Thursday, December 4, 2008

Guns n' Roses - Chinese Democracy (Review)

So, I've been listening to the new Guns n' Roses album for the last week (about 4 or 5 spins) and I must say that my thoughts on it are generally positive. I find it somewhat shocking because I have not really been a fan of a Guns n Roses... well.. ever.

Okay, that's sort of a lie right there. I actually liked Appetite for Destruction for what it was (a solid "rock" album) and don't get me wrong they have had their moments. I really enjoyed the track "The Garden" from one of the "Use Your Illusions" albums. I guess what I'm saying here folks is... The new Guns n' Roses is different than normal Guns n' Roses and I think that is a good thing.

First of all I have to be honest 2008 has not been a stellar year for music in terms of releases. If you held a gun to my head (and please don't) I'm not entirely sure that I could come up with 10 great releases from this year. Metallica released a great album and I really enjoyed the new Alice Cooper disc. That Planet Gemini album released this year was something special and I really do enjoy the Lord Vicar stuff I've been listening to...but, other than that I can't really say that there is anything that has blown me away.

Enter Chinese Democracy: with 14 years against him and millions and millions of dollars spent on studio time Axl has finally pruned and proded this album to it's conceptual release and in my opinion the final product is good. Over-produced but, good.

*The Music*
First of all forget what you know about GnR as this album sounds very little like the older GnR stuff which for me was a nice change. I really enjoyed the techno industrial drums that Axl used on a lot of these songs they added a nice bit of variety so a lot of these tracks. Songs like "If the World" just groove so much more due to the "Reznor-ish" sampled drum licks with a nice thumping bassline behind them. Also noted is the rooting of the guitar solos on this album. Some of the stuff that Bumblefoot or Buckethead or whoever-the-fuck is playing for Axl on each track (which differs I believe) is nothing short of amazing. The harmonies are nice and they add that "off the wall" element that roots this music into the hard rock catagory. There is definitely an heir of "Slash can't do this" thrown in there when you hear those A harmonic minor rakes coming through on the first song. Well done and I love the little backhanded slap that is put out there.

*The Voice*
I think that Axl's voice is going to be a big topic of discussion. Now, I know that he is... well.. Axl and that he's always kind of sounded like that but, I find that there are tracks where his voice just sounds outright obtrucive. The above mentioned track "If the World" is a great example of that. The music is more groovin' and layed back and he is screaming in this whiney falsetto and it almost floats over the music instead of blending in with it. But, on the other hand. I don't know if I could imagine it any other way.

There are some standout tracks. I really enjoy the first 2 tracks and Axl really puts an emphasis on his low voice in these tracks. In "Chinese Democracy" (the song) he even has this tone on the chorus vocals that sounds completely different. But, mostly this album is not going to blow you away vocally.

*The Lyrics*
I think that lyrically is where this album shines. Axl has a lot of pent up aggression and a bit of the broken hearted, jilted lover type lyrics that he is putting out there. Along with some very pretty piano playing on certain songs and some very well place moments of rebellion this album is vocally a tour de force. As with every ebb there is a flow I must admit that there are some tracks (like "Sorry") where there could be a bit more wordsmithing involved. I think whenever you use the term "I'll kick your ass" in a song that is a good sign that you're either A) in a punk band, or B) strapped for lyrics.

Out of the 14 songs on this album I would say that 7-9 of them are very solid and they are getting better with each listen. My stand out tracks are...

Chinese Democracy, Shackler's Revenge, Better, If the World, Riad n The Bedouins, Sorry and This I Love. (with Sorry probably being my favorite of the bunch).

This is Axl's album. I'm quite surprised that it got released and I definitely didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have. I must admit that I didn't enjoy Slash's offerings very much so I guess that means that I'm taking Axl's side in the big GnR split. I hope the album does well. It needs it to actually recoup from the INSANE production costs of this thing. With all that being said there is something to be said about this guy toiling over this album for 10+ years and finally thinking it is good enough to release. I think some of the songs suffered for it don't get me wrong. There is a lot of tracks that just don't end when they should. They linger on (Like this review) but all in all this album is solid in my book.

7.5 out of 10 (Very listenable)
Thanks for reading