Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses
Chinese Democracy
Geffen Records
5 out of 5 stars

It’s a fact that Axl Rose didn’t bring the original Guns N’ Roses to an early demise all by himself. Slash’s and Duff McKagan’s substance problems, coupled with the band’s aversion to further musical exploration — particularly Slash and the monosyllabic Matt Sourum — were just as destructive.

That doesn’t mean Axl (I have written about this album so much I have declared myself on a first name basis with Mr. Rose) gets a total pass; his domineering attitude and probable mental issues certainly didn’t help. In fact, the biggest challenge with the release of Chinese Democracy is going to be winning back fans that thought Axl’s acting out was intentional disrespect instead of understanding it as the catharsis of a man wrestling his demons. The catch? Those very demons made Guns N’ Roses the powerhouse they once were (and will be remembered as). Imagine “Patience” without Axl’s manic breakdown at the end or “Out Ta Get Me” without his genuine paranoia and anti-social middle finger of a persona. Without him, the original lineup of Guns N’ Roses just wouldn’t hold the same power. Sure, Duff is a beyond solid bass player, Slash brought his own unique style, Izzy was easily the superior songwriter of the bunch and Steven Adler’s drumming was the musical equivalent of reckless endangerment. Still: AXL ROSE IS GUNS N’ ROSES.

Infinitely better than the uninspired bullshit that AC/DC just released, Chinese Democracy is a real rock album. I compare the two discs since both albums are available only through big box retailers. If Black Ice sells more than Chinese Democracy then music has truly turned into more of a commodity than an art form.

No, Chinese Democracy is not Appetite for Destruction, the chemistry and gang mentality that made Appetite one of the best albums ever made is gone, yet Chinese Democracy excels by streamlining elements of the band’s past.

The disc opens with an untouchable guitar riff and once Axl starts ranting about the “Falun Gong” the song becomes a cross between “Civil War” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” The list of epic GNR songs that started with “Rocket Queen” and continued with “Estranged” is extended with “Street of Dreams” and the stellar, sample filled “Madagascar,” a song that fully justifies Axl’s fight to evolve musically. “Prostitute” and “Raid N’ The Bedouins” demonstrate, just like “Get in the Ring” and “One in a Million” did, that Axl still isn’t bothered with political correctness or what you think about him.

Despite these great tracks, there are a few turds on Chinese Democracy. The industrial tinged “Shacklers Revenge” is L-A-M-E (“Oh My God” was far superior), and it’s astounding that they are considering the lifeless “Better” as a single. Easily the best tracks are “I.R.S.,” a beautiful example of wordplay that recalls the acoustic side of GNR Lies, and “There Was a Time,” a track that displays the same lyrical density as “Bad Apples.” The remaining tracks will grow on most people, “If the World” and “Sorry” being perfect examples. Real fans will keep coming back to the album long after the initial shock of “it is finally here” has faded.

What made Guns N’ Roses so vital was that they reminded the world that music could do more than just provide a soundtrack for life, and that’s exactly what Axl is still doing with Chinese Democracy. — DJ Hippie

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  1. Jonathan Keller on

    DJ, you are out of your goddamn mind. I too was a HUGE GN’R fan and this album is probably the biggest piece of shit laid on the public’s ears this year, actually…maybe the last five years. Axl was NOT GN’R and this album is absolute proof of that. GN’R was a band, this plastic music that Axl has created is pure over-produced garbage. This album should have been an Axl Rose solo release and the fact that he decided it was a Guns release is more proof that he is simply capitalizing on the name, especially when he is the only member out of the original five playing on it.

    I was also curious how in the hell you can give an album five stars when you even say in your review “there are a few turds on Chinese Democracy.” What kind of reviewer gives something a perfect rating then points out there are “a few turds” on it. WTF?!


  2. WOW…I knew somebody would differ but I didn’t think it would be an inside job…

    For me Rock and Roll is a lot more than creating a perfect album, it’s about spectacle, a dissident attitude and standing for your convictions. “Dissent is the best form of patriotisim after all” (Or something like that)

    Rock music was born out of the repression of youth when America was trying to make the nuclear family mandatory.

    I ditched my purist attitude about albums long ago, about the same time “Nevermid” became a hit in fact. I’d give “Exile on Main Street” five stars ,and most would agree, but there are turds on there as well. In fact their is a song with “turd” in the title! That album is legendary not only because of the music but because the Stones said check this shit out we aren’t concerned with your petty old man morals.”

    Further more, GNR was never reallly a band or they would still be together, or trying to work things out, ala the Stones IMO. They were drug dealers,junkies andmental cases, albiet taleted ones, that Axl Rose managed to get focused long enough to become the biggest band in the world. No he’s far from innocent in their demise (And he shit the bed big time by going AWOL as soon as Chinese Demopcracy dropped, fuckin’ idiot!)but he is too often made the scapgoat for a group action.

    Don’t hate on Axl just because he showed up late to the show one time and made you late for work the next day. Do the research (Yes it’s still kinda incomplete) and learn what really tanked the band instead of the popular opinion that “the punks in the press” want you to buy. His psycosis fuled the band and the rest of GNR knew it. I point to bringing that loose canon Scott Weiland into Velvet Revolver to make the point.

    I dug your Metllica review but here is my problem they are for the most part a boring commodity now plain and simple. For gods sake they played here on election night (And they proved they are politicaly aware with “And Justice For all…”)and didn’t say one word about what was happening in the real world that night. That makes them simple, fun but impotent entertainment in my eyes. If GN’R would have played I guaruntee we would have got a political discourse of on form or another.

    That’s what I Think rock and roll should be a platform to inspire unity, change, exchanege of information (And you touched on some of this in your great “Folsom Prison” review)as well as a good time. I want my rock and roll as “raw as a dirty needle” and not just another page in Live Nation’s stock portfolio.

    “This album contains language which some listeners may find objectionable. They can F?!* OFF and buy something from the New Age section.”

    Just my opinion though.


    DJ Hippie

  3. I agree with the review. However I do like Better and Shacklers and my least fav. is probably IRS, JMO…