Chinese Democracy

The album fifteen years in the making that sounds like a slick but robotic imitation of what it might have been long ago.

Well, all comment is probably superfluous by now. Never has a new album review seemed so retrospective. If you care, you’ve probably heard the thing online. Even if you don’t, you’ve probably browsed the reviews out of pure curiosity. Either way you’ve got the jump on me, dear reader, for in the interests of a fair and unbiased verdict, I imposed a media blackout until clapping ears on the slow beast that is Chinese Democracy.

15 years in the making, with a budget and inbuilt mythology that makes Heaven’s Gate look like Once – could it be anything other than a glorious failure? Axl’s folly? And does anyone care?

Well, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t at least a vestige of residual affection for G N’ R. Some of us can still remember Headbanger’s Ball circa 1987: Poison, Nelson, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Ratt – by comparison, the Gunners were guttersnipes who inhabited the same glam-punk underworld as Hanoi Rocks and Johnny Thunders. But like any totalitarianist empire, they fell foul of their own expansion plan and within four short years became that which they sought to puke all over. The stage show began to resemble a Cher production, the hair got bigger, the payroll longer, the diva strops more frequent. Were the band surrounded by so many yes-men that no one dared point out they’d become Dynasty on drugs?

Never mind. These are old jibes. It’s not news that G N’ R aren’t exactly musically relevant these days. On the other hand, how many albums are released to cries of foul from the Chinese Communist party, decrying Axl as a force for western wickedness utilising democracy as a pawn?

One thing’s for sure, G N’ R circa 2008 is no democracy. The original line-up might have resembled a parody of every sleaze-rock archetype going, but you need character to be caricatured, and Izzy, Slash, Duff and Steven had cartoon charisma. Ex-Replacement Tommy Stinson excepted, I’d be hard pressed to mention another member in the current ensemble. The cast of players assembled here are competent pros doing slick but robotic imitations of their predecessors. If anything, they sound for all the world like Velvet Revolver, with a caterwauling Rose replacing Scott Weiland.

Even the most hard hitting songs (‘Better’, the epic ruin of ‘There Was A Time’) sound cluttered and overegged: rudimentary tunes tarted up with overdubs and treatments that could’ve been hoovered up from the cutting room floor of the late 90s industrial/goth boom, or the odd blast of funk-metal dosed with designer world music flavours (‘If The World’).

No performance is left unprocessed. Rose obviously spent as many of those lost years poring over the footnotes of Modern Recording Monthly as he did writing songs (the lyrics rarely rise above the level of incoherent paranoiac ravings). Only three tunes – the rather lovely ‘Catcher In The Rye’, the broody, bluesy ‘Sorry’ and the Jim Steinman-meets-Queen big ballad ‘Street Of Dreams’ – come close to moments of clarity.

Chinese Democracy is a bewildering mess of multi-tracked vocals, scruffy metal riffage and grandiloquent synth ‘n’ string backdrops. The feeling is like meeting the great wild love of your youth at a hoi-polloi party 15 years later and realising – with some relief – that the voodoo’s worn off.

Peter Murphy

Key track: ‘Street Of Dreams’


Related Articles

Irish Band's Singer Says Supporting G N' R Is A Dream Come true

Otherkin's lead singer Luke Reilly says it has been a lifelong ambition of his to play at Slane Castle because he literally grew up only a stone's throw away from the famous venue.

Read More

Guns N'Roses Sell Out Slane Castle Within One Day

Guns N’ Roses will return to Slane Castle on Saturday May 27 2017 for a sell-out concert, 25 years after playing the venue on May 16 1992.

Read More

Guns N'Roses Fans Battle With Ticket Touts

Another huge concert, another controversy surrounding ticket touts.

Read More

Guns N'Roses: Six of their Best Songs

We're excited for May 27.

