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Monday, March 2, 2009

Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy

Year released: 2008
Label: Geffen Records
Official Website: www.gunsnroses.com


1. Chinese Democracy [4:43]

2. Shackler's Revenge [3:37]

3. Better [4:59]

4. Street Of Dreams [4:47]

5. If The World [4:55]

6. There Was A Time [6:41]

7. Catcher In The Rye [5:53]

8. Scraped [3:31]

9. Riad N' The Bedouins [4:10]

10. Sorry [6:15]

11. I.R.S. [4:29]

12. Madagascar [5:38]

13. This I Love [5:34]

14. Prostitute [6:16]

According to a 2005 article by The New York Times, Axl Rose (frontman of GNR) had apparently already burned through US$13 million in studios by then whilst working on Chinese Democracy. In fact, rumours had also been going around saying that this much-anticipated album had been in works since 1995-1998, meaning that the cool retro artwork you see up there belongs to probably the only album ever in rock music history to have taken a decade to make, and the only album in the history of the contemporary music era so far to have become a multi-multi-million dollar project. Expectations have been high for this release, but GNR has disappointed old fans and music reviewers alike.
I shall be honest. Being more of a metalhead who is constantly on the lookout for fresh, un-clichéd , typically aggressive yet instrumentally intricate music, you kind readers will have to take my debatable opinions here with a pinch of salt. *Grins*

Take a listen!: One of the better-sounding songs on Chinese Democracy, with style experimentation being prominently evident.

Getting down to business, I have to say, Chinese Democracy isn't really impressive afterall. Despite having so much money and time invested into its production, Guns N' Roses (or maybe only Axl Rose since he oversaw the writing of every song on it) seems to have degenerated into yet another one of those typical aging rock bands whom can hardly stop whining on virtually every new song they write (vocally speaking, not lyrically). Yes, they still have that ever scintillating brilliance of Guns N' Roses drama, as audibly exclaimed out loud by those catchy opening guitar riffs on the title track, but thanks largely on Rose's part, the original 'star' lineup(s) [Slash |Lead Guitar, '90s|, Buckethead |Lead Guitar, 2000 – 2004|, Izzy Stradlin |Rhythm Guitar|, Duff McKagan |Bass Guitar, backing vocals|, Steven Adler |Drums|] that scaled GNR up to the peak of fame in the 90's is all but gone now. Instead, the entirely new lineup (save for Rose) that dons the GNR mantle now has done a lackluster job on this album, not doing justice to all of the classics that this once critically acclaimed band had produced in the past.
While past albums such as Appetite For Destruction had true timeless classics such as “Sweet Child O' Mine” that lasted way beyond Billboard chart figures, the ephemeral singles of Chinese Democracy, “Chinese Democracy” and “Better” get increasingly boring as the number of plays go up. Atypical standard rhythms and dull melodies certainly spell disaster for the prospects of this supposed “reinvention” of GNR, as mentioned by Rose in a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. In fact, the title track has almost a minute's worth of random dialogue in Mandarin together with some traditional Chinese instruments playing at the start, which might have supposedly be meant for an epic opening. However, what it really does is irritate the hell out of listeners who have to patiently wait for approximately 60 seconds before they actually hear the damn guitar riffs coming in.

All fired up!: From left to right in 2006 – Robin Finck (Lead Guitar), Tommy Stinson (Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals), Axl Rose (Vocals/Piano/Keyboard/Synthesiser), Richard Fortus (Rhythm Guitar)

Instrumental-wise, this album doesn't score for musical intricacy, but for plain and down-to-earth tunes that are sure to satisfy that occasional urge for a mainstream fix. Vocals-wise, a close associate of mine commented that Rose sounds like he's constipated on a large part of the album, which is not very far from the truth actually. It is what I think contributes to the whiny tone, which is fast getting old on the music scene. If you're a diehard old school rock fan however, one who ate AC/DC and GNR zealously three times daily back in the '90s, this album is for you. Lyrical-wise, this album's theme definitely has its hand dabbled in politics, as blatantly obvious from the album name and title track. Interestingly enough, Rose must have made an implicit attack of some sort on the governmental system of the PRC (People's Republic of China) in “Chinese Democracy”, because the album is banned there largely due to its lyrics.

Slash: Things might have been different if he were still in GNR

Although not wholly fantastic, Chinese Democracy has been an unfulfilled long wait that still has passable substance in it to retain some limited likability. Definitely recommended for rock fans who love to hear the reinvented selves of classic bands.

Verdict: 6.0 / 10

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