REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993)

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GUNS N’ ROSES – “The Spaghetti Incident?” (1993 Geffen)

The hype surrounding this album was palpable. The disappointment was legendary. When I began working in a record store in July 1994, less than a year after the release of “The Spaghetti Incident?”, we couldn’t give these away, no matter how low we marked them down. This disc effectively ended Guns N’ Roses domination and ushered in an era of a new wave of bands, the post-grunge onslaught. GN’R survived grunge only to be put to bed with this terrible album!

The reason is, while most of these songs are great in their own rights, these versions are not. The recording is sparse and basic, a far cry from the layered intricacy of the Illusions albums. While Slash’s goal was to get the production back to basics (read: Appetite), this album was an ugly beast and not even close to the shiny black gleam of Destruction. Some songs are just plain boring. “Since I Don’t Have You” was an odd choice for a single, and “Black Leather” just plain sucked. I think there were quite a few fans who were baffled by the number of Duff lead vocals too.

The best song (which wasn’t even recorded by GN’R), is Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”. This is actually a Duff McKagan solo track, an outtake recorded for his first solo album, Believe In Me. Other standouts include Axl’s raging “I Don’t Care About You”, Duff’s “Attitude”, and “Down On The Farm” which had been played live way way back when Izzy was still in the band. A lot of fans were off-put by Axl’s faux-English accent on “Down On The Farm”, but that’s the way it was played live and I don’t mind. The New York Dolls’ “Human Being” is a great Guns cover.  “Ain’t It Fun” is also an angry standout.

Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” is underwhelming although Axl does nail the lead vocal. Why GN’R covered a Soundgarden song (“Big Dumb Sex”) is beyond me, and of course there’s the worst track on the album, and most legendary — Charles Manson’s “Look At Your Game, Girl”. Axl’s obsession with Manson was just another nail in the coffin for GN’R, as most fans couldn’t wrap their heads around it. It didn’t help that Slash publicly said that the song “sucked” and that he refused to play on it.*

“The Spaghetti Incident?” will go down in history as the last music of the Illusions sessions to be released, and also is the only album of the Rose/Slash/McKagan/Sorum/Clarke/Reed lineup. By the time Guns N’ Roses released their next single (another cover, the Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”), Gilby Clarke was fired by Axl and replaced by Axl’s hometown bud Paul Huge. And that was the last straw for Slash, and the beginning of what would later be known as Chinese Democracy. And that was it. “The Spaghetti Incident?” is the last album to feature Slash, Duff, and Matt, and I think that is just sad and kind of weird too.

If you love Guns N’ Roses, then you already have this, because you have everything by the band. If you only “like” Guns N’ Roses, you don’t need this. You’ll play it a few times and then file it away, never to be heard again.

Instead of this, pick up:

All three would have been great GN’R albums, but sadly none were.

2.5/5 stars

* In 2000, Axl Rose stated that “Look At Your Game, Girl” would be removed from future printings of the album.  That never happend.

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29 comments

  1. I always thought that the cover art on this one said it all – that’s obviously canned/tinned spaghetti. No effort at trying to make anything new here, and cheap and tasteless (like your girlfriend) besides.

    Still, I’m a sucker for covers and I do own this. I’m in the not-playing-it-often category, though I do give them a shout-out for doing the Stooges’ Raw Power… though I’d just go play Iggy if I wanted Iggy. There’s lots to like in these tracks, if you’re willing to sit through the parts that are not so great. I dunno, I like it? Because it’s G’n’R?

    But I agree, on the heels of the Illusions, this was fairly weak by comparison. Would we have felt differently if it had been released before the Illusions? Probably.

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    1. Great point on the cover art. It really did accurately depict the music inside, sadly. Don’t know what else to say on it…it’s like GN’R say in the liner notes, “Do yourself a favour and find the originals.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is very often true. Although, as I discovered in my Johnny Cash series last week, sometimes covers can be as strong (or better) than the originals. Sadly, it was not the case here.

