Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy


4.5
superb

Review

by Jake Cole USER (18 Reviews)
November 22nd, 2008 | 47 replies | 5,611 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Axl Rose tears down the mythos and mockery surrounding his infamous album with a scorching set of lyrically-charged numbers featuring an enticing new sound.

7 of 7 thought this review was well written

It's here. My God, it's really here. How do you review an album like Chinese Democracy? An album that has been germinating almost as long as I have been alive? An album that has gone from eagerly awaited to worldwide laughing stock. Seeing it and hearing it is like seeing Bigfoot, or uncovering a UFO at Roswell. As I wracked my brain over the cascade of emotions flooding through me, a single thought rose above them all, filling every fold of tissue, every nerve ending, making me question everything I knew and threatening to mentally crush me and leave me a hollow shell of a man: it's pretty good.

If you're looking for the fun combination of glam, punk, 70s hard rock and metal that defined GNR's sound, you're out of luck. Axl Rose has long been a fan of industrial metal- he was one of the first champions of Nine Inch Nails- and he's put together a group of current and past players who've created a sonic wash of an album. Guitarists Bumblefoot, Robin Finck, and Buckethead brought their Pro Tools wizardry to the table; tracks pulsate with churning, processed riffs instead of crashing and crunching ahead with Slash's wild abandon. Rose also chucks in the odd string arrangement on tracks like "Madagascar" and "There Was a Time."

If you can set aside what you think a GNR record should sound like, you can find a lot to love. The first two tracks take too long to get to the point, but they both end up stronger than they started. "Better" is a cracking tune with crushing riffs and some chilling screams from Rose. It also works as a sort of one-stop shop; you can hear a bit of all of Chinese Democracy in this song: it goes through three or four distinct parts that are explored further in other songs. That it is not the best track is a testament to the strength of the album. The best song is "Sorry," a smoldering track with marvelously bleak lyrics, great guitar breaks, and fantastic backing vocals from Axl's friend and former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach. It, along with the almost-as-excellent "There Was a Time, clearly channels the GNR classic "November Rain," with great results. The closer, "Prostitute," is a hell of a way to end the thing. It could be about the old GNR, Rose's ex-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour, and/or perhaps himself, but whatever the case it flat out rocks.

It's not all great; Chinese Democracy swings so hard for the fences that it stumbles after every hit. "Street of Dreams" wants to tap into that "November Rain" vibe that "Sorry" and "There Was a Time" used so well, but ends up a flat power ballad. "I.R.S." is fun enough, but it's stuck in first gear; it never kicks into a real rocker. The most flummoxing track is "If The World," which is equal parts off-the-wall brilliance and insufferable annoyance; ultimately I lean towards liking the track, but I think Axl tries to cram too much into it.

The strangest thing about Chinese Democracy- apart from it being good, which will continue to shock me for some time- is that it is an absolutely vital record. It is the last great slice of album-oriented rock the same way that The Wall was the last great rock opera. Lyrically, it's one of the finest albums about albums ever made, which makes a lot of sense. It sheds light on the musical creative process as The Player and 8 1/2 gave insights into the art of filmmaking. It isn't perfect, but I find myself enjoying more with each listen and it's great to hear an actual album again, not just a haphazard collection of singles (didn't like every song on Death Magnetic come out as a single at some point?). It will not be the last album-oriented album, but all others will stand in its shadow for years to come.

People who will base their enjoyment solely on whether it sounds like Appetite For Destruction or Use Your Illusion will moan and whine, but if you go in with some semblance of objectivity, you'll see that not only is Axl treating this new incarnation like a band(!), but he perfectly captured the spirit of the old GNR and forged a bold new sound for the group.



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user ratings (1036)
Chart.
2.8
good
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Daniel Dias (4)
    An essay on why Chinese Democracy is excellent....

    turnip90210 (2)
    The definite case study on the futility of overproduction....

    James Honaker (3)
    Axl's "masterpiece" is a decent album...no more, no less. It has some excellent cuts, but ...

    erdi (4)
    Let's take a trip to the inner-world of Axl Rose....

  • mark sammut (4)
    A spark of life from a band that seemed to reach its end a long time ago....

    Tom Gellatly (4)
    Overblown, overproduce and very much in love with itself, Chinese Democracy throws in ever...

    etomren (4)
    'Chinese Democracy' is a continuation of the band's work with the 'Use Your Illusions' wit...

