From the pages of this month's "Blender". . .
Hard rock's most complicated tale gets badly choppedGuns N' Roses
Greatest Hits (two out of five stars)
He may be less than toned these days, but W. Axl Rose can still execute a vice grip on controversy, no matter how innocuous the reason. Not the minor furor over this set: Rose threatened a lawsuit to block it, getting fans excited that he might actually be planning to release the new album he's been sitting on for a decade. Save the lawyer's fee and stop playing with our minds, dude. Though Greatest Hits
offers nothing to enhance GN'R's legacy, it's harmless, Cliff's Notes to a rock & roll legend.
The story this collection abbreviates is truly Shakespearean, which is clear only after listening to the band's full catalog, starting with the early hard-rock blitzkrieg, moving through the mid-career experiments and on to the increasingly desperate live releases, covers, and outtakes marking Rose's descent into a labyrinth of narcissism and writer's block.
Swallowed whole, GN'R's music animates a mythic battle between violence and beauty, ambition and despair, Vegas cheese and dirty-ass rock & roll -- a riveting story that beats out everybody who's hot today (except the hobbits) for blood, guts, and genuine tragedy.
Chopped up here, the tale is reduced to an assertion: GN'R made the late century's best American music outside of hip-hop (Nirvana, get in the ring). Nine singles prove it. "Welcome to the Jungle," from their 1987 world-turner, Appetite for Destruction
, is a John Woo action movie. "November Rain" is Elvis-size in its gorgeous corn. Even casual forays like "Patience" and the uber-sexy "Sweet Child o' Mine" hold deep meaning beneath the spandex flash.
But we already know that, because these chart-toppers are still in heavy rotation on the radio. Greatest Hits
offers virtually no album cuts or rarities, filling space that could have held vital music such as "Coma" or "The Garden" with fun but dumb covers (five of the 14 songs). It's generic, meant to rope in the teenage newbies and service the gym bags of fans who can't afford iPods. Functional, yes, but like those little yellow student's helpers, this best-of is ultimately a cheat.