If you like rock or metal music and you do not live in a cave, then you know that Guns and Roses (or shall I just say Axel Rose) finally released Chinese Democracy. This is probably the most highly anticipated release for me in my 33 years. First, because it took 15 years to make, second, because it's fuckin' GNR! Well, I bought it yesterday on its release date because that's how I roll.
I am going to review the disc song by song. This is usually a long-winded, self-important, douchey move. But this is Chinese Democracy, an album I've been dying to hear for 15 years and never thought I would actually hear. So how is it? Let's start.
1. Chinese Democracy- This is the first song, the title track and the first single. What strikes me the most is how after 15 years of build-up and about 45 seconds of ambient noise that gets the listener totally ready, the first riff comes on and it's..........pretty lame. The riff is pretty weak. Between riffs there is the sound of wind blowing. WTF? Once the song kicks in it is not too bad. It is a pretty agressive rocker that is decent. I notice two things immediately. 1) Slash is clearly not playing the guitar. This is a whole nother style of playing that Slash couldn't and wouldn't do. It is done by techies named BucketHead and Bumblefoot and a bunch of others. This isn't a bad thing, just different. 2) Axel is singing in a lower register, but layers a second layer of his trademark screech on top to make two voices. I'm am worried that his pipes haven't held up.
Overall, this song is a bit of a let down, but pretty rockin'. Solid, nothing more.
2. Shackler's Revenge- Starts with a terrible, uber modern guitar tone which sucks. Add to this a funk vibe and wah-wah guitar. Then the double voice layering again. Then guitar squiggles, and craziness is just jammed in everywhere. This is a train wreck.
Then comes a catchy chorus and amazing guitar solo. Then the song is just so full of parts that don't fit and all kinds of production noises and layered effects that it is just mind-blowing. Then against all music fan criticism, it just works and it is awesome. This song is weird, but listen to it 3 or 4 times and tell me it's no good.
3. Better- Song starts with Falsetto Axel and then the vocals kick in and any fears that Axel's voice is gone are laid to rest. His voice sounds amazing and I realize just how much I missed hearing that voice. The world of rock needs that voice. Seriously.
This song will be a hit. This joins the pantheon of amazing GNR songs. Awesome. This record is looking up.
There is a killer breakdown in the middle. If you can listen to this breakdown part with Axel screeching holy hell over the top and not want to crash a car, then you are a better person than me.
4. Street of Dreams- Uh-ooo. Starts with a piano. I hated the piano songs on the two Use Your Illusion albums. Song starts and it is a grand sounding, ballady, uplifting song that sounds like he wrote it after a break-up. It has strings and another amazing vocal performance. I normally don't like GNR songs like this, but this song is very listenable and suprisingly effective.
5. If the World- This song has a Moroccan sound that is accentuated with Spanish guitar (for real), dreamy keys, and a weird funky wah guitar. This song sounds like it should be in a movie. This is the first swing and miss of the record. I'll will probably skip this song usually when I listen to this record.
6. There Was a Time- This song starts low key with some singing over shitty sounding fake drums. It sounds like rap production. Ughh. I'm not gonna like this one. The song kicks in about 55 seconds, and the next 5 minutes blow me away!
For the first time ever, I finally get a glimpse of this beast that Axel kept hearing in his head. This is jaw-dropping, grand, epic, sweeping majestic rock. It has so much density and thought put into it. This transcends rock, this is amazing art. Axel was not crazy; he has the talent to do the kind of music that no one except himself thought he could pull off to this point. Wow.
Now I understand why he ditched the rest of the band. This is not music from the same bunch that wrote Appetite for Destruction. This kind of song is not created by a 5 member group of drunk misfits. This kind of song comes from the mind of an amazing writer, composer, and arranger.
I am getting real excited about the rest of this record.
7. Catcher in the Rye- This is a mid-tempo guitar and piano rock song, cut from the same cloth as the last song. Once again, it is very grand, and very well written. The song is warm and uplifting. Axel is on to something here. This is special music.
So far, I have been baffled, turned off, let down, rocked, uplifted, and amazed over the last 7 songs. This baby is worth the price of admission whether you end up loving it or not. There have been some misteps, as well as some perfect musical moments.
I will get to the second half later, when I've had more time to digest it.