    Smell The Cheese (4.5)
    Shacklers Revenge is the best song, Great album...

  • red0 (1.5)
    'Chinese Democracy' would have been cool in 1997....

    Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF (4)
    Chinese Democracy is comfortably the most consistent product the band has put out since Ap...

    Spamue1G (3.5)
    Generic and overblown though it may be, Chinese democracy turns out to be a worthwhile rec...

    Rumpelnostran (4)
    This time, the happy cries of "Chinese Democracy starts now!!" turn out to be correct, as ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
bastard
November 22nd 2008



3435 Comments


where were you?

this is an awesome review. Do more.

Golgoroth
November 22nd 2008



1084 Comments


As I wracked my brain over the cascade of emotions flooding through me, a single thought rose above them all, filling every fold of tissue, every nerve ending, making me question everything I knew and threatening to mentally crush me and leave me a hollow shell of a man: it's pretty good.


That section made me laugh.


Bfhurricane
November 22nd 2008



6197 Comments


Dr. Pepper

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2008



17204 Comments


great review.

Golgoroth
November 22nd 2008



1084 Comments


Yeah great review, but the last paragraph was really hyperbolic. How do you know that it's the last great album-oriented rock record? o_O I'd consider changing that unless you're determined to stick to your guns. Other than a few things in the last paragraph this was really good though.

fireaboveicebelow
November 22nd 2008



6837 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

3 positive reviews already, this cant be good...now I have to listen to it

Bfhurricane
November 22nd 2008



6197 Comments


The strangest thing about Chinese Democracy- apart from it being good, which will continue to shock me for some time- is that it is an absolutely vital record. It is the last great slice of album-oriented rock the same way that The Wall was the last great rock opera.

I haven't listened to the whole thing yet, but that's a pretty bold point to be making. It makes it seem like this album is the end of an era, it's a little early to be making that call.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2008



17204 Comments


3 positive reviews already, this cant be good

its not.

EStreetFan
November 22nd 2008



89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I use great in the sense of scope rather than quality. I feel confident in saying no other album will ever be as storied as this one, none made by such a major act and with such coverage. For the record, I don't think The Wall is the last great (quality) concept album, but it is the last great (coverage, sales) concept album.

EStreetFan
November 22nd 2008



89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

EDITED: There, I clarified it a bit.

bastard
November 22nd 2008



3435 Comments



its not.


it isn't as good as most of the reviews are saying, but it's rather surprising in how good it is.This Message Edited On 11.22.08

EStreetFan
November 22nd 2008



89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it isn't as good as most of the reviews are saying, but it's rather suprising in how good it is.

I rated it 3.5 on a first listen, but I think it really holds up and gets better on repeat viewings. My God, what am I saying? Is 2008 the Year of the Parallel Universe? Metallica, R.E.M., Coldplay, and now GNR turned it around and impressed me. Next thing you know I'll start liking Twlight and Soulja Boy will make the Dark Side of the Moon of our time.This Message Edited On 11.22.08

bastard
November 22nd 2008



3435 Comments


I hated new R.E.M., but I've never been a big fan of them to begin with!

AtavanHalen
November 22nd 2008



17927 Comments


That's because you're a bit of an idiot and don't realise that they are the best band ever.
It's cool, yr still young.

bastard
November 22nd 2008



3435 Comments


lol whut?

kalphiteman4
November 22nd 2008



29 Comments


I've found that a lot of these songs would be better if they cut off a minute or two.

FriendofTheDevil70
November 22nd 2008



384 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'll be hearing this in its entirety tommorow. From what I've heard off the stream, I expect it to be good, not great. I think people were expecting this to be so bad, that when it surpassed their expectations by a moderate amount, they went apeshit and starting handing it "excellent" and "supurb" ratings.

But I'll find out tommorow I guess.

bastard
November 23rd 2008



3435 Comments


It's a pretty good album, amazingly enough.

Wizard
November 23rd 2008



19333 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

lol at the hyperbolic comments in this review. Well written, terribly misinforming. Album is so far from good........actually the complete opposite. Axl Rose really needs to go away forever.

Digging: YOB - Clearing The Path To Ascend

einlazer
November 23rd 2008



15 Comments


hmmm may be i shud litsen



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