SHOOTING BLANKS WITH DUFF MCKAGAN’S LOADED
Out of the original crew that made “Appetite for Destruction”, Duff McKagan has emerged seemingly the least scathed. True, he had a nasty drug habit (which resulted in a near fatal pancreatic debacle), but unlike the rest of them, that drug habit didn’t balloon into questionable artistic endeavor after questionable artistic endeavor (see: Saul “Slash” Hudson), peeing on an airplane before sobering up and tumbling into obscurity (see: Izzy Stradlin), or a series of debilitating strokes (see: Steven Adler). And he also didn’t lay low for 17 years making an entertaining clusterfuck of an album that would become perhaps the railroad spike-sized nail in the coffin of the music industry (see: W. Axl Rose). No, Duff left the band, got a degree in finance, and went with the flow. And even if that flow lead him into dubious places (see: Velvet fucking Revolver), the man came out on the other side looking the least like a tool. Of course, being the Teflon member of the original/classic G ‘n’ R doesn’t necessarily make for a solid solo album, and Duff McKagan’s Loaded provides just what you’d expect from an ’80s sideman: half-assed songs played somewhat well, but with nothing to stop you from tapping your watch and wonder when said sideman is going to return to his day job. There’s nothing too embarrassing/offensive on Sick, but there’s nothing to justify its existence as anything more than a grizzly bone thrown to Duff obsessives.
Sick has two issues that ultimately sink the album as a whole: it’s too unfocused and has entirely too much filler. There are a few decent songs on the album– “IOU”, the surprisingly epic closer “No More” and the ballad “Mothers Day” stand out in particular– but there are even more decent parts of songs buried in boring-to-nauseating filler. If Duff either distilled the promising-but-doomed songs down to their interesting bones or just made the album 4 or 5 songs shorter, Sick would be an interesting post-G ‘n’ R jaunt. But, alas, Duff’s weaknesses as a songwriter essentially mar the album irrevocably, and it’s strengths are obscured by its many weaknesses. What promises to be a down and dirty punk/rock and roll record with likeable hooks devolves into a meeting at the corner of Fall Out Boy and Buckcherry.
Though, it is unfair to cast this record as a miserable experience. Duff’s nasally vocals do grate after a while, but they occasionally provide the sort of snotty attitude the music needs. And his ear for evocative basslines remains as impeccable as it was 20+ years ago, no matter how mediocre the music around it is. I suppose with the man’s ability to pull himself together along with his talents on his instrument of choice made me want to like Sick a lot more than I actually did. But alas, those looking for something unique and exciting from Duff McKagan’s Loaded are bound to be disappointed. One can only hope that whatever becomes of Velvet Revolver could maybe turn out something worthwhile, or– God for-fucking-bid– he, Saul, that Izzy guy, and Mr. Rose can get the old band back together. In the meantime, there’s Sick. You could do worse, I suppose. But you (and Duff) could do much better.
(2 out of 5 horns)