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Guns N Roses - "Chinese Democracy" (CD)

Guns N Roses - "Chinese Democracy" CD cover image

"Chinese Democracy" track listing:

1. Chinese Democracy (4:43)
2. Shackler’s Revenge (3:36)
3. Better (4:58)
4. Street Of Dreams (4:46)
5. If The World (4:54)
6. There Was A Time (6:41)
7. Catcher In The Rye (5:52)
8. Scraped (3:30)
9. Riad n’ The Bedouins (4:10)
10. Sorry (6:14)
11. I.R.S. (4:28)
12. Madagascar (5:37)
13. This I Love (5:34)
14. Prostitute (6:15)

Reviewed by on January 15, 2009

"The goal of any band is to maintain their fan base while adding new customers, but “Chinese Democracy” fails to accomplish this for Axl’s new version of Guns n Roses."

Frontman Axl Rose had a long time to perfect Guns n Roses’ latest album “Chinese Democracy.” Fans endured a messy breakup, which left Axl as the only remaining original band member, and a waiting period of nearly fifteen years before the much-anticipated release. Any time there is a lengthy lapse between albums, there is an expectation that the new album will be an instant success. While the title song “Chinese Democracy” has enjoyed a healthy chart position, many fans’ response to the long-awaited album has been less than stellar.

Veteran fans seeking a traditional Guns n Roses sound will only find it in “Shackler’s Revenge,” which includes a nice heavy guitar riff along with the throaty bass backup vocals that became a trademark of the original lineup. Unfortunately, the guitar solo gets drowned out by synthesizers. “I.R.S.” and “Scraped” also have a classic feel to them, with ear-thrashing guitar solos and a melodic acoustic vocal interspersed. However, the backup “oohs” in “Scraped” are distractive and detract from the song.

“Chinese Democracy,” begins hopefully, with an upbeat opening riff, but the repetitious drums become monotonous. Axl’s vocals also leave something to be desired, his signature falsetto wails notably absent. Fans of retro hair metal should enjoy “Catcher In The Rye,” a monster ballad complete with an opening piano. “Sorry” also hits the mark, though the opening rhythm sounds suspiciously like Extreme’s “More Than Words.” The song has a nice hard rock/pop feel to it, with a predictable guitar solo reminiscent of George Thorogood. This pop sound is also present in “This I Love,” a melding of pop, southern rock and traditional Guns n Roses vocals, though the length of the song leads to ennui.

The highlight of the album is “Street Of Dreams,” another classic monster ballad that highlights Axl’s vocals and is easy to sing along with. “Prostitute,” the instrumental piece on the album, has a retro southern rock tempo and a decent guitar solo. The opening measures are almost identical to “Frankenstein,” but the rest of the song is distorted with heavy synthesizers.

The political focus of the album is most evident in “Madagascar,” which includes bits of speeches by such political figures as Martin Luther King. The instrumental opening, intended to sound like soldiers marching, sounds more like “The Little Drummer Boy,” and the ever repetitive drums and political ranting leave the listener ready for the song to end. “Riad n’ The Bedouins” also makes listeners beg for the ending, with its garage band sound and out of sync vocals. The song ends with random, unintelligible wailing.

What is new on “Chinese Democracy” is the disco, dance club sound present in “Better,” “There Was A Time,” and “If The World.” With its Santana-esque Spanish guitar, “If The World” is the most noteworthy of the three, though it has serious elevator music potential. “There Was A Time” forces the listener to endure nearly five minutes of monotone vocals and a repetitive guitar riff before unveiling a good guitar solo, but once again the song ends with random wailing. This formula of repetitive riffs and rhythm is also present in “Better,” though Axl’s vocals make the song bearable.

The goal of any band is to maintain their fan base while adding new customers, but “Chinese Democracy” fails to accomplish this for Axl’s new version of Guns n Roses. Just as many Motley Crue fans choose to ignore the John Carobi-led album “Motley Crue,” most fans of the original Guns n Roses lineup will prefer to pretend that “Chinese Democracy” never existed.

Highs: Classic 80’s monster ballad feel in “Street of Dreams” and “Catcher In The Rye.”

Lows: Monotonous, overly long songs with repetitive drums and predictable guitar riffs.

Bottom line: A disappointing album that leaves many Guns n Roses fans deflated.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)