Guns N' Roses

Civil War

Composed by Axl Rose / Duff McKagan / Slash

Song Review by

While much of the Illusion-era Gn’R music seems like Axl trying to recast himself as Elton John or the late Freddie Mercury, “Civil War” is a testament to his attempt at recasting himself as some sort of Dylan-esque type, suddenly moved on from his racist and homophobic rants and now more concerned with ‘real’ issues like war and conflict. A blend of antiestablishment rhetoric (the admittedly out of place Cool Hand Luke samples, for example) and antiwar rhetoric (“Look at your young men dying/look at your women crying”) that should work falls oddly short here. Perhaps because Guns N’ Roses was at their best as street level social critics, or maybe because Axl’s lyrical themes sound so pious and cliched, “Civil War” was a statement that fell short. Musically, it’s not as overblown or ridiculous as the big epic ballads that dominated the Illusion records, but it still has some rather silly moments. The whistling that comes and goes is supposed to give the song a “thousand yard stare,” but makes it feel more like a half assed attempt at Morricone. When the song does kick in, however, it rocks. The beat picks up, Axl’s vocals go from troubled to classic-scream mode, and the band is in full flight -- which didn’t happen much on the Illusion set.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1987 Laser Media
Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal 1990
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
Use Your Illusion II 1991 Geffen / Universal 7:42
Use Your Illusion World Tour I: 1992 in Tokyo 1992 Geffen
Greatest Hits 2004 Universal Distribution / USM 7:41
Rock Stars 2005 Balalayka
November Rain: Live on Stage 2011 IDS / Rock Tapes
Appetite for Democracy: Live at the Hard Rock Casino, Las Vegas [Video] 2014 Geffen / Polydor
No Image 2014 Geffen 7:23
Deer Creek 1991 2016 Chrome Dreams / Smokin' 9:39
Dust and Bones 2016 Laser Media 9:41
No Image 7:39
Rock Zone
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
blue highlight denotes editor's pick