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Guns N’ Roses – “Chinese Democracy” (2008) April 19, 2009

Posted by rawkfistmusic in 2008, Guns N' Roses.

Written by Andrew Hart

Try as much as you want, you can’t avoid having heard of Chinese Democracy, the Guns N’ Roses album 14 years in the making that had the musical world raving every time it was brought up in conversation.  Tracks leaked, band members left, Axl Rose cut his hair, it seemed as though a true Guns N’ Roses album would never see the light of day again.  Axl Rose, the only member remaining of the original group, finally announced the release of the album in early 2008, and at long last it came to fruition.  14 years of work had better produce a damn good collection of songs however, so the question in everyone’s mind is, does the album stand up to it’s legacy?

Welcome to “Chinese Democracy,” a devilishly addictive opening title track with plenty of bells and whistles to show off the new GNR, from Axl’s screechy vocals to some furious fretwork from Robin Finck.  It’s abundantly clear immediately that this isn’t your daddy’s GNR, but a more industrial and inventive group.  Yes I said it, inventive.  The material on Chinese Democracy is ingenious and unique, unlike anything the band had produced previously, even on their acclaimed debut Appetite For Destruction. “Shackler’s Revenge” continues this showcase with an attention-snagging riff and a multi-toned Rose, who’s voice jumps more on this song alone than many other voices ever will.  The chorus will drill it’s way into your head too, if given the chance.

A light dose of Rose introduces “Better”, arguably the most straightforward rock track on the album.  It’s rock and roll at it’s best, something Axl has always tackled with relative ease.  The repetition of the chorus will fixate your mind on the track and make it a surefire good listen from the album.  “If The World” has a great chorus as well, supported by some even better instrumental work that gets better if you focus on only that aspect of the song.  There’s a lot of hidden brilliance deep in this album, little tweaks of the guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and overall mixing that makes every song a unique experience.  “Madagascar” stands out with it’s empowered climax, with a Buckethead driven solo over top quotes from the great Martin Luther King Jr.  If you think it sounds odd than you are certainly in the right, but the spoken word pulls the song together marvelously, and alongside the intense solo provides the best moments of the album.

I did mention that this was one unique experience and I stand by that thought, but it also serves up the biggest flaws of the disc.  Some of the tracks like “I.R.S.” and “Madagascar” are far and away better than most songs because of the inventive tweaks to the songs, but many tracks like “Riad N’ The Bedouins” and “Street of Dreams” aren’t memorable time in and time out because these gambles don’t pay off.  While they do not hinder the listening experience of the album, they’ll never stand out, so oftentimes you’ll be jumping from track to track to listen to the true gems of the album.  This CD also lacks a great deal of cohesiveness.  Every song has it’s own personality from “Shackler’s Revenge” to the impassioned ballad “This I Love” but because of this there is no real flow to the experience.  Those who are okay with greatest hits style compilations will be okay with this, but people who love a little smoothness in their listening will be disappointed.

After 14 years it is not hard to believe that Chinese Democracy would be a disappointment, but truth be told it’s not.  This is not the Guns N’ Roses the world used to know, that brought us “Paradise City” and “Welcome To The Jungle”, and in all honesty it’s not really GNR anymore.  Axl Rose has, however, written a truly wonderful album, with lots of standout moments and plenty of unique experiences.  Those expecting Appetite For Destruction Part 2 will be disappointed, but those with an open mind will find plenty to love in Chinese Democracy.

8 out of 10 – Download “Madagascar”

Guns N’ Roses is | Axl Rose – Vocals, Guitar | Robin Finck – Guitar | Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai – Guitar | Buckethead – Guitar | Paul Tobias – Guitar | Richard Fortus – Guitar | Tommy Stinson – Bass | Bryan Mantia – Drums | Frank Ferrer – Drums | Dizzy Reed – Keyboards



1. Jeffrey Jones - April 19, 2009

I’ve heard the album and I think it’s too heavy. You can hear that it’s not the real GNR. Too bad that axl rose insists to destroy he’s legacy.

2. KGGPennington - April 20, 2009

Haven’t heard it, but I like inventors. 😀
good review!

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