book review::33 1/3:Use Your Illusion I & II

I’ve had this copy of Eric Weisbard’s Use Your Illusion I & II, from the 33 1/3 series sitting around a while, because I wanted to wait until I got into the mood to hear the record again. I have now finished the book and as a result, revisited the album a few times, skipping the same songs, and still liking the ones I liked years ago. Eric Weisbard’s book is interesting and atypical of this series, because it is more about the symbolism of GNR’s Use Your Illusion and the state of music at that time, rather than a tale of the author’s love affair with the record.

A pervading theme in the book is the audacity of a bloated double album, which is among other things, made up of several songs which were attempting to capture the largeness of GnR’s previous hits “Paradise City,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The author uses “Don’t Cry” as an example showing how much they wanted it to catch on lies in the fact that it appears twice on UYI 1 & 2. Use Your Illusion was supposed to be a mega-album like Thriller, where grandiose singles combined with huge promotion were to inundate us for years. The author also talks a bit about how GNR were one of the many bands who were obliterated by the Nirvana machine, making the excesses of GNR instantly anti-chic and outmoded. The author writes much of his book from his memories of the album, and he revisits his own re-sequencing of the album as well.

No doubt that Axl was an ass, and his reappearance this decade has been nothing short of embarrassing, but for a while GnR came and fired a lightning bolt under the tail of a commercial music industry which was tired and short on ideas. Nirvana then comes around and wipes the map, but in the end becomes the same bloated monster that GnR was, and to see the proof of that just look at all the posthumous releases Nirvana has had, like that joke of a box set. In the end, GnR and Nirvana have many things in common, not the least of which is two front men who short circuited. This is all of course a pandora’s box of discussion better suited for another time.

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