GUNS N’ ROSES Appetite For Destruction (Geffen)

At what point in the last twenty years did “Appetite For Destruction” get so quite good? Yes, it was pretty much a constant cultural totem amongst my schoolfriends during the late 1980s, but I never got as far as enjoying it myself. Yet something’s happened in the intervening decades, and, rather than ageing, its obstreperous bubblegum ‘n’ razorblade pop – kind of like a squealing cartoon hybrid of Aerosmith and Van Halen attempting to remake “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols” in a Sunset Strip gutter – has actually acquired a kind of stoic grandeur.

Admittedly, it’s more difficult than ever to take Axl’s helium bleat seriously, but it doesn’t entirely undermine the twisted excitement of sleuthing for pointers to the band’s elephantine stretch of inactivity (even The Blue Nile don’t take 15 years to make an album) in the heroin chic wreckage of “Mr. Brownstone”, or the unexpected tenderness surfacing in “Think About You”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Rocket Queen”’s coda. Musically, this is more than a smash and grab raid on the pocket money of the universe’s disaffected teens, with a sense of adventure and experimentation popping up in the most unexpected places (the acoustic guitar in the choruses of “Think About You”, for example, or the elaborate intro to “My Michelle”).

It’s still as valid a document of youth gone wild as the aforementioned Sex Pistols album and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” (all three of which were clothed in controversial covers, oddly enough, although “Appetite For Destruction” was the only one to be cleaned up for mass consumption). Universal’s new 180 gram vinyl reissue is also the best I’ve heard so far in their Back To Black series, which is to say it’s nothing special – with 27 minutes of shock and outrage crammed onto each side it’s never going to be of demonstration standard –but given the woeful quality of that series so far inoffensive actually constitutes a significant improvement.