Guns N' Roses

Chinese Democracy

Written by: TL on 03/12/2008 01:02:10

When a guy who's easily (in)famous enough to be considered the Michael Jackson of rock music, not only has the audacity to substitute his entire legendary band, but also takes a staggering 15 years to produce an album subsequently, one thing is for sure - And that is that reviewing that album becomes a God damn pointless effort, since the majority of those who even remotely care about Axl Rose and his amputated Guns N' Roses have known for ages what they were going to think about "Chinese Democracy". What I'm saying is, that likely you're either all high and mighty and pissed off with the album's outrageous production time and cost, hell-bent on hating it, or you're shitting yourself over the second coming of your rock'n'roll messiah because you just love GnR unconditionally. Me? Shit dudes, I was 5 years old when "Use Your Illusion II" was released and to be perfectly honest with you, I recently found myself in a record store, "Chinese Democracy" coming from the speakers, trying desperately not to make a complete fool of myself in a conversation with the owner over whether or not the new album sounded more like "Use Your Illusion" or "Appetite For Destruction". I guess you could argue that this further devaluates this review, but on the other hand, I think my superficial appreciation of GnR really just makes me as close to objective as a reviewer can be about them, and if you trust me on that call, read on.

First things first: Is "Chinese Democracy" worth the 15 years, 14 studios, 12 contributing musicians and 47 other people that worked on this record according to wikipedia? Don't be ridiculous, of course it's not, but that being said, when seen outside of that impossible expectation, it isn't necessarily a total disaster. The album opens up with its three most energetic tracks: "Chinese Democracy", "Shackler's Revenge" and "Better", the first two of which are hindered by a downright annoying voicebox effect that's layered on top of Axl's own vocals. That's a shame especially on "Shackler's Revenge" that even in spite of this stands immediately as one of the strongest tracks of the record. "Better" quickly overturns it though, by boasting a better riff and some better vocals and by generally feeling more like the overblown GnR hardrock anthem we all know and love the band for.

From then on and forward, the tempo is lowered and focus is shifted towards a pair of lengthy ballads in the vein of good old "November Rain", featuring Axl crooning nasally with as much emotion as he can muster, only giving way for the obligatory guitar solo here and there. As for these songs, "Street Of Dreams" works out fine, but the following funk of "If The World" easily dampens my excitement. "There Was A Time" actually attempts to turn the volume back up, complete with catchy piano intro, bombastic string section and backing choirs, but even with the grand arrangement, the song doesn't quite pack the same punch as some of the ones I've mentioned earlier. "Scraped" seems to suffer from the same lack of direction as does the Beatles-ish piano-driven "Catcher In The Rye". "Riad N' The Bedouins" would be one of the most kick ass tracks on the record if the way Axl sings the chorus didn't sound so off key. Then the following "Sorry" is a polar opposite in effectiveness with its majestic build-up and riffs, and its bluesy solo and overall feel. "I.R.S." follows up on a good note too, even if it's chorus does feel a bit.. stupid. The last three songs on the albums come as another batch of ballads that, even with the sampled Martin Luther King speech-pieces in "Madagascar" and the skull splitting solo of "Prostitute", fall a bit short of amazing me.

Personally, I really think "Chinese Democracy" is weighed down by the amount of ballads it contains, as I've always liked GnR for their ability to rock. Here the rock-o-metre only momentarily has its needle up in the red field in which it belongs, which I guess is unsurprising for a band where the singer has taken over creative control of things. Sure, whether or not you like many ballads is going to be a subjective matter, but in any case, I think the number one annoying factor of this album is how all the awesome solos and riffs it DOES in fact contain, have been pushed back and restrained in the soundscape, as to leave room for the vast array of effects and supporting instruments that characterize the songs.

Anyway, to the unwary listener, I'd probably describe "Chinese Democracy" as southern bluesy hardrock alá Lynyrd Skynyrd, arranged into Queen-sized massive compositions and produced with millions worth of technology and added effects. A description I guess could hold the promise of something totally awesome, if I didn't had to attach to it the warning, that the guitars have been turned a bit down from 11, and that the songwriter hasn't always gotten the best out of his personality-disorder. However, even with these hiccups, Axl Rose's titan is still a vastly interesting listen, and simply because I'm sure that once people stop talking about it and start listening to it, they'll like it more than they want to admit, I am in fact going to sneak its grade up to a slight


Download: Better, Shacklers Revenge, Sorry, Street Of Dreams
For The Fans Of: Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Queen,

Release Date 23.11.2008
Geffen Records

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