Review: Duff McKagan’s Loaded – The Taking
When names like Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver populate your résumé, you have a lot to live up to on your solo releases. Slash did an admirable job last year with his star-laden self-titled record, and now bassist Duff McKagan has released this, his third studio album, The Taking, with the group Loaded, in which he plays guitar and sings.
The record lives up to his legacy with big hooks and driving riffs, but his attack is wholly unique. Beginning with the driving, punk-influenced “Lords of Abbadon,” he sets a desperate, bloodthirsty tone for The Taking with a charging riff and his snarled opening line “We are criminals!” From there, he traverses punk and heavy music’s peaks and valleys from thwapping urgent hard rock (“Dead Skin”) to Foo Fighters–esque anthems (“We Win”) to the Iggy Pop–like closer “Follow Me to Hell.”
The album tells a loose story about a man breaking up with his girlfriend but the songs are written in a way that work outside of the narrative, too. For instance, “Executioner’s Song,” an Alice in Chains–like rocker, which has call-and-response vocals straight out of the Staley-Cantrell songbook, could be as much about politics (“Democracy is such a whore”) as a metaphor for a communication breakdown in a relationship. But if you don’t care about lyrics, it also has a ripping wah-wah guitar solo.
The album’s standout is “Cocaine”—a song that doesn’t tie into the breakup theme—which has a GN’R-quality honky-tonk riff and the infectious chorus “Tremors, shakes, can’t break this chill that’s in my veins” and the lyric “I hid a gun in a darkened place/a simple short arm’s length away/Somebody’s got to pay/I hate the world today,” which might be a day in the life of Duff during the height of his drug paranoia circa 1991. Maybe the GN’R riff is a metaphor itself alluding to how far McKagan has come. Then again, what good is a résumé if it doesn’t show how you’ve progressed? KORY GROW