Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chinese Democracy

It’s a brave blogger who’s gonna post anything from 'Chinese Democracy'.

Or a stupid one.

But being neither of those things myself, I’m afraid you’re not going to find any Guns N Roses here. I couldn’t however let the release of Axl’s magnum opus pass without a few words.

So how do you sum up an album 17 years in the making? With so much expectation, and so many stories around it’s creation, is it even possible to listen to this record with an open mind? And how do you go about overcoming your assumptions and preconceptions? Well, how about we don’t? How about we just attack them head on, full in the face?!

‘Chinese Democracy’ is everything you’d expect it to be. It’s overblown. Overlong. Faintly ridiculous. Desperately bombastic. Pompous. The work of an ego running riot. And there’s so much going on here, you can almost hear the money pouring through the studio as guitar solo upon guitar solo chunders past you. Some sounding so incidental to what is happening in the rest of the song, it sounds like someone’s in the next room masterbating furiously on their Fender. But above all, ‘Chinese Democracy’ is epic in every single positive and negative sense of the word. Yet despite all that, or maybe even because of it, it’s also actually pretty good.

But lets not kid ourselves here. It’s not worth a 17 year wait. No record is. No band is. But the strange thing is, you can almost hear 17 years worth of recording in there. Such are the influences and sounds, you could probably take an accurate guess at which songs were written and recorded when. In fact because of that, it kind of hangs together like a greatest hits compilation. Albeit unreleased, unheard hits. I haven’t read enough about each song’s creation but it kind of feels like Axl picked a couple of tracks from about five different versions of the record and stapled them together.

Opening tracks ‘Chinese Democracy’ and ‘Shackler’s Revenge’ have a Marilyn Manson industrial rock type feel to them. With added guitar noodling. Third track ‘Better’ is a mid paced rocker that sounds like classic Guns N Roses that gets a bit heavy before going back to mid paced again. With added guitar twiddling. From there, we take in rock balladeering, trip hop beats, sweeping strings, thundering rockers, slow proggy numbers and a Martin Lurther King speech that rather crudely and a tad worryingly seems to be compared with the record's gestation. Oh and yep, you guessed it, more and more added guitar wankery. All overseen by so many versions of Axl’s voice that at times the record starts to feel a bit like that scene in the last Pirates Of the Caribbean film where there are a never ending supply of Depps, all seemingly the real one. His voice flicking between squealing yelp to weathered harbinger of rock and every variation in between. Occasionally at the same time.

But the most telling track for me is ‘Sorry’. A song which could equally be about a spurned lover as it could be the media, the fans, his ex bandmates or even Axl himself. A mini rock opera that is both grandiose and surprisingly touching. It is one of the many parts of this record that suggest Axl may have actually spent 17 years on this record, not because his ego exploded, but because he truly wanted to craft an amazing record. His obsession may have soured but his intentions were admirable. That he hasn’t been wholly successful, is neither here nor there. In reality’ ‘Chinese Democracy’ may not be as good as it should be, but it’s a better record than it has any right to be. With added guitar solos.

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