In the early 90’s I was a big Guns n’ Roses fan. I mean, who wasn’t? They were the biggest rock band on the planet back then. However, a fifteen year gap between the release of ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’ (a poor covers album) and ‘Chinese Democracy’ damaged their public profile, not to mention the record company’s wallet. (‘Chinese Democracy’ was interesting in itself: the resulting album was essentially Axl Rose and some blokes, since nearly the whole of the classic line-up had walked by then. Surprisingly, the end result was decent; although whether it was worth waiting fifteen years for is open to debate; as is whether or not Axl plus blokes actually equals G n’ R, for that matter. Maybe we’ll talk about that some other time).
Anyway, I digress… During that wilderness period, the classic G n’ R band members released a multitude of discs, most with something to recommend them. It became clear with each of these side projects and solo releases that Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Gilby Clarke and Duff McKagan all possessed a decent amount of talent.
‘Sick’ is the second studio album by Duff McKagan’s Loaded (the first being 2002’s ‘Dark Days’). As you’re possibly expecting, the album offers a hard rock ride with a slightly retro sneer (on the surface that suits me fine, since both Velvet Revolver albums were dishwater dull. For a project featuring three ex-members of G n’ R and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame, the outcome could have been so much better). It’ll come as no surprise that the best tracks are the upbeat ones with a trashy spirit. If that’s what you’re after, then ‘Sick’ will provide entertainment. Opening with the title track: one part Stooges, three parts glam metal; this really is where Duff excels. Mike Squires kicks things off with a punchy guitar riff (and later throws in an edgy solo) and Duff’s husky voice lends attitude. In addition to the main riff, guitarist Mike Squires throws in an edgy guitar solo. The stomping rock of ‘Sleaze Factory’ and ‘Flatline’ keep up momentum with plenty of sass and decent choruses. It’s only by track four (‘IOU’) Duff’s bass work comes to the fore. While not flashy, the more upfront bass sound is very welcome here. It could’ve worked well on the previous tracks, but I think this album is more about attention grabbing attitude than musical prowess.
‘The Slide’ offers another slab of rock ‘n’ roll guitars with a punky edge and ‘Blind Date Girl’ is a superb five minutes of trashy rock (reminding me more of a few past efforts by ex-G n’ R chums Gilby Clarke and Izzy Stradlin); the addition of a horn section make this a standout – and as such, it’s the only slower track which really works (although ‘No Shame’ – another track highlighting Duff’s punchy bass work – fares quite well for a mid-pacer, thanks to a decent chorus).
Even more obviously, the woozy ‘Wasted’ and ‘Mother’s Day’ really let the side down. The musical arrangements are rather empty and McKagan’s vocal limitations do nothing to give things a lift. Face it, while Duff does a fine job on the punchy stuff, he just doesn’t have enough vocal chops to tackle the more emotional stuff. ‘Translucent’ also misses the mark a little, sounding a little like a Tommy Stinson/Bash & Pop cast off (and hey, while we’re back here again, exactly why has Stinson been in G n’ R for years? His input into his previous bands would suggest he’s got far more talent than he’s ever likely to have needed playing bass as part of Axl’s pick-up band. I suppose the retainer must be good).
Essentially, this album by Duff McKagan’s Loaded is kind of like a doughnut. In the main, it’ll make you feel good and give you a quick fix. If you were looking for something with a longer lasting hit, it’s possible this could leave you unsatisfied.