Music Monday – Use Your Illusion II

It was difficult choice this week, between Use Your Illusion I & II, as you can see, the latter won the argument!

Use Your Illusion II

Both albums are excellent, but this just tips the scale for the opening two songs, which are possibly my favourite Guns ‘N’ Roses tracks.

‘Civil War’ has it all in terms of what ‘GnR’ offer. Axel’s opening vocals are emotive and meaningful, which hit a chord with the track’s topic, it being a protest song and that all war is, inevitably, a civil war.

Look at your young men fighting
Look at your women crying
Look at your young men dying
The way they’ve always done before

He then dials in that distinctive voice and the ‘GnR guitars wind up, ‘My hands are tied, the billions shift from side to side, and the wars go on with brainwashed pride…’ The writing is really very good and can be all the more appreciated with the clarity of Axel’s vocals. Many heavier rock bands lose out here, as I find it can be difficult to understand exactly what they’re rattling on about, not so ‘GnR’.

’14 Years,’ the second track, has some wonderful lyrics preformed this time by guitarist, Izzy Stradlin – Use Your Illusion II was Stradlin’s last album with the band. I love the chorus…

But it’s been
Fourteen years of silence
It’s been
Fourteen years of pain
It’s been
Fourteen years that are gone forever
And I’ll never have again

Simple, but it’s the way in which it is delivered that I enjoy. The song has a lot of speculation around it, as to what exactly it’s about. Some say it’s to do with Axle and Stradlin’s relationship, whilst others believe it’s to do with the struggles the band went through in becoming famous. Either way, the lyrics are easy to relate to and the song as a whole is superb.

Other than the two openers, what attracts me so much to this album?

For starters, memories. When I used to drive back and fore from RAF Marham to home every weekend, often early in the morning, this album kept me awake! I had it on cassette and eventually wore it out – it’s a brilliant driving album. Secondly, and I’ve already alluded to it somewhat, is that it’s heavy rock but with a lovely clarity of voice. I enjoy singing along to songs, so if I struggle to figure out what the hell they’re saying then it puts me off. I also enjoy the musicality that ‘GnR’ have. Their music is driven along by both lead guitar and drums. In fact, listening to this album, which featured new drummer for the group, Matt Sorum, you get an appreciation of that more than any other ‘GnR’ album with the possible exception of Use Your Illusion I.

With songs like ‘Yesterdays’, ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’, ‘Get in the Ring’, and ‘Locomotive’, you get the full range of what the band have to offer. Admittedly, some like ‘Get in the Ring’ may not appeal to all, with its inclusion of some pretty strong language, but at least there’s a warning on the cover.

One other highlight is, of course, ‘You Could be Mine’, the song that featured in one of my favourite ‘Arnie’ movies, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The lyrics are actually about band member Stradlin’s and yet somehow fit the film perfectly – the opening guitar really captures the atmosphere. The video is worth watching too, all the way to the end…

Use Your Illusion II is, for me, a special album and one of the few I’ll listen to on repeat. I’m sure many will argue that ‘Appetite for Destruction’ is a better album than either ‘Use Your Illusion’ and it would be a fair point. For me, though, this one is a better, more polished production with all the songs flowing one to another, which makes it better as a whole.

Use Your Illusion II

Released 1991

Track listing

  1. Civil War
  2. 14 Years
  3. Yesterdays
  4. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
  5. Get in the Ring
  6. Shotgun Blues
  7. Breakdown
  8. Pretty Tied Up
  9. Locomotive
  10. So Fine
  11. Estranged
  12. You Could be Mine
  13. Don’t Cry (Alt. lyrics)
  14. My World

35 thoughts on “Music Monday – Use Your Illusion II

  1. Now your talking Justin, do love a bit of G&R with my favourite song being November rain, but this album does have some cracking tunes on it as well, and the end of You could be Mine video is very funny ! LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    1. November Rain, good choice Dave😃

      Liked by 1 person

  2. To be honest I don’t think I could name a single Guns ‘N’ Roses track even though I must have heard some! But the end of the ‘You Could be Mine’ video did make me smile! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle” are probably two of the biggest and have gotten used in movies.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in Thor Love and Thunder goes down a treat!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I think that movie was all GNR songs too, which was weird. I was expecting more of a mix like they did in Guardians. Who knows, maybe Guardians 3?

