Friday, November 21, 2008

Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy

Better (and by better I mean paid) minds than mine have declared that Chinese Democracy is the last CD you will ever buy unless you're drunk and enjoy cruising garage sales.

"It's the last album that will be marketed as a collection of autonomous-but-connected songs, the last album that will be absorbed as a static manifestation of who the band supposedly is, and the last album that will matter more as a physical object than as an Internet sound file."

So writes Chuck Klosterman on The A.V. Club's website.
I recommend you read his essay books Fargo Rock City and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. He has a new novel, Downtown Owl, that I've not read. I can't seem to find a free, pirated copy.
But I digress.
The fact that I am reviewing Chinese Democracy two days before the release date -- despite losing all my music industry contacts after the ... unpleasantness -- suggests Mr. Klosterman is overly optimistic.
But I'll concede his point.

Ah irony. If Mr. Axl Rose had released this album ten years earlier, I suspect he would have shifted several million more units. To Axl's credit, I suspect he doesn't care.

Fifteen years in the making, the album features fifteen current, former and guest musicians. It allegedly cost thirteen (sorry, not fifteen) million dollars to produce.

I quite like it.

Is it better than Appetite For Destruction, which took 1/15 the time and at least 1/45 the money to produce?
Not in fifteen years. Not in fifteen thousand years. Not in fifteen million years.
Despite my hipster snobbery I think Appetite For Destruction is one of the five (sorry, not fifteen) best albums of the 'eighties.
It was raw ... undeniably misogynistic ... incredibly vulgar ... and occasionally kinda vulnerable. It kicked bush party ass from Coldwater to Washago.
I wasn't well-travelled as a youth.
I got drunk to the sound of Welcome To The Jungle. I once got laid while Sweet Child O' Mine was on playing on a boom-box. I got in a fist-fight and tumbled down a flight of stairs while listening to Rocket Queen.

But Chinese Democracy is quite nice too.

It isn't fair to compare the two albums given my advanced age. I never get in fights, rarely get laid and, okay, often still get drunk. I'd like to suggest the government grant me a stipend to observe today's teens boozing, brawling and screwing and document the soundtrack. Given Stephen Harper's attitude towards the arts ... this seems unlikely.

It's no surprise that Chinese Democracy is over-produced. Thankfully, it isn't over-produced in an Electric Light Orchestra way. It is over-produced in a Brian Wilson taking to his bed because he couldn't make a better album than The Beatles way.
Chinese Democracy, for what it's worth, is a better listen than Wilson's disappointing thirty-year delayed Smile.

The first and title track, despite 79 (sorry, not 15) seconds of opening self indulgence, commences to rock and rock fairly well.

The second track, Shackler's Revenge, sounds like Nine Inch Nails lite, Is Pretty Hate Machine the reason Axl has been compulsively re-making this album for the last fifteen years?

The third track, Better. would make you think so ... until they knock off the faux industrial crap and make a song that would have stood out on Use Your Illusion I or II.

Street of Dreams, disproves Axl's homophobia. Clearly the man is in love with Freddie Mercury. This song is really very good.

If The World - the fifth song on Chinese Democracy - demonstrates Axl's love of porno bass lines and crappy soundtrack songs. We all love Bree Olsen, buddy, but few of us watch her sexual shenanigans while listening to Kenny Loggins.

There Was A Time is an 'apology' song directed towards either ex-wife Erin Everly, ex-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour or ex-guitarist Slash. It is unclear whether he is offering or demanding said apology

Catcher In The Rye rocks despite sounding like a mixture of Journey and vintage Elton John threatening to shoot people in the face.

Song number eight - Scraped - sounds like Kip Winger was given a modern recording studio. Yes, that is an insult.

Riad N' The Bedouins is one half as provocative and one fourth as catchy as Killing An Arab by The Cure. The cheap joke is a substitute for valid criticism as the song made me feel nothing.

Sorry is once again directed towards Mr. Rose's ex-loves and Slash. It is a pleasant enough song. If Mr. Rose is handing out apologies to someone, hopefully it is Slash. He would be of more help at this point.

Song number eleven, the much bootlegged I.R.S. doesn't sound as as angry at a government agency who would dare take Axl's money away as I would like. Perhaps it is about something else. I don't know. I've been drinking. Once again: cheap joke = I felt nothing.
Madagascar - song number twelve - soars and it rocks until Axl throws in a sample from Martin Luther King.
I like MLK as much as the next smug white Canadian but it doesn't fit in the context of the song. If this is Rose's apology for his racist song One In A Million, consider the debt unpaid.

This I Love again disproves Axl's homophobia. Clearly the man is in love with Elton John. When Axl embraces his inner homo, his songs turn out very well.

The last song, Prostitute, starts off sounding like Depeche Mode ... until it starts to rock and continues rocking until it soars to a Rockin' climax. Rock!

As previously stated, I doubt Axl Rose cares how many people buy his album. I think he wants to create art ... and that is commendable.

I'll likely only listen to Chinese Democracy a couple of times then forget about it. As I grow older, fatter and more musically diverse, Guns N' Roses are forced to fight a (losing) battle with Miles Davis, The Carpenters and Ray Charles for my listening time.

But If my musical options were Nickleback. Taylor Swift and T-Pain?
I would never stop listening to Chinese Democracy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

13 million for an album? What did they do, fill the studio with a foot of gold? You can only spend so much on hookers and blow... even fancy Hollywood hookers and the finest French blow.

I've got to figure out how to sell stuff to musicians...