Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy


3.5
great

Review

by Spamue1G USER (12 Reviews)
November 23rd, 2008 | 28 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Generic and overblown though it may be, Chinese democracy turns out to be a worthwhile record. Give it a chance, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Use Your Illusion II was, in my opinion, Guns n Roses’ masterpiece. Appetite For Destruction was really just a generic hard rock album with a few great songs, and Use Your Illusion I was a reasonable improvement, though still nothing special. What Use Your Illusion II did was prove that GnR had more intelligence in their music than the generic-if-fun hard rock that they had produced before. The slump that was “The Spaghetti Incident?” is rarely looked at as a true successor to the UYI duo, which puts a hell of a lot of pressure on both Axl and this album, especially considering the length of time it’s taken to be recorded and released.

Through his perfectionism, maybe Axl realised what he needed to do with the album, as instead of his usual diva-isms, he appears to really have put some effort into sounding honest. Orchestral backings, classic siren-screeches in the vocal department, near-beautiful piano… This album has it all. Generic though it may sound, Axl has finally learned how to fit everything together without relying on Slash to solo the songs off of their dull, directionless roads. The key catalyst in this change is his vocals. He sounds older, obviously, but his voice now rarely goes through a non-melodious stage, making this possibly his best overall performance yet. It’s so nice to hear his voice in a settled state, no longer sounding like he’s going to rip his vocal chords apart within a few seconds.

In terms of production, some of the songs carry elements of sampling in the dusty-sounding drum machine beats that they begin with, though this is never too important to the songs. The key point of the production is that everything is very crisp and well-layered, just occasionally stepping outside of the box to put flanger-type effects on Axl’s voice. It is pretty much faultless, though sometimes it can sound a little over-the-top. The instrumentation is much more varied this time around, though the loss of Duff on bass has really taken the rhythm section down a notch. The drums are enjoyable and well-done, though often far too simple to keep interest, but the bass is nearly non-existent, and does absolutely nothing of interest. The focus on the guitar has also been shifted, though ridiculous solos are still present here and there. The riffs are generally simple, distorted, typical modern hard rock power chords, even more so than before. They sound good, but get very dull as the album goes on. The soloing, however, is top-notch, showing good technicality and experimentation, using a variety of tones, from classic soaring guitar to complex spanish guitar lines, with no lack of likeability attached to them, and though there are many guitar overdubs competing with the vocal lines, these are careful, never sounding out of place or overused.

What, then prevents this album from getting a perfect, or at least superb, score? It all just feels overblown and overlong. A good example of this is Sorry, which by itself is a great, moving track, one of the few examples of clean guitar on the album. However, when the previous track, the track before that and the one after also attempts to be epic, it just drags. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable, but Axl needs to know when to add a bit of variation into the mix. The title track is another good example, building up with a sample of what is supposedly all the people in China talking. The main riff (probably the most generic one on the album) kicks in, and the song carries on at a reasonable pace, adding everything that it possibly could to try and make it feel epic. This is good for a few songs, but after 14 tracks, the listener is left wondering if they had the repeat button on. The tracks themselves have variation, but this is lost when they all try to be epic, no matter what their specific sound is. Every single one of the final 5 tracks could have closed the album and made it a better listen for everyone.

The final point to make is that, all in all, the album feels generic. Orchestral arrangements may not stray into the realm of cheesy, but neither are they ground breaking. The riffs end up sounding similar, and overused piano and epic guitar solos just bore the listener come Madagascar, which is a shame considering that it is by far one of the best tracks on the album, showcasing everything an epic songs needs.

Despite all it’s problems, Chinese Democracy is a good record. Hell, I’ll even call it great, as it’s clearly better than Appetite For Destruction. I would definitely recommend getting it, but you may find it hard to listen to all the way through. In the end, it comes down to this – Axl is back, and he’s released a worthwhile album with some near-classic songs on. Forget your scepticism and give the album a chance, you may well find yourself pleasantly surprised.



