17 years is a long time to take to produce a body of work. Doesn’t matter if you are an artist, a writer, an architect. You name it. Something that takes THAT long to come to fruition is gonna have some problems because it becomes painfully obvious that the project will have been overthought and overproduced. That is DEFINITELY the case of “Chinese Democracy”, the long-awaited and way too expensive album from Axl Rose’s Guns N Roses. I say “Axl Rose’s” because other than Rose, none of the original members of the band have returned. And it is obvious from the 3rd song on that Slash and the gang are sorely missed.
I could go on a bashing session here, but I’m not gonna. There are some very good songs on this album, however they are too few and far between. But there is one classic track, 3 very good songs and the rest are kinda…”Eh”. If I had to pick one song from this group of songs to stick on a “Best Of” Guns N Roses disc, it would have to be “Shackler’s Revenge”. With a screeching guitar and a subdecimal growl from Axl, this song really fires on all GNR cylinders. It was smart of Geffen to release this track on “Rock Band”. Because, as a fan, this song would get me hyped for the album release. But once you get past that track, its a short train to boringville.
Ok…maybe the title track isn’t as bad as I initially thought. Actually, after hearing the rest of the album, I’ve come to really like “Chinese Democracy” just for the fact that it’s the only other true ROCK song on here. The rest of it is mostly slower, midtempo tracks with thoughtful lyrics. Does that make this a bad album? Well….kinda. Because if I want thoughtful lyrics, I’ll go check out the latest from Paul Simon. When I throw on a GNR CD, I want LOUD. I want VIOLENT. I want pure, unadulterated, smash mouth rock. I don’t want to hear about feelings (Street of Dreams), or the Falun Gong (I.R.S.), or being lost in a storm (Madagascar…the WORST song on this album). I want to hear about sex, drugs and…well…that’s pretty much it. AC/DC understands this concept. Don’t underestimate what you do well. Axl Rose is NOT Kurt Cobain. He is his own entity. Thoughtful and insightful is not what I think of when I buy a Guns album.
Anyway…here are the songs worth their weight…Shackler’s Revenge, Chinese Democracy, Prostitute, If The World. And songs to completely avoid: Madagascar, There Was A Time, Better.
As for the rest of it, I’m gonna quote my buddy Newman. When I asked him what he thought of this album he said, “Sounds like all the throwaway stuff off ‘Use Your Illusion I'”. And that pretty much sums it up. So to Slash and the boys, we miss ya. As much as I’m glad to hear Axl again, it ain’t the same without the REAL band. My only comfort is that I know I can always throw on “Appetite”, crank it to 11 and remember when GNR actually stood for RNR.