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        1. Cash was a machine! He could have ruined any of those covers, a mere mortal would have anyway. But Johnny didn’t. And dude, the Unearthed box set has stuff JUST AS GOOD…if not more so in some cases.

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        2. I will have it soon! But first I have a couple of cool things coming (this week) that are probably gonna be good for a few comments on the KMA, methinks… YES THIS IS A TEASER [though I won’t tell you what they are, you’ll just have to wait and see!]

          On a related note, for the Cash series and comments, there wa sa wide range of comments on that series. I think they are generally-liked records, as I would say they should be. Part 6 got the most comments, with 12, and that was mostly about the boxed set. Part 4 got the fewest comments, with zero! Maybe everyone has that one and figured my post was just an exercise in repeating what we all know already – it’s awesome.

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  2. I never bought this and have all never heard it. I thought the Illusions albums were really ropey so I’d given up on Guns at this point. I thought they had already went shite.

    Given that I don’t know anything about this, you mention tracks like the Soundgarden and Charles Manson that aren’t on the track listing on the picture. Is there different editions or something?

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    1. Ahh, I see — yes both tracks are unlisted on the back. The Manson is a hidden track at the end of the last song. Soundgarden is “Big Dumb Sex”, done as a medley with “Buick McCane”.

      You thought Illusions were ropey? Still today? I recently replayed both in order and was astonished at the material they had. Yes it could have used some pruning.

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      1. Cool. That explains it! I thought you maybe had some special edition.

        I still think the UYI albums are ropey and bloated. They definitely have their moments but I reckon more than half of the songs range from filler to crap.

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        1. Looking at the albums now. UYI 1 fares ok with about 9 good tracks. UYI 2 has about 5 out of 14 though. I’m not going to count Don’t cry twice! So yeah just under half. Might go up or down depending on my mood. A lot of its just not to my taste at all.

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        2. I think that’s the general consensus. I could may never get into II much at all. I think it helps that the first song is so good on that one. I’d say it has the best and worst songs on it but I is more evenly ok throughout.

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        3. I agree it has the best and worst, for sure. Get in the Ring is filler although it’s sometimes fun to sing along to.

          Next reviews I have lined up are a band that GN’R opened for in Kitchener Ontario at Super Skate 7…

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      2. Too many crap songs and fillers on the Illusion albums. They could have cut a lot of the tracks and made only one album instead. they could have had one awesome album instead of tow mediocre ones. But then again, G N’R were huge then and their fans, including me, had to get both albums which generated lots and lots of money for the band. Foul play.

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  3. I just LOVE their version of ‘Ain’t it Fun’, which I think is actually better than the original – its one of my fave Axl vocals. I also really like ‘Down on the Farm’ which I think they first played live at a Farm Aid concert. As for the rest, you’re right – meuughhhh!

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  4. Agreed! I completely ignored this one. Like Aaron said, the Chef Boyardee spaghetti looked gross. But more than that, I never heard any of these songs on radio or TV. Might have been too distracted with school to pay more mind though.

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  5. U nailed it with this review Mikey. The promotion was huge for this and the disappointment greater as you alluded to. Yep,I was a first day buyer and yep also a first play skipper of songs on certain tracks.
    For my money the Neurotic Outsiders was the out of all GNR offspring the one to dabble with followed by Gilbys Pawnshop and Duff in my distant third……

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    1. Thanks buddy I agree fully, although I’ll put Izzy’s album higher than Duff’s.

      So do YOU know what tomorrow’s review will be? The band that GN’R opened for at Super Skate 7 in Kitchener in ’87…

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  6. I’ve probably listened to this a hundred times trying to like it, but despite that many listens for such a low price, I still never felt I’d gotten my money’s worth somehow. “Attitude” is my favourite, but it doesn’t make the whole album worthwhile for me.

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  7. I think I might be on my own here, but … I actually really like this album. Sure there are a few iffy song choices, but it’s an enjoyable listen. Plus, they shed all the bombast of those Use Your Illusion albums and I think the ‘back to basics’ approach worked well.

    Liked by 1 person

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