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Not into Rock, John?
      Glad you liked the video, made me smile too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Surprisingly I am into Rock, just never really these guys! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. So, what Rock floats your boat?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well, I was going to go and paint some minis but now I’ve had to have browse through my CDs to pick out the ones that feature most (I don’t have that many). Some of these are no doubt not “rock” but I tend to like stuff that’s loud! The list is: Billy Talent Blondie Clutch The Dead Daisies ELO Garbage Halestorm INXS The Prodigy The Offspring Sisters Of Mercy Within Temptation ZZ Top

        but I like other stuff and a lot of punk/new wave! If my younger colleagues at work ask me about music it always takes them by surprise when I say I like The Prodigy!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I was going to go and paint minis but instead I’ve gone and had a quick look through my CDs and picked out those that feature most (e.g. where I’ve got three or more albums). These are not necessarily “rock” but I tend to like stuff I can play loud! So, to answer your question (and if it gets an asterisk I really like it):

        Billy Talent
        The Dead Daisies
        The Prodigy
        The Offspring*
        Sisters Of Mercy
        Within Temptation
        ZZ Top*

        I do like other stuff (including punk/new wave) and have an “Orphans” folder on my MP3 player to collect them all together. It always surprises my younger colleagues at work that an old git like me likes, or has even heard of, The Prodigy!

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Sorry to distract you there John😁
        No, I would never have put you down as a Prodigy fan. Must say, I haven’t heard much by them but what I have heard I do quite like.
        Blondie, Elo, Garbage, INXS, ZZ Top – I have something by those. I think I have all of Blondies albums, mostly on vinyl. I have several ELO, as they’re on of Sue’s favourite groups. One of their albums might feature here soon🤔
        Anyway, John, I must say you have some good taste there and I’m sure I’ll find something new to entice you into listening to😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post and interesting to hear someone else’s view on it! For me, Use Your Illusion I and II marked the downfall of GNR. The albums were excessive, over-produced, and the songs were all over the place. The band had become mega hits and used that to expand themselves and do all kinds of covers and write lyrics only they could decipher. It made them more inaccessible than the first couple albums and harder to listen to. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing tracks on there and I learned so much about the bands influences when these albums came out. But overall, it’s not an album that I can listen to from start to finish like Lies or Appetite. It also came out when the Alternative/Grunge scene came into full bloom.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is what I love about music, everyone has a different point of view and it makes for great discussion.
      Interesting about what you say about covers, because side 1 of Lies is all covers apart from ‘Move to the city,’ though admittedly, one of those is a cover of a band which most of them were in before!
      Side 2 of ‘Lies,’ on the other hand, is possibly some of their best and if the whole album followed the acoustic theme then this would be top of my list.
      Appetite for destruction features their strongest singles – Welcome to the Jungle, Paradise City, and Sweet Child o’ Mine’, but as a whole I much prefer the Use Your Illusions, but I do agree that the lyrics don’t always make as much sense as their earlier stuff – you really need to dig to figure them all out, and who’s gonna do that, right? (Some idiot writing a Blog post maybe!)
      As for their final couple of albums, I have no idea, as I’ve never listened to them and heard nothing from them that would make me go out and buy them.
      It’s a pity they had such a short life span as a group, and in terms of singles, they started with a massive bang and then fizzled out. I would imagine though, that their still pretty awesome to see live!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I know! They are a band I really liked and still do. Maybe my expectations for Use Your Illusion(s) was too high, I know it definitely had been built-up in the media at the time (and I think torn apart by some critics after release). I really wanted to like the albums as a whole, but it just felt so disjointed to me. Back during a time, when I would listen to albums as a whole, that was really important to me. You didn’t have much choice when listening to a CD anyways.

