Controversial third outing by LA rockers
After the eventual (and probably unexpected) global success of Appetite For Destruction, Guns N’ Roses couldn’t put a foot wrong. Drugs, booze and babes have been de rigour of rock for decades, but at a time when pop was generally quite clean and polite, the Gunners wore the LA sleaze on their sleeves just as the Faces were unabashed about their own exploits back in the day. The only difference being that at least the Faces had a sense of humour, unlike Guns N’ Roses however, who seem to take their craft a little more seriously.
G n’ R Lies was released in 1988 as obviously a way of cashing in on the band’s immense popularity, and why not? Considering that the group themselves probably thought they might as well make as much money as they could before the whole thing imploded.
Half the LP consists of four tracks originally issued as part of their 1986 EP Live Like a Suicide, and they aren’t too bad. Covers of Rose Tattoo’s “Nice Boys” and Aerosmith’s “Mama Kin” reveal the debt they held to their elders, while originals “Reckless Life” and “Move To The City” show that there was more going on beneath the surface than just thrash and burn.
But it’s the four largely acoustic numbers that the album is most remembered for, in more ways than one. The second side opens with “Patience,” arguably the finest ballad Axl Rose has ever written, or certainly the least bombastic. If there was ever an MTV Unplugged moment (before MTV Unplugged) then this would be it. Slash and Izzy Stradlin’s guitars compliment each other wondrously, while Axl is at his most thoughtful (“I’ve been walking the streets at night/Just trying to get it right”).
The version here of “You’re Crazy,” which originally appeared on Appetite, is a corker, and is marred only by some unfortunate swearing courtesy of Rose (call me a prude, yet I’ve never heard Robert Plant curse to get his point across). The other two tracks, “Used To Love Her” and “One In A Million,” attracted a good deal of controversy, the former for apparently inciting hatred towards women (“I used to love her/But I had to kill her”), and the latter, thanks to some rather unsavoury references towards gays, immigrants and African Americans. Both are more than decent compositions, even if the language does at times have its moments.
If anything, G n’ R Lies offered fans and perhaps even non-believers another side to a group who were often considered by many rock critics as little more than Led Zeppelin wannabes. For all their top hats and ripped jeans, Guns n’ Roses were true believers, who played as they lived and lived as they played. With an album cover resembling John Lennon’s Sometime In New York City, Lies remains what it is, a document by a band who were not afraid to make a stand and speak their minds. For Better or worse.