November 26, 2008
I love the new Guns-N-Roses album. I know what you’re all thinking: she was going to love it no matter what it sounded like. But not so! There have been many times in my life that I’ve anticipated something, the Radiohead documentary, my last trip to Paris, 50 Cent’s last album, W’s second term, only to be wholly disappointed. It was not outside the realm of possibility that 14 years after the last Guns-N-Roses release, which was the critically panned covers album “The Spaghetti Incident?”, I’d be completely disappointed by “Chinese Democracy”. But I’m not. At all.
It’s mostly this: while the album may say Guns-N-Roses on it, it’s really not. It’s Axl Rose and his merry musicians. So, no, you won’t have Slash’s opening to “Sweet Child” and you won’t have the cohesiveness of a band that made it big together. What you have, though, is an extremely talented Axl making what would be considered a masterpiece if we weren’t all too busy comparing it to “Welcome to the Jungle.” In some ways, Use Your Illusion I and II suffered from the same comparison–if any other band had put out those two albums they would have been insta-classics. And don’t even get me started on the brilliance and underratedness of “The Spaghetti Incident?” Any other band features an album with covers of both “Since I don’t have you” originally by The Skyliners and “Ain’t it fun” by the Dead Boys, and rocks them both, would be considered unique and talented. GNR’s effort was met with “when are we getting another ‘Appetite for Destruction’?” As soon as you let go of the hope that every one of their albums will sound like “Appetite”, the music starts to speak for itself. And it’s saying it rawks.
“There was a time”, “Shackler’s Revenge” and “IRS” sound like old-school GNR but the rest of the album is an advancement in sound for Axl. He’s adapted and modernized. I love “Better”, “This I love” is a great ballad, “If the World” has some dancey groove thing going on of which I completely approve.
My least favorite song is “Streets of Dreams”, mostly because of the effect on Axl’s rose on some of it. I love Axl’s voice, even old Axl, he’s shouldn’t be like the kids today and mess with that. Although, having said all that, “Sorry” sounds like he’s doing something funky with his voice too, and I still love that song.
In conclusion, “Chinese Democracy” is a surprising album, for more than the fact that it ever got released. It’s challenging and different and beautiful. Yes, I’ll buy anything that Axl produces for the rest of his life so you might think you should take that with a grain of salt. But those who know me know I said the same thing about Radiohead after they released “Ok Computer” and I didn’t even bother downloading their last album–which was available free online. Falling out of love with a musician happens all the time, “the most impassioned song to a lonely soul is so easily outgrown”, but as long as the Axl Rose Band keeps growing with me he can count on my support for the rest of his days.