Sound — 8
Loaded is a different band and a different role for Michael "Duff" McKagan, but it still f--king rawks! Sick is a little bit punk rock, a little bit glam and a whole lotta Hollywood rawk. It's not G N' R redux, either. McKagan takes this opportunity to expose his influences and his talent that span beyond either of his other bands. Granted, he is able to do just that because of his prior associations, but he proves that he's a capable axe-slinger, vocalist and frontman, and he doesn't stray to far from what you would expect from an original member of one of the most important and influential bands of the past twenty years! Licks, leads and riffs are the hallmarks of Sick. Even though McKagan is the band's obvious selling point, he's assembled a rag tag group of young turks who more than get the job done. The hair-on-fire drumming and Sick's general, hot 'n bothered aura set the stage for a down and dirty good time. Loaded sounds like a band that's just stormed out of the garage and the basement and is ready to get into the tiniest packed club on Sunset. In a way, what's old is new again, but with the benefit of hindsight, since the record is efficient and stuffed with structured songs that go the verse-chorus-verse route.
Lyrics — 7
With songs titled "Sleaze Factory" and "Flatline," you know what you're in for. Sure, there are references to the seedy underbelly of the rock and roll lifestyle, which is to be expected given McKagan's background and experience. His voice is a bit nasally and has some of the same timbre as W. Axl Rose, but for the most part, McKagan can carry a tune adeptly.
Overall Impression — 8
While many rock critics and historians will argue about Guns N' Roses being greater than the sum of it's parts, such formulas don't apply with Loaded. McKagan's making a rowdy racket with a bunch of hungry dudes who play like their lives depend on it. McKagan has been there, done that and bought the t-shirt, so he's got nothing to prove. That's what makes Loaded a passion project that fires on all pistons and moves with the unbridled energy of a 13-year-old on a non-alcoholic cocktail of Red Bull and Pixi Sticks! G N' R has millions of diehards who remember the pre-Chinese Democracy glory days. While Loaded and Sick aren't a throwback or a "tribute" to that time gone by, all of the things that band's leader experienced in that time frame certainly impact the end result that is Loaded. It's a fun, fast, dirty, sweaty record. And that's how the rock hounds like it.