Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy

03Dec08
ChineseDemocracy.jpg

So many albums are touted as a “highly anticipated” release or as being “years in the making.” If there was ever an album that lived up to that label, it is Chinese Democracy.

It’s been 15 long years since GNR’s ever so disappointing, The Spaghetti Incident? And over 20 since Axl and Co. first rocked collective worlds with 1987’s debut-to-end-all-debuts, Appetite For Destruction. It was the first album to lend credibility to the much parodied 1980’s hair metal genre. An album that truly bled Rock and Roll. Guns N’ Roses shock rock to its core, rescuing it from the sexually ambiguous, fashion conscious industry it had become. Ten seconds into the first track and you knew GNR was going to be a lasting force in rock for a long time to come.

Welcome to the jungle, indeed.

And that is what I was hoping for from Chinese Democracy. An album that grabbed rock music by its greasy, jet-black hair and shook the stupid out of it. I wanted Axl to show these sad, little kids that Emo is not Rock, that guyliner is not cool, that skinny jeans are emasculating, and that no one cares if the pretty girl in science class denied your MySpace friend request. I wanted another Appetite For Destruction.

Instead, I got a genre confused, completely out of touch, schizophrenic album that missed Slash more than anyone cares to admit. And though I appreciate Buckethead, he’s no Slash. Gone are the melodic and catchy guitar riffs. Buckethead (while no longer an official member of Guns N’ Roses, his work is featured prominently on Chinese Democracy.) is an amazingly talented guitarist. But he doesn’t have the sense of melody that Slash has embodied throughout his career. And that is what made GNR so great. They could kick your teeth in and make you want to sing along.

During the better part of two decades it took to craft this album, Axl lost his vision. He couldn’t decide if he wanted to make a modern rock record or stick to the sound that made GNR what it was. He straddled the fence here–trying to reinvent the band, without ever fully committing to it.

Chinese Democracy/Shackler’s Revenge

Great start to the album, especially Shackler’s Revenge. My only gripe is the intro sounds like a late 90s nu-metal riff. KoRn anyone? But by the chorus, they had my attention. Huge guitars, Axl screaming hooks and guitar solos aplenty–classic GNR.

Better

Better confuses the hell out of me. It starts with what I swear is a drum machine loop. (A drum machine loop? On a Guns N’ Roses album?) By the time it resolves into it’s boring groove, I had already lost interest.

Street of Dreams

Street of Dreams opens with a beautiful piano arrangement. There are some great strings and Buckethead and Robin Finck do their best Slash impressions. It’s a solid song, but nothing spectacular.

If The World

Is this really Guns N’ Roses? If The World, is the ultimate pussy moment on this album. I have no clue what they were going for, but it simply does not fit. And it sounds eerily like Under The Influence of Giants. At this point, I realize they are grasping at straws.

There Was A Time/Catcher In The Rye

Meh…Maybe I need to see these songs performed live to truly appreciate them. It feels like GNR is just recycling the same formula that worked for them early in their career. These two songs desperately want to be epic, arena rock anthems. But something is missing and they come off as average at best.

Scraped

You can’t force heavy. You can’t force rock. Everything about this track is forced. It starts with this weird world-musicesque acapella thing, then immediately jumps into the song. It ends just as abruptly as it begins. Awful, awful song.

Riad n’ the Bedouins

Redundant, repetitive, absolutely no progression, no blows-your-mind guitar solo, and again no ending–it just stops. By now, I don’t even feel like listening to the rest of the album.

Sorry

Some people feel Axl is taking a shot at Slash on this track. “I’m sorry for you, not sorry for me.” What he should be saying is: “I’m sorry I fucked up, please come back and save me from myself.”

I.R.S.

I actually love this song. Even though it starts with that same, out of place, electronic drum beat as Better, this song builds. Great chorus, driving guitars and solos. Probably my favorite song on the album.

Madagascar

Another complete departure from the Guns N’ Roses we know and love. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just another illustration of the general lack of cohesiveness present on Chinese Democracy.

This I Love

The only ballad on the album was also the only one written solely by Axl. In his review on sputnikmusic.com, Dave de Sylvia likened it Dracula’s Lament from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Hilarious, but fitting. When I think of Axl and his piano, I picture the November Rain video. Axl pounding away on the keys, while Slash shreds mercilessly. But Slash isn’t on this album and while the solos throughout This I Love are adequate, it’s just not Slash. And Axl sounds like a shell of his former self.

Prostitute

AGAIN WITH THE DRUM MACHINE INTRO!! The best thing I can say about this track is it’s finally the end.

And there it is, Chinese Democracy, in all it’s mediocre wonder. It’s definitely not the album I’d hoped for. It’s hard to incorporate 15+ musicians and their ideas into a cohesive sound. They were trying to do too much to live up to the hype. And the importance of Slash’s contributions have never been more apparent. But you can’t help but love Axl. His vocals are about the only consistent part of Chinese Democracy.

And even though, as GNR records go, this falls short. It will probably be better than most of what you hear today. Which is sad–that mediocrity from an aging band is the best we can do.

Final Grade: C-



One Response to “Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy”

  1. Great review, though I probably like the album more than you. I also think not having Izzy hurts the songs as much as Slash. Izzy did a lot of songwriting when G’n’R was G’n’R.


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