Gun’s n Roses were the subject of a concentrated marketing campaign in the form of the confected ‘live like a suicide’ EP and shows at the Marquee in London, but their success didn’t come overnight. The album took a while to take off. But, once it did, the band was, of course, unstoppable. The ‘Lies’ album, like the EP, was a stop gap to keep interest going while the band recorded a real follow up. This took the form of a double album, ‘Use Your Illusion’, which included songs from their early days, including November Rain. The gap between ‘Illusions’ and ‘Destruction’ was four years. Of course, that line up never recorded original material again, with only a covers album to show before they split. In 1995, Slash took songs that Axl Rose had rejected, and threw together a band, including Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke from the current GnR line up, and released this album. Two singles were released and, in the rock music wasteland of 1995, they were well received by hardcore fans but the album didn’t do huge business. The next Snakepit album, with a different line up, came out in 2000.
Most of the members of GnR released solo albums to pass the time while they waited for Rose to get motivated, but only this one is made up of songs written for GnR to record and play. It’s not surprising then that this is the cream of the crop. The single, Beggars and Hangers On, alternates between soft and loud, and has some typically lyrical Slash lead work on it. There’s a good variety of songs on here, and they are mostly pretty good. Soma City Ward has a great single line riff that sounds a bit Led Zeppelin before it turns into a funky guitar workout. Jizz da pit is an instrumental that gives Slash a chance to let loose. Lower is super laid back with a talk box heavy main riff. It picks up energy as it goes.
Overall, these songs are a drop in quality from the ‘Illusion’ albums, but it’s easy to imagine them getting slicker when put through the full GnR machine. They are certainly a better collection of songs than ‘Chinese Democracy’. Slash went on of course to do a solo album that turned in to Slash and the Conspirators with Myles Kennedy, a band that’s released two more albums and toured widely. Slashes work ethic always put Axl to shame and the truth is, when GnR were touring without Slash, seeing Slash and Myles perform the old songs live was a better proposition. The Snakepit albums come from the same place, a bit rougher, but certainly better than anything Axl can produce without Slash by his side.
Nowadays this album represents an often forgotten chapter in the GnR story but at the time, it was manna from heaven to hear pure rock music played with this level of skill and energy. If you loved GnR (and who doesn’t) and you haven’t heard this album, you’re in for a treat. The next album was also good, but those songs were not written with GnR in mind and they drifted further from that format. There are some definite highlights on that album, but it’s this album that deserves to be called a classic.