Since Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagan reunited as Guns N’ Roses in 2016, fans of the band have been hoping for new studio music from the group. They’ve been rewarded here and there, with the electro-punk of “Absurd” (né “Silkworms”) in August 2021 and the more traditional rocker “Hard Skool” the next month. Now, two years later, and after a false start last week, GN’R have officially released a piano-driven song titled “Perhaps.”
So, is it any good? Yeah, it is. While technically a new song created with the input of the GN’R core trio of Rose, Slash, and McKagan, it has its roots in the sessions for Chinese Democracy, the legendarily delayed (and criminally under-appreciated) album that Rose recorded with a rotating cast of musicians and finally released in 2008. Opening with some piano chords and a few vocal signatures from Rose (you know the ones: the feline growls and half-swallowed “hey hey” refrains), “Perhaps” is mid-tempo rocker in the vein of Use Your Illusion’s more mellow “Yesterdays” or Chinese Democracy’s standout “Catcher in the Rye.”
More from Rolling Stone
And — dare we say — it also seems to be an apology. “My sense of rejection is no excuse for my behavior,” Rose sings at one point, bowing to someone he once misinterpreted and who ultimately pushed him away. Later, he empathizes: “How would I know how it feels or what it is to be you? I’ve been so upset harboring this hate for days/What a weight upon your shoulders that you don’t need.”
An empathetic Rose may be hard to imagine for cursory fans. After all, this is the same guy who leapt into a crowd in 1991 to stop an audience member from taking photos (“I’ll take it goddammit!”), sparking one of the most infamous riots in rock & roll history. But this is also the kinder, gentler Axl, the one who buried the hatchet with Slash to reform a new version of GN’R, arrives onstage on time, and even duets with Carrie Underwood. Seven years later, the band is, somehow, still on tour without nary an altercation or delayed gig.
But that’s not to say there’s no piss and vinegar in Guns’ new song. In the guitar breakdown, Rose can’t resist engaging in a little schadenfreude. “Got a lot more than I bargained for,” he howls, “You’re all alone now.” You can almost hear the grin on his face.
Guns N’ Roses performed “Perhaps” live for the first time on Friday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Best of Rolling Stone