Ladies & Gentlemen! Lo & behold, a new GnR album, Chinese Democracy, is finally upon us. Their first album since 1993’s all covers album and their first album of original material since 1991’s twin cd Use Your Illusion I & II is here. I got an mp3 version of it within the same day. It’s finally here. Remember 1991-92 when GnR was all the rage and everyone & their granny played songs like November Rain & Estranged? That might be hard to replicate but it just feels good to hear Axl screaming & screeching on these 14 songs, once again thumbing his nose at anything that pisses him off. The image that you see on the left – I don’t know but it seems like they have 3 or 4 album covers for this cd. Could I be wrong? I can’t be sure but I like this one the best and so it stays as the official image for the record. So let’s get on with it; a review of the album that took it’s own sweet time to get here. And about time too!
The cd sets off with Chinese Democracy, the title track and the first single released. Many fans have already heard the track either at one of their concerts or online. It cracks like a whip and stings you right in the face. Inspired by watching a movie about the Dalai Lama, this track criticizes the Chinese government’s treatment of it’s people. From there we move on to Shackler’s Revenge, starting off like a hip-hop blast. Is this actually a GnR record? Lyrically it’s about being pissed off and not wanting to be comforted. Better is the second single and is probably one of the best tracks, a love tragedy and about being alone. Street Of Dreams reminds me of Yesterdays in parts but the song is about longing and wanting the lover. The piano playing of Dizzy Reed is excellent here.
Next track, If You Want Me, seems so odd on a GnR track, I was like “what the fuck”? It features an artist known as Mase (damned if I know who the fuck that is) and it’s so weird to hear Axl singing this song. But nice guitar solo in here. There Was A Time is about the effects of the drug culture taking it’s toll on a person. Axl sings that there was a time when he would have done anything for this person but things change. Catcher In The Rye is a refrence to the famous book by J D Salinger and possibly also to Mark Chapman, John Lennon’s killer, who happened to be reading the book when he was arrested. Scarped sounds silly with it’s “ayaho” chant in chorus, telling the world to get out of their way.
Axl does more of “ahha” screams in the next song, Riyad And The Bedouins which is rumoured to be about 911. Sorry sounds so weird coming from GnR but I wonder if it’s the influence of all the new musicians. Or is Axl apologizing for the new style of music? The lyrics seems to be meant to antogonize someone. IRS is telling you that is no escaping from Axl; he will dog you till the very end. Ok, what is a title like Madagascar doing on a GnR album? It references a few movies. This I Love could very well be their smash hit ballad from this album if they pacakage it well with a suitable video to boot. Wonderful piano fills this song. We complete the album with Prostitute.
Ok, so they aren’t the GnR of old and with so many new members you can’t expect it to be so. Only Axl remains of the original 5 and only Dizzy remains from any of the previous albums. The guitar work of former member Buckehead, Ron Bumblefoot Thal, Richard Fortus, Paul Tobias & Robin Finck shine on certain tracks – but that’s what Axl had to do? Get a wall of guitars, an attacking 5 like a hockey lineup to replace what Slash & Izzy Stradlin did with ease (and Gilby Clarke in live shows for a few years)! You still think as to what this could have been, all those wasted years, Axl becoming a joke in music circles and all that negative jazz. Still, it’s got some golden moments. I’d rate it 3 out of 5 stars. And here’s a live performance of Better.