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user ratings (1047)
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...

    Jake Cole (4.5)
    Axl Rose tears down the mythos and mockery surrounding his infamous album with a scorching...

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


Comments:Add a Comment 
Spamue1G
November 23rd 2008


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I tried to get in there before too many reviews were added. My real score for the album is around a 3.3, but since I couldn't choose that, I rounded it up. Hope the review was good enough, I wanted to treat myself to something a little newer given the fact that it's my 10th review.

robin
Emeritus
November 23rd 2008


4249 Comments


great review. (you messed up an [i] tag)This Message Edited On 11.23.08

Spamue1G
November 23rd 2008


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fixed. I hope I don't get too many comments saying 'Oh no how many reviews is this gonna get'. I have to be a little ashamed of myself for looking forward to this so much - It hasn't seemed like such a long wait for me because I wasn't even born when Appetite For Destruction was released, and I wasn't into music much until a couple of years back, so I have an easier time dealing with his album than many others will

robin
Emeritus
November 23rd 2008


4249 Comments


i don't think it'll be too much of a problem at this stage, and your review is one of the two best so far after looking over the others. never listened to guns n roses personally, so i don't know how i'd think of this.

EStreetFan
November 23rd 2008


89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review. I had a lot of these complaints on the first listen, but I got over t hem on repeats. I still think they're valid though.

Zippermouth
November 23rd 2008


1305 Comments


Out of curiosity... do we really need eighty people to review the same thing?

taylormemer
November 23rd 2008


4917 Comments


We just need one for each rating.

Zippermouth
November 23rd 2008


1305 Comments


right... well 4 has been taken twice already. Next person that reviews this, I am going to neg.

EStreetFan
November 23rd 2008


89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

right... well 4 has been taken twice already. Next person that reviews this, I am going to neg.

What, on principle? Go you.

Knott-
Emeritus
November 23rd 2008


10198 Comments


At least this one doesn't start "ZOMG HOW DO U REVIEW AN ALBUM THATS BEEN IN-PROGRESS 4 LYK, CENTURIEZ?!"

Spamue1G
November 23rd 2008


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought mine was much more critical of the album than the others, that's why I did it. I couldn't quite rate it a 3, unfortunately, it's a little too good for that.
It's pretty easy to review this, to be honest - the problems and strengths are so damn obvious. And also, it's only got 4 reviews so far including mine, which seems fine to me. One negative review would be fine, the way I see it, but no more in the range of 4. I don't think it matters all that much in the end as long as the reviews don't end up saying the same thing as each other.This Message Edited On 11.23.08

MarkvandenBerg
November 23rd 2008


77 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great Review. I totally agree that his vocals are the best I have heard from him. It's a surprisingly good album.

Zippermouth
November 23rd 2008


1305 Comments


If I reviewed this;
a. I would give it an awful rating
b. I would neg myself (if that's possible)

Meatplow
November 23rd 2008


5524 Comments


shut up zippermouth

Zippermouth
November 23rd 2008


1305 Comments


lol, ok.

EStreetFan
November 23rd 2008


89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You WISH you were as metal as Zippermouth.

Meatplow
November 23rd 2008


5524 Comments


zippermouth is decidely 100% non-tech

Zippermouth
November 23rd 2008


1305 Comments


ok then...

Spamue1G
November 23rd 2008


1292 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks And Pianotuna, in response to not knowing how GnR sounds, this is a good starting point, though I'd still say get Use Your Illusion 2 first. I'm sure you've heard Sweet Child O Mine or Welcome To The Jungle, but I would recommend checking them out if you don't mind a bit of generic riffing etc. They're a pretty good band discounting some of the vocals.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
November 23rd 2008


7362 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review, best so far. I've not heard all of this, but wha I have heard sounds surprisingly good, though nowhere near as good as their older stuff (AFD & UYI's 1+2)



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