What a ridiculous concept. It’s like saying Indian Intelligence or Pakistani Honesty. All three, if not next to impossible, will certainly take a long time to become un-ridiculous. Having said that…guess this is an apt name indeed for Guns N’ Roses’ first original studio album in 17 years. That is indeed a long time for a bunch of seriously talented guys to create something new. Now this is the thing with most talented guys… they have huge egos and a huger propensity to lose themselves in unnecessary indulgences. Well…G N’ R, having a Bipolar frontman with an anagram for “Oral Sex” for a name…and a guitarist known as “Slash” (he never mentions front or back slash…) was a perfect candidate to spiral down a path of self-inflicted ruin. That they did. But like a bad penny…these guys decided to come back… even if as a shadow of the G N’ R which produced gems such as Paradise City, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Patience, Garden of Eden, November Rain etc…
Only Axl Rose remains from that line up. Which goes to show that he was indeed the driving force behind the bands musical style and creativity. Because Chinese Democracy is not bad at all. Especially if you ignore those 17 years that took to create it.
It is not an Use Your Illusion and definitely a far cry from Appetite for Destruction… but it is a good solid Modern Rock album in its own right. It sorely misses Slash (who according to many, is one of best guitarists in the world) and one can sense that Axl Rose has aged a bit…toned down a little. The new fret-artists Bumblefoot, Fortus and Finck (No…not an LA law firm or the name of a shop selling magical portions in Diagon Alley) can turn up the volume when required – as seen in the title track Chinese Democracy, the first single Shackler’s Revenge and in tracks like Scraped and Riad N’ the Bedouins. These rockers are all right…but they aren’t as uncomplicated as say a Paradise City or a My Michelle from Appetite for Destruction. Maybe they had too much time on their hands… and it will pain the hardcore rock fans out there that these are the only heavy songs in the album.
Better sees a bit of the old G N’ R coming back…with a catchy tune, superb interplay of synth and guitars and contemporary backing vocals. Streets of Dreams is one of my favorites from this album – with a great piano intro and orchestration. Axl sounds mature, relaxed and better than I have heard him in a long time… very nice. The song picks up to a catchy rhythm and also has a decent solo from Bumblefoot. If the world is unlike anything they have ever done… a clean modern sound with a fusion of Massive Attack inspired landscapes and G N’ R rock sensibilities. This song grows on you…big time.
This sound is carried on in There was a time…only a bit heavier this time. Great track again. Catcher in the Rye sees Axl in top form …a track that switches between light & breezy and mid-tempo rock, with lots of piano and orchestration thrown in. There is a lot of orchestration, synth and piano in this album…which should not mean that they have become wusses. Just more mature perhaps.
Which brings us to the best song in this album… Sorry sees GNR doing a Depeche Mode-cum-Metallica ballad, but only much much better… Axl sounds different. Deeper… It has a very ambient and moody feel to it… with a great chorus line and superb musical arrangements. This one is going into repeat. 😉
The other stand out tracks: IRS – which is the closest they get to the sound of Use Your Illusion, other than Madagascar, a broody, introspective tour-de-force in the same line as Civil War from Use Your Illusion. This i love sees Rose showing of his ability to sing a slow passionate heartfelt ballad better than most… the Bumblefoot solo is great too. The album ends with Prostitute which is not a song about one, but in the typical introspective tone of the album, is about losing love in the quest of fortune and is a longish, complex creation which rises and falls in tempo…
I have written this review after only a few listens…and I can see this new avatar of GNR growing on me with each listen. It will most definitely disappoint hardcore fans wanting the old GNR back…but yet it is a fresh, modern yet moody and mature album which beats the crap out of all those wannabe modern rock groups…and will certainly get a new fan base. As they say true talent never dies… and though Axl Rose has gained infamy and been subject to criticism because of his off-stage indiscretions, with Chinese Democracy, he proves that he is still a force to reckon with.
All hail Chinese Democracy! (There. I just got my blog banned from China…)