As expected, Guns N’ Roses have officially released their new single “Hard Skool” (Jesus Fuck that spelling). It’s the band’s second new single in as many months, after “Absurd.” Both tracks were originally written for, but ultimately did not appear on, Chinese Democracy. They’ve since been reworked to better suit Slash and Duff McKagan, who returned to the band in 2016 after 20+ years away. If you got zero poops for the science, feel free to just scroll past the rest of the shit I’m gonna write and listen to the song at the bottom of this post.
Everyone else — thanks for sticking around. Here are a whole bunch of random thoughts.
It’s actually pretty bonkers that they opted to release “Absurd” before this, ’cause “Hard Skool” [vomiting noises] is a way more traditional-sounding GN’R jam. Like, if you had asked someone in 1991 what they thought Guns N’ Roses might sound like in 2021, this is probably what they’d envision. Insofar as a statement that says “The band you remember and love is back and we’re sorry we did some other shit you didn’t love so much” goes, like, this is it. This is Guns N’ Roses’ Permanent Vacation; this is Guns N’ Roses being an AC/DC-style hard rock band that never ever changes. It’s less edgy than the glory days, because they’re pushing sixty, goddamnit, but it’s probably as close as we’re gonna get.
I don’t think “Absurd” or “Hard Skool” (gross) are bad songs, although I’m clearly biased. I also don’t think they’re as interesting as most of the material from Chinese Democracy. I’m not saying they’re better or worse than Chinese Democracy — just that they’re not as singular and weird as the stuff on that record. Like, “Silkworms,” the Democracy-era version of “Absurd,” was a pretty bugnuts song that is now only regular nuts. But obviously having Slash back on lead guitar is pretty major.
Duff McKagan remains the unsung hero of Guns N’ Roses. (Well. I mean. Izzy Stradlin is the unsung hero of Guns N’ Roses. But of the guys currently in Guns N’ Roses, Duff doesn’t get as much love as he deserves.) His bass lines are always just a little more complicated than they need to be, without being ostentatious. There’s always these neat little flourishes popping up; it never sounds rote or mechanical. This man is doing the Lord’s work.
It’s weird that, at least for now, they seem to be focusing on reworked versions of Chinese leftovers. I wonder what that’s about. They’re changing the songs significantly enough that it’s hard to imagine Axl Rose still feels some deep connection to the material and is like “I have to get this out no matter what”… although it’s possible he still feels some deep connection to the sentiment and the lyrics. I dunno, maybe it was really, really, really important to him that the world hear about a “pussy full of maggots.” Maybe that’s something he feels, deep down in the soul, people need to know about.
Or maybe he and Slash just can’t stand to be in a room together for longer than they have to be, Eddie Van Halen/David Lee Roth-style?
Either way, if you’re obsessed/unethical enough to listen to the Chinese Democracy-era studio leaks, you’ll realize that some of these vocal tracks are from the turn of the century. It’s just kinda odd. I know Axl Rose doesn’t sound great these days, but he’s not Vince Neil; in theory, he should be able to record most of this stuff. But why bother, I guess…?
I’m curious to see how the writing credits shake out for these tracks. Are we now living in a world where Slash and Buckethead share a byline?
I’m even more curious to see some production credits. Remember how fucking complicated the credits on Chinese Democracy were? And now they’ve recorded a bunch of this shit AGAIN… like… FUCK, bruh.
The spelling of the song is sufficiently terrible to make me overlook the lameness of the extremely literal school bell at the beginning of the track. So at least it’s good for something.
And finally… I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!
Okay I’ll shut up now. Here’s “Hard Skool”:
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