Use Your Illusion II

Guns N' Roses

Geffen, 1991

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When we last left off with Axl Rose and crew, Use Your Illusion I had just come out, and I found it to be overambitious, vaguely mixed and stuffed with filler. Certainly Use Your Illusion II, the companion disc released at the same time, couldn’t fall into the same traps… could it?

There was reason to be cautious, since this was the disc that contained the first official single from either album, “You Could Be Mine”—a track initially featured in Terminator 2: Judgment Day that, quite honestly, I never liked. Of course, if you happened to like that song, then you’d think the album starts off on a solid foot.

In fact, Use Your Illusion II is the stronger of the two albums, containing more solid rock akin to their debut effort Appetite For Destruction while showing some musical growth among its 14 songs. And, with a few exceptions, it’s an incredibly solid disc—but when they slip, they fall hard.

Opening the disc with “Civil War,” a track initially featured on the Nobody’s Child compilation, is a good move, and sets the bar surprisingly high. The only track on either album to feature original drummer Steven Adler, it successfully straddled the worlds of rocker and ballad while showing that, at that stage, Guns N’ Roses had lost precious little power since their debut was released in 1987.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And, as critical as I was of Guns N’ Roses doing a cover tune on Use Your Illusion I, the choice to cover Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” not only fits this particular album, but is appropriate, as they had a history of performing this track live in their early days. I remember searching out the 12-inch single that had the live version, elated when I finally got my hands on it. Rose and company put their own spin on the track while staying somewhat true to the style that Dylan created for it.

For the most part, Use Your Illusion II plays like a slightly weaker Appetite For Destruction—that is, it’s enjoyable enough to listen to, but many of the tracks don’t have the lasting power that the hits did. Just like you had songs like “Think About You” and “My Michelle” off Appetite, here you have “14 Years,” “Locomotive” and “So Fine.” There’s nothing wrong with these songs per se, and they’re enjoyable enough to listen to, but if you’re waiting for another tour de force like “Paradise City,” you’re going to walk away disappointed. For this listener, at least, the best track still proves to be “Civil War.”

I can’t really justify why we needed a second version of “Don’t Cry” with different lyrics—truth be told, I can’t hear much of a difference, and I wasn’t sitting there comparing the lyric sheets. Still, not a terrible track.

When Guns N’ Roses does have the occasional misstep, though, they’re lulus. Exhibit A: “Get In The Ring,” a profane musical middle finger to anyone who ever said anything negative about the band, especially in the press. Honestly, this one is flat-out uncomfortable to listen to, and could easily have been left on the cutting room floor.

Exhibit B? The album’s closer, “My World”—the briefest of all the tracks, but it does hint at disturbing directions Rose might have been taking Guns N’ Roses’s music into. (Thankfully, he didn’t dive that deeply into the pool, but some who have listened to Chinese Democracy may argue otherwise.)

Did we actually need two separate albums from Guns N’ Roses in 1991? Honestly, no… and Use Your Illusion II would have been a stronger album had select songs been added from Use Your Illusion I and the weak material left off this one. That being said, Use Your Illusion II is easily the stronger of the two albums, and while it’s still a step down from Appetite For Destruction, it turns out to be a fairly decent effort.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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