breakdown", another song that's oddly underappreciated, again suggests a man on the edge of his tether, yearning for the innocence and certainties of younger, simpler days (note the country-style intro - similar to Axl's piece of straw in the "Welcome To The Jungle video - he was an Indiana boy after all!) - which "Yesterdays" does explicitly but with far less style. "Pretty Tied Up", a classic piece of Izzy, is typically Stones-y and also features some outstanding sitar. And so on - the album is filled with classic moments ("Civil War", "You Could Be Mine").
Some have suggested that you could make one killer album from the two volume of Use Your Illusion. I think that would miss the point. Firstly, the two albums gave them the space to stretch their wings musically, which "Appetite" being far more condensed and focused didn't. Who would have expected sitar, spanish guitar, bizarre electronica, and so on? Secondly, the two albums very much have their own character. Volume One is far more aggressive and vitriolic, Volume Two is much more reflective and sensitive. GN'R always had both sides to them - hence their name, typically Yin/Yang.
This album is almost a return to a more 60s/70s rock album and succeeds on every possible level. Treat yourself.