Duff McKagan’s Loaded – “The Taking” – Album Review

Review by: Ben Connolly
Musical legacies are fickle beasts. For the privileged few, early bravado can lead to a lifetime of open doors and opportunities; for most, thorough, their own massive shoes are rarely filled again, leaving a life of painfully striving either to attain the same heights, or failing to convince the world that there’s more to give. For those at the pinnacle, the ones whose exploits drew a definite line with which others would measure themselves, this is arguably even more acute: audiences are liable to bay for more brilliance, and are vocally deflated when their lofty expectations are not met (take, for example, the expectation of larger-than-myth Bob Dylan, whose audience is rudimentary brought down to earth every time his never-ending tour juggernaut rolls through town).

Whilst not quite on the same pedestal, Duff McKagan’s role in a modern rock is still not to be sneezed at. A key member of one of hard rock’s defining late 80s movements with Guns n Roses, McKagan not only had to deal with being associated with such a lofty pedigree, but also by the two-decade long denigration of that legacy by his once band leader which has now rendered the name little more than a rock punchline. Never-the-less, the affable bleach-blond bassist has routinely joined his fellow ex-bandmates in trying to establish themselves over the years as something wholly removed not only from their Appetite for Destruction legacy, but also from the farce which followed, with varying degrees of success (Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, anyone?).

McKagan has had a chequered time of re-igniting the creative fires post-Gunners and it has resulted in a patch-work quilt of band names, supergroups, guest appearances and session work. At one stage in a bizarre twist of fate, Duff was even recruited as a permanent fixture of a re-formed Jane’s Addiction before everyone seemed to sober up just long enough to realise it probably wouldn’t have been all that productive. The latest venture has been a reformation of the early 2000s group Loaded (renamed Duff McKagan’s Loaded), which has been on-again off-again in between his stints of education and seemingly “getting a real job” (he is currently making a name for himself as a columnist and and investment advisor, would you believe?). The band’s official second release The Taking follows 2008’s miss of Sick, but follows a similar path of idealising a long-lost, rather mythical past.

It kicks off with a fuzz of “Lords of Abaddon” and it’s clear early on that producer Terry Date (Slipknot/Pantera) was keen to traverse from the sparse punk aesthetics of the band’s previous work into chunkier terrain. Effect-laden guitars fill out the mix from the get-go and the bottom end rumbles nicely (even though Duff now centres himself around rhythm guitar and vocal duties). Big, booming, stadium-ready drums count in the second offering “Executioner’s Song”, but it all goes down hill almost as soon as McKagan’s wispy, strained and earnest vocals cut through. Despite the producer’s possible intention, the breathy timbre sits uncomfortably alongside the strident backline and screaming guitars. And despite a weight of material between his Gunners days and now, McKagan’s vocals still sound like a back-up singer suddenly thrust into the limelight and not quite knowing how to capitalise.

Sitting even more uncomfortably amongst the tall stadium-ready trees is a lyrical subject matter which borders on the puerile. “Vengeance sweet when the blood is on the lips / Democracy is such a whore” (from the aforementioned Executioner’s Song) typifies the bold sum of its content: piss and bad manners, tarted up as devil-may-care bravado. In reality, it’s nothing more than a rather bizarre attempt at once again defining a rather mythical mid-1980s Sunset Strip definition of punk-infused hedonism. And this is where the album’s momentum is halted in its tracks: this is not a redefinition, a burning artistic desire nor is it even a cynical cash-in. His earnest delivery of empty, meaningless, cliche-driven drivel is piteous; and, despite solid production trying to modernise the sound, it’s a limp offering by a rocker seemingly ill-at-ease with his legacy.

Review by: Ben Connolly

Other article by Ben Connolly…
* Myles Mayo – Myles Mayo [Album Review]
* Cold War Kids “Mine Is Yours” – Album Review
* Gareth Liddiard “Strange Tourist” Album Review
* Nicholas Roy “In A Shoebox Under The Bed” – LP Review
* Blame Ringo “In A Hurricane” – Single Review
* Jeff Lang @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne – 11 September 2010 – Live Review
* Live Review: Ball Park Music, Blame Ringo, Tin Can Radio @ The Zoo, Brisbane 21 May 2010