Guns N’ Roses
24 November 2008
by Raziq Rauf
How much idle conjecture has there been over Chinese Democracy? Axl Rose has had 17 years to turn this vanity project into absolute gold. It has to be a masterpiece. It has to be the best album of the 21st century.
I say “vanity project” because Rose is the only founding member remaining in Guns N’ Roses. I say “vanity project” because he has taken 17 bloody years to write one album!
After all this time, it would be a travesty to give the fans exactly what they’re expecting, and by and large, the fans are expecting an album which sounds like Guns N’ Roses. Axl always maintained that he was taking his time in order to create something new; something special.
This year has already seen albums from two of the greatest hard rock bands of the lasats twenty years. Metallica went back to their roots and AC/DC decided to retain the usage of the words “Rock” and “Black” in as many songs as possible.
Both albums were hugely successful. Neither album reinvented either band’s sound.
The last proper thing we heard from Gn’R was in 1999 when they contributed the huge, overblown, industrial-sounding ‘Oh My God’ to the End Of Days soundtrack. It sounded promising. It gave us the hope that Chinese Democracy wasn’t far away. Oh how we laugh now.
Watch the video to ‘November Rain’ by Guns N’ Roses
The next thing we hear is the title track from Chinese Democracy. It sounds like Marilyn Manson playing The Darkness’ ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’. Everybody shrugged and said the rest of the album will be great. The rest of the album had to be great.
‘Shackler’s Revenge’ follows on with the electronic, industrial theme but does it better than the single. The fantastically meaty production is the first thing that hits you and Axl is starting to sound a bit more like Axl.
‘Better’ is an evasive musical manoeuvre as a gentle intro makes way for an explosion. The song grows and grows and could definitely work with a video. Single alert!
Another leftward shift is found on ‘There Was A Time’. Judging by the production notes, it’s the song that had the most time spent on it but it sounds nothing like what you might expect from Guns. Rolling thunder and the sound of thousands of cans of fizzy pop are opening. Interesting song.
The bass-driven ‘Riad N’ Bedouins’ and the superbly heavy ‘Scraped’ are mid-album pleasers but their unfamiliarity in both sound and style means that the full effect of these songs will only be felt in a few months, if indeed the album draws us in enough for a repeat listen.
Watch the video to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses
‘If The World’ could be a Bond theme, but it isn’t. It’s not ‘Live & Let Die’ or ‘Goldfinger’ but it’s definitely going for the same theme. Indeed, Oscar-tipped spy drama, Body Of Lies has it on its soundtrack. Not Bond though, is it.
It’s like Axl Rose has the ambition and he has the quality and he definitely has had the time, but he just hasn’t maximised the potential. Every track seems to miss the mark a bit. Instead of hitting the bright yellow bullseye, the arrow flies into the red, or even the blue.
What has Axl Rose done with Guns N’ Roses? He has made that new(ish) sound that he wanted in the most part but then you get tracks like ‘Catcher In The Rye’ (you’ll be singing along to this) and ‘Madagascar’ (the new, less good ‘November Rain’) which sound like the Gn’R that we know.
Is that really what we want, though? Is that really what Axl Rose spent all this time doing? After all, he crushed Slash by turning down his work in favour of a new direction. To retain the old sound would be to turn the Chinese Democracy into a long-awaited hypocrisy.
Axl’s voice means that it still definitely does sound like Guns, but the solos seem tacked on. It’s like Rose couldn’t find riffs up to Slash’s standards so he trawled the LA guitarists-with-one-name agency and only got Buckethead and Bumblefoot. Not quite the same.
You will buy Chinese Democracy. You will listen to it as soon as you get home. Then you’ll sit there and think disappointedly, “Well, it’s not crap but…” Then it will stay on your CD rack and in your iTunes because you’ll have forgotten about it.
Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy tracklisting
Chinese Democracy – 4.45
Shackler’s Revenge – 3.39
Better – 4.59
Street Of Dreams – 4.48
If The World – 4.55
There Was A Time – 6.43
Catcher In The Rye – 5.55
Scraped – 3.32
Riad N’ Bedouins – 4.12
Sorry – 6.16
I.R.S. – 4.30
Madagascar – 5.40
This I Love – 5.36
Prostitute – 6.16