Monday, November 24, 2008

Review: Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy

Label: Geffen

Released: November 23, 2008

Chinese Democracy is an album almost a decade and a half in the making. For this album alone, Axl Rose and his revolving door of musicians that make up what he still calls Guns N Roses have been at it longer than most bands take for an entire career. The Beatles changed the face of rock music in (considerably) less time. The cost of recording the album approaches the GNP of a small country. Throw in the promise of a free Dr Pepper for everyone in America (minus Buckethead and Slash, of course) and perhaps no album in history has had more hype. Frankly, I really thought democracy would come to China before Chinese Democracy would come to stores and it seemed like Axl had let it become so much larger than a rock album that he couldn't win by releasing it. It had become a joke.

As it turns out though, the album is not a joke at all. Unlike so may recent hard rock albums that have come out after long layoffs, this one actually shows that he's been up to something all this time. The album takes some chances and incorporates new sounds without losing sight of what GnR really is. That was particularly surprising, because most of GnR is in Velvet Revolver now. Nonetheless, Axl has stayed true to GnR's core without becoming stagnant. He wears a lot of his influences on his sleeve of course. His love for Elton John's over-the-top piano rock is no secret and it's in fine form here. The addition (at least at times) of NIN touring guitarist Robin Finck shows prevalently. Not every chance he takes works of course and after over a decade, the missteps should have been resolved. However, take the time and money out of the equation and Chinese Democracy is a very good record when compared to something recorded for a normal price and in a normal timeframe.

I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed in Chinese Democracy though. I was hoping that the joke it had become would play out nicely in a train wreck and provide at least a few more weeks of laughing at Axl's expense. But the joke's over. The album is solid, interesting and a bit adventurous and I guess that's better than the joke anyway.

Satriani: 8/10
Zappa: 7/10
Dylan: 6/10
Aretha: 6/10
Overall: 7/10


If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Blogger Jeff said...

I've listened a little bit to the streams online a few days before the release. I would agree it's not the train wreck I was waiting and hoping for, but for the most part I think it sounded pretty poor. Granted I didn't give it much of a listen but I think Axl was trying to push his voice into places that he could no longer go. I think some of the slower songs are pretty good like "Madagascar", but I thought the heavier songs just sounded like a band who was trying to overdo it.

3:04 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I have seen such varied reviews of the album that it proves what I've felt for a long time about music reviews--with rare exception, they reveal much more about the writer than the music. That's not necessarily a bad thing ... but the only way to know if you'll like the music is to listen.

And I'm on the fence about whether to give this one any more of a chance than I already have.

3:15 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

David, I think you're totally right about reviews. You really have to get a feel for the reviewer based on albums you know and then discern how what they say applies to you.

3:26 PM  
Blogger The Mad Hatter said...


That makes perfect sense. I think when you take that into consideration as well as how much you've followed a specific reviewer, it determines what you might do, too. I had no intention of ever listening to this, but Bob says it's solid and so I'm going to trust him on it. If he had said it's like the second coming of the Fab Four, I probably wouldn't.

5:05 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

The best thing about trusting me on this one is that you can just listen online and not waste your money unless you agree.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Master Cianan said...

I did some online listening, and I thought... that it was mediocre. It sounded overproduced and way too slick to my ears. You could definitely hear the GNR in there, but it sounded sterile and flat to me. Also, a lot of the guitar parts sounded like they were so many takes into it, the player was bored. Did Axl spend too much time tweaking the life out of it or was that Bob Ezrin's doing? I expected worse, honestly, but I still think it falls just short of achieving mediocrity. Oh well.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok So I'm a huge fan of Axl Rose! I think this record is overall great Better is definately the best tune on it! I believe it could have been about 4 tunes shorter though and it would be perfect! As a huge fan I may be biased but I fucking think it's incredibly cool and eclectic Go Axl Go new Gunners and screw all haters!

3:47 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Have not heard it yet. My world of music is going to stop or make way just because Axl finally decided torelease this thing. However I do want to hear it. My hope is that Axl brought some of the creative and adventurous spirit he once had to this album. Obviously Velvet Revolver didn't have much of that spirit. Those two albums were just alright although the second one was an improvemnt over the debut. Amazing how so many people have swarmed to the new releases of Motley Crue, AC/DC, Metallica and now G-n-R. Yet how many of these albums are actually going to be on people's "best albums of 2008 lists"?

7:34 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Was wanting to see where you'd weigh in on this one. :) I like it. In my opinion it's not really comparable to old Guns N' Roses. It should be thought of separately, for sure.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Not sure when I'll get around to this, honestly, but soon enough.

I like David's comment about reviewers themselves vs. the actual reviews. I for one take the humblest honor when someone says they took my recommendation and better yet, enjoyed it.

Interesting about Mark's comment as well...Metallica was better than expected, AC/DC was right on to expectance with a few nice surprises, the Crue was probably the best of the batch, though. Some people loved it, others hated it, I simply just enjoyed it, but funny, none of those even cracked my 25 Immaculate Recptions of 2008 for AMP magazine (whihc will eventually be revealed later at The Metal Minute)

7:52 PM  

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