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Loaded - 'Sick' Review

Duff McKagan Turns Side Project Into a Salute to No-Nonsense Hard Rock

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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loaded sick duff mckagan

Loaded - 'Sick'

Photo courtesy Century Media.
Sick, the new album from former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan’s side band Loaded, will appeal to those who wished GNR had just kept making albums like Appetite for Destruction until the day they died. A no-nonsense collection of rock and punk, Sick has its moments, but McKagan’s group specializes more in sturdy craftsmanship than truly inspired rock.

Not Quite 'Use Your Illusion III'

Loaded (or “Duff McKagan’s Loaded,” so as not to confuse listeners who’s running the show here) don’t go in for a lot of fancy experimentation or genre melding. Instead, Sick is a salute to guitar-bass-drum rock ‘n’ roll – don’t look for wimpy string sections or industrial-strength synthesizers here. The emphasis is on brawling guitar riffs and three-minute songs, although occasionally McKagan slows down the tempo for bluesy ballads that echo his contribution to the Use Your Illusion albums, “So Fine.” In other words, if you thought Axl Rose has ruined Guns N’ Roses with his pretensions since the early ‘90s, then you might prefer Sick’s stripped-down hard rock.

Crunch and Propulsion

Since exiting Guns N’ Roses, McKagan became part of Velvet Revolver, a supergroup that also featured other displaced GNR members, most notably lead guitarist Slash. On Sick, the title track and “I See Through You” could be mistaken for Velvet Revolver tunes, but Loaded’s guitarists – McKagan and Mike Squires – don’t have the fevered energy that Slash possesses. Rather than instrumental flair, Sick tries to win you over with its crunch and propulsion, and the band’s tightness is impressive. Velvet Revolver may remain McKagan’s most commercial endeavor, but Loaded is not one of those vanity projects that seems like an embarrassing waste of time for all those involved.

Duff McKagan Takes Center Stage

Since he’s better known as a bassist, how does McKagan rate as a frontman? Not bad. Admittedly, he doesn’t have much of a vocal range, but on “No Shame” and the silly sexcapade “Blind Date Girl,” he provides necessary grit and charisma. He’s perhaps most comfortable conveying the strung-out desperation of “Mother’s Day” – his puppy-dog vulnerability can be more convincing than his attempts at wailing and barking, which sometimes strain his thin voice. And if you’ve been dying to hear McKagan’s deepest thoughts, well, the lyrics suggest that he’s not much of a poet. Look no further than the album’s opening verse where he declares, “Well, I’m sick/Yeah, I’m sick of you/You’re like Typhoid Mary/Mixed with Asian flu.”

Loaded's 'Sick' – Bottom Line

One should approach Sick with modest expectations. Loaded aren’t to the level of Guns N’ Roses or Velvet Revolver, and Sick is workmanlike rather than stunningly accomplished. Still, the album’s best tracks are compact guitar-rock songs that get the job done. McKagan shouldn’t quit his day job, but those seeking some dive-bar hard rock without a lick of excess might want to get Sick.

'Sick' – Best Tracks:

“Blind Date Girl” (Purchase/Download)
“I See Through You” (Purchase/Download)
“No Shame” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – April 7, 2009
Century Media

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