At a time when pop was dominated by dance music and pop-metal, Guns N’ Roses brought raw, ugly rock & roll crashing back into the charts. They were not nice boys: nice boys don’t play rock & roll. They were ugly, misogynistic, and violent; they were also funny, vulnerable, and occasionally sensitive, as their breakthrough hit, “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” showed. While Slash and Izzy Stradlin ferociously spit out dueling guitar riffs worthy of Aerosmith or the Stones, Axl Rose screeched out his tales of sex, drugs, and apathy in the big city. Meanwhile, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler were a limber rhythm section who kept the music loose and powerful. Guns N’ Roses’ music was basic and gritty, with a solid, hard, bluesy base; they were dark, sleazy, dirty, and honest — everything that good hard rock and heavy metal should be. There was something refreshing about a band that could provoke everything from devotion to hatred, especially since both sides were equally right. There hadn’t been a hard rock band this raw or talented in years, and they were given added weight by Rose’s primal rage, the sound of confused, frustrated white trash vying for a piece of the pie. As the ’80s became the ’90s, there simply wasn’t a more interesting band around, but owing to intra-band friction and the emergence of alternative rock, Rose’s supporting cast eventually left, and he spent over 15 years recording before the long-delayed Chinese Democracy appeared in 2008.
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