Read More

PHOTO GALLERY: Guns N' Roses to headline Slane 2017 - Press conference at Dublin's Bruxelles

Read More

Guns N' Roses to headline Slane 2017

Axl, Duff and Slash are returning to Lord Henry's gaff on May 27th!

Read More

Watch: Guns N'Roses release slot machine game app

Read More

Mysterious Guns 'N' Roses Posters Spotted

A week ago, the band told fans that news of a 2017 Dublin stop would come in the near future. How close to the future, we may now wonder?

Read More

Guns 'N' Roses are getting close to announcing Irish tour dates

Rumour has it, the rock band will return to Dublin next summer!

Read More

Guns N' Roses Set For Croke Park Show

Reports are that the iconic LA outfit will begin the European leg of their reunion tour in GAA headquarters in Dublin next summer

Read More

Guns N' Roses detained at Canadian border for gun possession

Axl Rose tells Canadian customs officials that "it wasn't my gun!"

Read More

Steven Adler reunites with Guns N' Roses For First Time in 26 Years

The Original Guns N' Roses Drummer joined his former band on stage for the first time since his departure from the band in 1990.

Read More

WATCH: Trailer for Duff McKagan's It’s So Easy And Other Lives movie

We've also got a classic interview with the Guns N' Roses legend

Read More

Axl Rose Joins AC/DC

The Guns N' Roses frontman has some giant shoes to fill

Read More

Guns N' Roses confirmed for Coachella comeback

Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan are all onboard for April performances

Read More

Original Guns N' Roses to reunite?

Rumours doing the rounds that Slash and Axl Rose will tour together again.

Read More

Guns ‘n’ Roses bassist calls it a day

DJ Ashba quits iconic band with an open letter

Read More

Guns N' Roses rock Dublin

Check out our gallery of pics from the band's O2 show.

Read More

Former Guns N' Roses Manager Speaks Out

Talks Axl Rose's stage fright and much more...

Read More

Guns N' Roses for Dublin

After the controversy of their 2010 show, they'll play the O2 once again.

Read More

Axl Rose has 'three albums' of new material

The Guns N'Roses singer appears to have had a burst of creativity, according to the band's current guitarist DJ Ashba.

Read More

Guns N' Roses play The Odyssey Belfast

Gun N’ Roses/Axl and Friends or whatever you want to call them have unleashed the big guns, giving us both barrels for nearly two and a half hours.

Read More

Guns N' Roses storm off stage at the O2

Bottles were thrown at the band after their show started late.

Read More


Axl and co at their infamous jaunt on Dublin's northside...

Read More

MCD issue statement after last night's ill-tempered Guns N' Roses show

The promoter and the O2 venue "wish to apologise for any inconvenience caused due to late running of the show"

Read More

Guns N' Roses Irish gigs still on

A Twitter message claiming otherwise has been exposed as a hoax.

Read More

Guns N' Roses to return to Ireland

The band have just confirmed two dates for Ireland this autumn

Read More

Gunning For Glory

Slash and Duff speak to Stuart Clark and Dave Fanning about the making of Appetite For Destruction, Axl and the Guns N' Roses legacy.

Read More

Full Download festival line-up confirmed

The full list of support acts for the Download Festival in the RDS has been confirmed.

Read More

Guns N'Roses to play Dublin

After a bejillion years away from the limelight, Guns N'Roses make a return - and they're coming Dublin's way.

Read More

Days of Guns N' Roses

Court cases! Vintage wines! Smack! Bad craziness! A burst pancreas! And a chart-topping album! It can only be the posthumous but never-ending saga of the defining rock band of the ’80s and ’90s. Stuart Clark gets the latest from Duff McKagan

Read More

Live Era '87-93

"The horror!" Listening to this mammoth double live CD from Guns N' Roses, I feel like Marlon Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now.

Read More

The Spaghetti Incident

Guns N’ Roses: “The Spaghetti Incident” (Geffen).

Read More

Advertise With Us

For information including benefits, key facts, figures and rates for advertising with Hot Press, click below


Find us elsewhere