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.
Key track: ‘Street Of Dreams’
Rumours doing the rounds that Slash and Axl Rose will tour together again.Read More
DJ Ashba quits iconic band with an open letterRead More
Check out our gallery of pics from the band's O2 show.Read More
Talks Axl Rose's stage fright and much more...Read More
After the controversy of their 2010 show, they'll play the O2 once again.Read More
The Guns N'Roses singer appears to have had a burst of creativity, according to the band's current guitarist DJ Ashba.Read More
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
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
The promoter and the O2 venue "wish to apologise for any inconvenience caused due to late running of the show"Read More
A Twitter message claiming otherwise has been exposed as a hoax.Read More
The band have just confirmed two dates for Ireland this autumnRead More
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
The full list of support acts for the Download Festival in the RDS has been confirmed.Read More
After a bejillion years away from the limelight, Guns N'Roses make a return - and they're coming Dublin's way.Read More
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 McKaganRead More
"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
Guns N’ Roses: “The Spaghetti Incident” (Geffen).Read More