REVIEW: Gun – Taking on the World (1989)

TAKING ON THE WORLD_0002GUN – Taking on the World (1989 A&M)

Haven’t heard of Gun?  That’s OK, I hear that a lot.  You might know Gun best from their 1994 cover of Cameo’s “Word Up” which was a minor hit here on MuchMusic.

I first read about this band in 1990, and first picked up the debut CD in ’96.  I don’t actually know a lot about them except that they are Scottish and this is the first of several albums.  “Better Days” was the first single I heard.  Its bright, sparse rock wasn’t quite what was happening with the mainstream in 1989.  It’s very melodic, but in an unconventional way for hard rock bands at the time.   The vocals of Mark Rankin were unlike other rock singers on the scene at the time; he’s understated.  They also had an unusual image feature two short haired dudes and a frontman with his hair in a ponytail — you didn’t see that in 1989 unless you were INXS.  Musically too, they kind of rode a line between hard rock and 80’s alternative.  These are some of the qualities that attracted me to the band in the first place.  “Better Days” is a stand-out track, possessing a rhythmic base, a chorus that kills and a soulful vibe that helps sell it.

Second in line is “The Feeling Within” which is harder.  It still has the sparse vibe and understated vocals, but with a harder guitar riff.  It too boasts a winning chorus (reminding me of late-80’s Rush actually).  Once again I think Rankin is a highlight of the song, and he is accompanied on the chorus by an uncredited female backing singer.  Then “Inside Out” takes us to an upbeat, sunshiny place.  While Gun remain undoubtedly guitar based, the guitars are not oppressive like most hard rock, and the song has plenty of room to the breathe.  It’s another standout song.

The first song that I dislike is “Money (Everybody Loves Her)”.  It has a vibe similar to “Way Cool, Jr.” by Ratt, but without any balls.  I’ll pass on this one.  Fortunately the best song is next: the title track “Taking on the World”.  Quiet acoustics back Rankin’s laid-back voice.  Outstanding melody and song construction here!  It gradually picks up steam, electric guitars slowly drawing in.  The bass provides a steady pulse  as the song builds.  It closes side one on a strong note.

“Shame on You”, side two’s opener, is similarly constructed upon the pulse of the rhythm section.  It has a drone-y but catchy riff, not to mention chorus.  Darker tones shade “Can’t Get Any Lower”, still a good song, but lacking the punch of a memorable chorus.  Unfortunately the title “Something to Believe In” is well overused, and this isn’t really a great song.  It’s probably the weakest so far, though it does have some great vocal moments.  But then there’s the funky “Girls in Love” which I have a strong dislike for.  At least it’s the shortest song, but this sounds like a bad Bootsauce song or something.  After a couple tunes like these, you need a strong album closer.  Gun fail to deliver with “I Will Be Waiting”.  It’s too laid back.  It would have been better elsewhere on the disc, but it’s not that strong.

In summation, Taking on the World has a pretty damn good first side, but takes a hard slide on the second.  Too bad.  There’s enough goodness here to warrant:

3/5 stars

24 comments

  1. I was just thinking of a few albums that have really great A sides but then drop off on the second. It seems to happen with metal a lot. I hear it in most Pantera and Chimaira albums.
    I did actually notice a reversal of it today which sparked my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a lot of albums with the side A/side B issue. In fact I finished up a review of one recently that’ll go up soon — Leadfoot, an offshoot band of COC featuring former lead vocalist Karl Agell. Great side A, but side B slid a bit. And I’m spoiling it.

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  2. Totally fair review, there are a couple of great tunes here. I think I saw them supporting someone (The Cult?) once too and they were very, very good live.

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    1. WOW you know Gun! I was hoping you, Scott or someone else would know this. They really are all but unknown here.

      I’m going to look for Gallus today, or any other Gun I can find, but I’m not expecting anything.

      I could see these guys and the Cult on the same bill. Similar European rock images — not quite “hard rock” but frilly. Like Roger Taylor’s The Cross.

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      1. Oooo, I really liked The Cross – I haven’t listened to it though since Thatcher was prime minister and I’m a bit afraid it won’t live up to my fond memories of it.

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        1. Wow, impressive! You are now one of us.

          I’m pretty sure there was a self titled. I’m going to go look now (without waking up my wife).

          This one has the title Mad: Bad: And Dangerous to Know.

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      2. Mad Bad And Dangerous To Know is a great album. Just listened to it the other day. Power To Love should have been a big hit in a fair world. Review soon? ;)

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        1. Possibly! The way it often works with me is that as I rip CDs to my PC, I find and rediscover a lot of old albums. I haven’t ripped The Cross yet…I seem to do it in no order at all. But I will and I think I’d like to review it, given that we have a couple Cross fans here!

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  3. I pretty much agree with your review. The first 6 tracks Better Days, The Feeling Within, Inside out, Money, the title track and Shame On You are all awesome, but then it drops. But it’s not like the rest of the tracks are bad. I’d recommend this album to any rocker out there.
    Gun reformed without Rankin two years ago and recorded a great album, Break the Silence. Check it out:

    http://etainmentnewsreviews.wordpress.com/hard-rock/hard-rock-reviews-2012/gun-break-the-silence/

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      1. Yeah, well I think they released four with Rankin. I can’t remember what the last one was called but I do remember it blew big elephant balls. The title was a number of some kind and they spelled the name G.U.N.
        That album doesn’t count as far as I’m concerned.

        Just one without. Dunno if they’re still around.

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      1. Yeah, Steal Your Fire was great and both Gallus and Swagger are great records.
        Lauren Harris made a decent cover of Steal Your Fire on her crappy record. That’s Richie Faulkner on guitar, if I’m not misinformed.

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        1. Yes, I have written a review of it, but I haven’t posted it. I have it somewhere on my computer. It’ll show up one of these days. I’ll make sure your noticed when it does… ;-)
          But I can tell you that it’s not very good. If she wasn’t Steve Harris’ daughter, she would never have recorded that album. She’s kinda useless as a singer, to be honest. She’s pretty hot, though…

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        2. That’s too bad. I can see her being really into rock and roll thanks to dad…too bad she doesn’t have a voice. But then again, he dad is a bass player not a singer!

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  4. Yeah, I never heard of these guys.

    I question their choice of covering Cameo’s ‘Word Up,’ unless it was somehow ironic?

    I think, in the Scottish accent, ‘Gun’ sounds more like ‘Ach.’ Is that right? ;)

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