        I didn’t realize that Lies had so many covers. Mama Kin I didn’t recognize (Aerosmith), but the other two I wouldn’t have recognized anyways. Very interesting. I want to say that my cassette copy had less than 8 songs on it too. Though I do know that I’ve heard the rest of those songs, so either I found the rest of the album or my memory is failing me.

        Yea, there are a few songs that Axl seems to be tearing into the media that really confused me. Nowadays that would be front and center in social media, so everyone would know about it. But I had no idea what was going on at the time, and some other stuff that pops up in lyrics. I guess it wasn’t any different with Lies, where the song “Used to Love Her” is supposedly a reaction to a song that Izzy heard or Slash says it was about Axl’s dog.

        I’ve had some of the songs from later albums pop into my playlist from time to time. A few of them sounded really good. Most don’t hold a candle to their first 4 albums though.

        They are an interesting band, that’s for sure. Starting with a glam metal look and quickly leaving that behind for some hardcore rock with influences from all over the place. Alternative/Grunge exploded onto the scene though and took over everything, especially if you happened to live in the Pacific Northwest at the time. 😀

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I got it to them with the release of the Use Your Illusion albums and then bought Appetite and Lies soon after. Lies annoyed me at the time, being on cassette, as I really loved the acoustic side but had to sit through all of side one to get to it – the player in my car wouldn’t rewind or fast forward!
        A very interesting band indeed, who’s music has stood the test of time – at least the first four albums anyway!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ah, very interesting that you got them in that order. That might have changed my rating of their albums too. Use Your Illusions had a wider mix and it’s good that the band were able to explore what they could do. I don’t remember them doing an instrumental track, but that would’ve been really cool with Slash being there at the time. Oh, the possibilities. Lies was disappointing to me because I only got a few songs with it. Some really good ones though. That sucks that the ff/rewind didn’t work on your car. I bet you were glad when you got a cd player! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ooo! A ‘GnR’ instrumental, yes, that would have been cool!
        It’s funny how the first album you buy of an artist often turs out to be favourite over time.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. A lot of times I would say the first album is their best. Though there are instances where a band made a 180 and it turned out much better. I think had happened with Cinderella, who started out at as yet another Glam Heavy Metal Band, then released a really nice bluesy rock album. Same with Pantera who went from Glam Metal to Power Metal. Bands went through some interesting changes in the late 80s/early 90s.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. G’n’F’n’R are my fav band of all time and Appetite for Destruction the 2nd album I ever bought (On cassette). I think I wore that tape out then replaced it on the then new CD.

    The Use Your Illusion albums though were my fav’s and like you, I felt the second one was the better of the two, though Coma is perhaps my most favourite song ever, even more so than Get in the Ring which takes the top spot at times, dependent on how much I’ve been drinking.
    Spaghetti Incident was not a good album at all and it had maybe two songs worth listening to and Chinese Democracy… well let’s just say you’ve saved your ears by avoiding that garbage.

    I never got to see Guns n Roses back in their hey-day and it’s been a huge regret, but this year I aim to change that as they will be playing at the local heavy metal festival (Aftershock) here in Sacramento in October and I told my wife that I want to attend just to see my band, even if they are a bunch of old farts these days, like me. 🙂

    Great review sir, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and plan to listen to this very album once I get home from work tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Coma,’ good call, David, one of my favs from that album, though I must admit I really like their cover of Live and Let Die, I think Axle does a great job of it (and of course the guitars!).
      Thanks for the low down on their later stuff, I think I’ll give ’em a miss.
      I’m sure the concert will make up for not seeing them in their heyday, I’ve heard from friends who have seen them live later in their career and they reckon they were brilliant.

