Review Summary: Let's take a trip to the inner-world of Axl Rose.
First of all, I’ve never been a fan of Slash or Duff. Instead, I think two main reasons behind the success of Guns N’ Roses have always been the egotistic genius of Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin’s rock n’ roller attitude. As soon as I started to listen to Chinese Democracy, I liked it but I am pretty sure that it’s not worth waiting more than a decade.
Chinese Democracy should be considered as the diary of an egotistic rock music legend and his appetite for destruction of his relationships with his ex-band fellas and with the world around him. Traces of this destruction may be easily found in the lyrics in the album and I refer to them below. Lastly, I wanna make you sure that I am not much interested in the technical issues such as use of guitars, quality of guitar solos or the movement of bass. You should be aware of the fact that this is a review by a bad-ass Guns N’ Roses fan about a new GNR album which comes after 10 years.
Chinese Democracy, the opener track of the album is a catchy song and it has all qualities of a 80s hard/arena rock song which Guns N Roses have always been good with making. Shackler’s Revenge is another catchy song and it is a real fun to listen to but I don’t think it is a satisfactory one for Guns N’ Roses who waited for more than 10 years for this album. Also, its lyrics reflect the insecure and destructive personality of William Axl Rose especially in the following lines; “ Don’t ever try to tell me/ How much you care for me. “
3rd track, Better is a masterpiece and I am sure that it will be considered as one of the best song Axl ever made along with Estranged, Sweet Child O’Mine, Rocket Queen and November Rain. It is so catchy, radio-friendly and most importantly, deep. It has great lyrics which show us the inner world of Axl Rose. Althought I’m crazy for quoting some of its lyrics, I can’t choose between them. Simply, Axl Rose at his best.
4th song is a ballad: Street of Dreams. I am sure it is one of the things that make Chinese Democracy a good album. Its chorus is so catchy and it is really emotional. After it, there comes If the World. It has a riff that reminds me of Spanish flamenco songs and it stands in a different place than other Guns N’ Roses. I think the last flamenco solo in Double Talkin’ Jive easily comes to mind while listening to it. It is one of my faves in the album and I was so happy while watching the closing credits of Riddey Scott’s Body of Lies.
6th song is There Was a Time and in my opinion it is the one that is most similar to the old songs of Guns N’ Roses with its lyrics ( I guess it’s written for Stephanie Seymour like most of old ballads of them ) and its guitar work which seems like being played by Izzy and Slash, but unfortunately not and lastly its back vocals really sound like Izzy Stradlin. After it, we got Catcher in the Rye which got his name from famous Jerome David Salinger novel and it was the book John Lennon’s killer got in his pocket. Furthermore, the song itself sounds like a Beatles song. Actually, its solo was played by Brian May but our egotistic rock star Axl didn’t like it and replaced it. Catcher in the Rye should easily be considered as a tribute to Lennon and the Beatles.
Scraped starts with awful vocals and I consider it as a cheap nu-metal song by Axl and I want to continue with Riad and the Bedouins. With its name which comes from Arabic culture and its atmospheric intro, its names sounds more like an epic metal song but it is another one about Axl’s egotistic personality. He even screams as “ Oh, my sweet salvation/ and all my frustrations/ caught in the lies no one had wove as well/ somewhere in time, where only I could tell.”
Sorry is more like a Pink Floyd song. It is even like Comfortably Numb. Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach helps his best friend Axl Rose in back-vocals. They also sang Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle in Bach’s solo album. It is also about Axl’s huge ego and it is even a bit narcissistic. It is followed by I.R.S. which contains political lyrics and it is obvious while thinking about its name. I don’t know why but it is one of the songs I like least on the album.
Madagascar is surely one of best things in Chinese Democracy along with Better and There Was a Time. Its great lyrics, its magnificent melody and its hitting nature which is created by Axl’s sincere lyrics it is a classic for me. Axl samples movie dialogs again and it contains the one from Cool Hand Luke which has a special place in GNR fans’ hearts. Its guitar work even captures me while considering I am more interested in Axl’s lyrics than I am in guitars as a person who usually cares about the stories and attitudes of songs more than their use of instruments.
This I Love is another ballad that I don’t find as sincere as Street of Dreams. I think it is a song that was made for people who search romantic love songs in the albums they want to buy. The closer of the album is Prostitute and in contrast to its offending title, it is a sincere, heart-touching song which closes Chinese Democracy in a powerful way. Axl speaks to his listeners in the lines; “ So if my affections/ are misunderstood/ and you decide/ I’m up/ to no good/ Don’t ask me to/ Enjoy them/ Just for you.” And it touches my heart. I begin to understand why I love Axl Rose. He is no pretentious but he is just a jerk with a heart of gold.
To conclude with, Chinese Democracy may not be the best album on Guns N’ Roses discography and an album which is worth waiting for more than a decade, it deserves a listen and it is a door that is opened to the world of Axl Rose. Don’t mock it, don’t hate it, but just listen to it. I hope one day you will love it.