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Why Is Guns N Roses Headlining Austin City Limits 2019? Guns N Roses Is Garbage
This year’s Austin City Limits festival has announced its 2019 line-up, and for the most part, the roster is solid. The Cure, fresh off their induction into both the Rock & Roll and Shady Bitch Halls of Fame. Billie Eilish, the filthy possessed child from every American horror movie of the last 15 years. Cardi B on weekend one and Robyn on weekend two. Kacey Musgraves and Lizzo in the smaller print on the poster, because the world seems intent on undervaluing American royalty.
And because 2019 is garbage, the festival will be headlined by Guns N’ Roses, who are the worst, and you know it.
GNR burst onto the scene in 1987, and were ridiculous from the jump. The opening moments of their debut video “Welcome To The Jungle” depict a young W. Axl Rose, fresh off the bus from Lafayette, Indiana. He’s arrived in Hollywood— the jungle, baby!— and he is so dewy and naive he actually has a straw of wheat in his teeth. A quick Google search indicates that that’s a 49-hour bus ride, so either Indiana wheat is mighty durable, or they come in boxes of 20 like Pocky. Either way, he loses his innocence right away because he is in the jungle baby, and spends the next four and a half minutes slithering, shrieking, and baring his mossy teeth at you. I was a junior in high school when this video came out, and I remember seeing it for the first time with my pal Mikey. By the end of the second chorus, Mikey—more of a Replacements guy, just like me—turned to me and, right in time with the music, sang “I wanna watch you sneeze!” I have an insatiable appetite for this destruction.
At the time, the narrative around Appetite For Destruction was that it was a punk-rock takedown of the then-ubiquitous genre of hair metal, but even at the time it was clear to me: these were just different elaborate hairdos. I mean, sure, “Mr. Brownstone” was a heroin song like Warrant never would have dared, but “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is a power-ballad no matter how you cut it, with a title that evokes Land O’ Lakes margarine to boot.
So after selling 18 million copies of their debut record, where did they go now? Right to 1988’s GN’R Lies, a cash-in EP of studio quickies whose single “Patience” managed to have a more grating whistle solo than the same year’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” The same EP featured “Used To Love Her” (but I had to kill her), and “One In A Million,” whose lyrics whine about “immigrants and faggots.” Both of these songs, by one of the world’s most esteemed bands, are still both un-apologized-for and available for purchase and streaming, just in case you want to complain that anyone’s voices are being silenced in these delicate times.
From there, GNR dove directly into the self-indulgent double-album phase of their career, with the twin releases of Use Your Illusion I and II in 1991. Their video budgets were as bloated as their tracklists that year, judging by “November Rain,” which features a full orchestra, at least 20 early-‘90s video cliches, and Stephanie Seymour in a Frederick’s of Hollywood wedding gown. It’s 28 years too late to ask this question, but I must: What is it about rain at any time of year that makes a candle more difficult to hold? Hard to light I will grant you, but do candles become slippery in rain? I contend that by this time, Axl simply had nothing to say, and as Exhibit B, I submit the opening moments of dolphin-heavy, $5 million follow-up video “Estranged.”
“Webster’s Dictionary defines [the theme of my address] as…” is the last refuge of the underprepared speaker. Shame on you, Guns. Shame on you, Roses.
Use Your Illusion I also featured a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die”— a Bond theme somehow less subtle than “Goldfinger.” When I am asked to explain why I do not care for Guns N’ Roses, I put the song on Spotify, cue it up to about 0:16, and point at the speaker from which emits a vocal performance that predicts Eric Cartman.
Really makes you wonder why shrill continues to be a gendered insult, doesn’t it?
It is possible that I still hold a grudge against the band for inspiring a riot that destroyed the brand-new outdoor concert amphitheater in my hometown of St. Louis in 1991. Seems Axl, in full diva mode, took issue with a fan taking pictures from the audience. When venue security didn’t intervene quickly enough, he threw a fit and stomped off stage, leaving the crowd of metal fans who’d been drinking draft Busch in the hot July sun nothing to do but pull the seats out of the ground and throw them at each other. Perhaps it’s unfair to place all the blame on Axl’s narrow, avian shoulders, but coming from Indiana, he should know how little else there would be to do in St. Louis that night but wreck shit.
In the years afterwards, Axl then went on to fire everyone, hire a guy with a bucket of KFC on his head, steal Tommy Stinson away from my beloved Replacements, display a Kevin Smith-sized affinity for sports jerseys, and tinker endlessly with Chinese Democracy, an album I will remind you has been out in the world for 11 years. Chinese Democracy is the Avatar of albums.
Yes, yes. Guns n’ Roses are a very tight band of virtuosic musicians. I get it. But so are The Wiggles, and at least they never made you watch one of their therapy sessions.
I would love to love Guns N’ Roses. I really would! But they are so humorless and hilarious at the same time, so feral and so fragile. Many people I love get much happiness from them, and I’m thrilled that they do. But to me, it’s just a lot of sound and fury signifying $250 an hour sessions with a therapist who looks like Janice Dickinson.
We haven’t even gotten into “feel my serpentine,” because there simply isn’t time.
Yeah, so, not my cup of tea, but if it’s yours, this is your year. Duff McKagan and Slash are tentatively back in the band, though not as official members because these guys have a list of issues as long and wild as my Twitter mentions are about to get. Apparently a new album is coming “sooner than you think,” in case you’re curious about the sound a Sunset Strip men’s rights activism meeting makes.
Have fun in the jungle, baby. I’ll stay in the small print with Kacey and Lizzo.