      Thanks for the comments mate 😃


  5. I don’t have any hot takes on GnR for better and worse! I will say that being the big NFL fan that you are, this pick makes a lot of sense. Unless things have changed, the Bengals love to play Welcome to the Jungle at every home game. I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of other teams that play GnR too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Being a diehard Raiders fan who’s been to a fair amount of games when they were still in Oakland, I can attest to this. Plenty of Welcome to the Jungle played at the Oakland Colosseum on game day!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Unfortunately, the way I watch the games over here I tend to miss all that kind of thing, as it’s edited down to just the on field action.😞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You don’t necessarily hear it a lot on the broadcasts here either. I only know because I was a dedicated Bengals fan during the Carson Palmer era so you’d occasionally catch the famous riff between the announcers talking.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Carson Palmer, a fine QB who went on to play for us, leading us to a Championship game, which we blew against the Panthers😞
        We could with someone like him now!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I wanted him to win a championship as well. Truthfully and sadly, he got injured while on the Bengals and I don’t think he ever fully recovered from that. Prime Carson Palmer was amazing to watch. The year where the Steelers landed a dirty hit to injure him in the playoffs was one where the Bengals could have gone to the Super Bowl or won it all, I feel. Many Bengals fans don’t like Carson now because they feel he wasn’t loyal to the team and said some critical things about the organization but I disagree with them and think that the Bengals have mismanaged things for a long time and they wasted Carson’s talents to some degree here too. The Cardinals might need to move on from their current quarterback but I’m sure you have stronger feelings about that than I do 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Fully agree with you about Carson, though my knowledge of him is limited.
        Our QB, Kyler Murray, is also currently injured and I do wonder if he’ll ever be the same player. Saying that, I think he’s way over-rated. In his first few seasons he was amazing, but he’s been found out now and teams know how to play him.
        He doesn’t like playing under centre, probably because he’s short and it limits his vision down field, and playing in the gun is what the opposition expect. They know he doesn’t like to be hit and lately that has been a distraction to him, as the edge-rushers get past our offensive line and panic him into making the wrong decision. He’s also to fixated on trying to make the ‘big’ play with every throw instead of making steady progress up field.
        Personally, I think this will be his make or break season.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah, you wouldn’t have had any reason to know about Carson in his Bengals days so I totally understand that. I think you have a good take on Kyler as well. It seems to me that there are some serious mental issues with him and I think it might be time to let him walk and let someone else sort it out, if that’s even possible. Some of the things you describe make it sound to me like his psychological issues are preventing him from being as good as he could be. I can’t remember exactly what happened but it seemed like his ego may have gotten the best of him within the last year or so and that caused the Cardinals some embarrassment as well. I think it had something to do with social media like many controversies do!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yeah, his ego is writing cheques that his talent can’t cash!
        He needs to prove himself this year otherwise I think we should move him on – maybe our 5th round QB pick will prove to be a find🤔

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Well said, mate. If he doesn’t get it together in AZ, then I think his career is on the downward slope and he isn’t likely to radically improve while playing for a different team.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have to admit, I’m with Brian on this: Use Your Illusion I and II really didn’t do much for me. Appetite for Destruction is a masterpiece even 36(!) years on, a solid thumping album of outstanding songs. The band just couldn’t recapture that magic, and the fact that grunge hit the scene and basically wiped out hair metal just as these were being released really showed that GnR had hit the wall in terms of creativity. When you go from being the biggest rock gods on the planet to being wiped out by three unkowns from Seattle, you have a bit of a problem 🙂

    As John gave his list of most-played bands, here’s mine in no particular order:

    The Chemical Brothers
    Sisters of Mercy
    The Cure (let’s face it, these chaps are #1)
    Public Image Limited
    Sigur Ros
    Midnight Juggernauts
    The Clash
    Fields of the Nephilim
    Depeche Mode
    Thompson Twins
    A lot of funk

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We at least share a couple in common then Matt! 🙂 To be honest “Rock The Casbah” by The Clash is one of my favourite tracks of all time!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Taste, John, Impeccable taste!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Another interesting list there, Matt.
      Can’t abide the Cure I’m afraid. Musically, they’re pretty good but his voice just grates on me. Funny, but I have a few of their albums on vinyl, which I was given many moons ago. It turns out that they’re a pretty collectable group and these are now worth around £35-40 a pop!
      I’m not a Sisters of Mercy fan either, but I do like Garbage, Queen, The Clash, Gorillaz, The Thompson Twins, and some Depeche Mode. I have to admit, there’s a lot on there that I’m not familiar with, I’ll have to do a bit of research.

      Liked by 1 person

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