Gilby Clarke’s debut is one of the strongest releases from the ex-Gunners. Much like Izzy Stradlin’s releases, Pawnshop Guitars is a rootsy rock album that channels some of those Rolling Stones influences. Unlike Izzy, Gilby rolls those influences with some T. Rex and his pop-punk influences and sensibilities – even taking on a cover of Jail Guitar Doors with Frank Black (yes, that Frank Black). In fact, the supporting cast is pretty impressive, with his then GN’R buddies appearing, as well as Rob Affuso, Eric Skodis and Gilby’s Candy pals, Jonathan Daniel, John Schubert, and Ryan Roxie. There’s also an appearance by Ex-Pensive Wino Waddy Watchel, who also happens to handle production duties.
So, what’s the album like, then? Well, for starters, there’s a whole lot of personality that wasn’t really expected given there wasn’t much known about Gilby’s songwriting. But Gilby had form and it wasn’t all roots, sleaze, and bluesly sleaze (yeah, I’m looking at you, Slash!). Opener, Cure Me… Or Kill Me… does rock big time, though. It’s seriously terrific. That’s that Slash guy’s guitar you can hear shivering under Clarke’s riffage before it kicks in at double heavy. At this point, you reckon this would make a pretty spiffy GN’R track, but the verse riff is typical Clarke and the chorus (not to mention the verse stutter) throw this one right into Kill For Thrills territory. Hurrah!
Black and Johanna’s Chopper have that whole Beatles-esque thing going on and there are some really beautiful rolling guitar moments in there as well as Gilby’s phrasing and melody when he sings that third line of each verse on the former. The smokin’ Tijuana Jail is, alongside the opener, a highlight; a rocked up Peckinpah jaunt through a dusty landscape littered with broken bottles, drunks, and a dull, flickering, neon light off in the distance. Skin & Bones, meanwhile, is a roots rocker that wouldn’t have been out of place on either of Izzy’s first two albums.
In fact, the first four tracks (Cure Me… Or Kill Me… Black, Tijuana Jail and Skin & Bones) ensure that Pawnshop Guitars gets off to a perfect start, before things mellow out a tad for the Beatles inspired pop noodles and majestic hooks of Johanna’s Chopper and the spacey Let’s Get Lost. The second half of the album does tail off a bit, but the title track and Hunting Dogs are really great. In fact, the only misstep here, in my opinion, is the take of Dead Flowers (which Axl suffocates). We just don’t need that. Get lost, Rose.
Anyhoo, this is one that can often be found real cheap. Which is a shame, cause it’s a great slice of rock n’ roll (and don’t just take my word for it). That said, it’s also a real good thing, cause surely you’ll now be looking for a copy. Hurrah!
Next we’ll explore Duff’s insane debut, Believe In Me.