7 July 2013

Guns 'n' Roses - Chinese Democracy

I'm actually quite stuck on how to open the blog for this album so I'll just go over old ground as quickly as possible and then take it from there. During the late 80's and early 90's, Guns 'n' Roses were one of the biggest bands on the planet due to some awesome musical output. However, infighting - mainly caused by Axl Rose becoming an utter, utter tool - brought it all to an end. The 'classic' line-up split and left only Axl and keyboardist Dizzy Reed. Undeterred, Axl got some new band members - and even newer ones after that - (Most notably guitarist Buckethead, Robin Finck, Ron Thal...go look it up, far too many to list!) in and began recording material, the majority of which was leaked over the internet as the years went on. However, he then whittled it down to the 14 songs on this album and released it to the general public. And no way in hell is it worth the wait. Not by a fucking long shot.

The material on this album is the first album of original GnR material in 17 years and is a mixture of classic rock, ballads and also showcases an electronic influence, particularly trip-hop. With the occasional exception, it sounds like Axl (Make no mistake, he was definately 'in charge' when this was recorded) has been keeping an ear to the street in order to hear what's "in", and then either rerecording bits or incorporating it into a song. But things change, and this gives the album a curiously dated sound. The first track (Chinese Democracy) is excellent! A classic rock number which builds up into a crescendo Axl-Scream (It almost feels like welcoming an old friend that hasn't been seen for a long time) before moving onto Shacklers Revenge, another great number with a stomping feel to it. Then, things go downhill. The next five songs are ALL slow numbers which REALLY brings down the flow of the album. The only decent song in this ritalin-esque salvo is There Was A Time, a ballad which sounds like something off the UYI-era. The rest of the album is a mix of the "quite decent" and the "not quite"...

Quality control was obviously not a commonly used phrase during this recording. It's far too overblown and full of itself yet sparse and mechanical at the same time! In fact, when it's overblown, it makes 'Be Here Now' sound like a 4-track bedroom demo. Each instrument is competently played, but there is no spark or anything which gives it any urgency. Axl's vocals sound like a parody of himself which is a real shame as at one time, he was a very distinct vocalist. As much as I've tried to justify and give it the benefit of the doubt, this album really could have been better than it is but unfortunately, it's just too overblown and inconsistent yet lacking a spark and too mechanical. The ultimate paradox! GnR were a gateway band for me, but this album is a mere shadow of what they once were. And why release an album where a good portion of the material had been leaked online and therefore would've ended up in the hands of most GnR fans anyway? Here is hoping they get it together for the next one, but somehow, I doubt it...

2 - If only there was some quality control.

Chris J.

You can buy this album on iTunes.
Buy on Amazon.
Listen on Spotify

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