I have listened to Chinese Democracy about five times since it was released on Sunday. I have heard it on three sets of quality speakers, and a pair of excellent headphones. While I admit that I approached this album with a lot of skepticism, I will also say that I have tried really hard to like it. The problem is… there isn’t a whole lot to like.
First and foremost, the opening (and title) track Chinese Democracy begins with a Pink Floydian intro, whereby the track fades in with voices and sound effects before the song ultimately starts. There are two problems with this track.
1 – Axl isn’t David Gilmore or Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd). The intro is long, annoying, and doesn’t work. Fans were forced to wait almost 15 years for this album; he could have had the courtesy to at least start the music immediately.
2 – The song itself, once it actually starts, isn’t very good. Rough start.
The second track Shackler’s Revenge is another story. I have spent the last three days trying to come up with the proper words to describe just how bad this song is. (I’m not certain I have found them… but here we go anyway) It sounds like all of the worst trends of 90’s hard rock and metal (industrial & nu-metal) met up, got coked out, and had a baby. Now that baby won’t stop screaming and the sound is utterly disgusting. The only redeeming part of this track is that it is relatively short (one of two tracks on the album under 4 minutes).
The bright side is that Shackler’s Revenge can be weaponized by the military the next time we need to drive a tin-pot dictator out of an embassy (if you don’t get that reference, look up Manuel Noriega).
Track three Better is… better, that is once you get past the first 30 seconds which sound like a piece of chalk was stuffed into an electric pencil sharpener. Better, is a solid enough song, but is emblematic of the four overarching problems that I have found with this album:
This isn’t Guns N’ Roses. It’s Axl’s solo album with a bunch of musicians. The sweeping arpeggios are great… but they aren’t GNR.
The second problem is that the original GNR songs would grab you with the first riff, and take you for a ride. The songs on this album all start slowly and build into the song (for better or worse).
Third, all of the songs overstay their welcome: even the ones that I do like (I will get to those in a moment). These tracks are just too damn long, and I like jam bands, so it’s not like I’m averse to long songs.
Finally, the music is over produced. Axl’s attempt to make the album perfect has left it hollow. He uses pitch control on his vocals across the entire album which makes his vocals sound shaky and odd. In other instances, there are solos that are too quiet and compressed. Ultimately, they become lost in the track.
The tracks that I like (not love) are Street of Dreams and There Was a Time.
If the World, Catcher in the Rye, Madagascar, and Prostitute aren’t too bad… but I’m not fond of them.
When I listen to this album I feel like I went to a restaurant and ordered a Coke. Then the waiter brought a tall glass that looks like Coke and smells like Coke., but upon sipping the beverage, I find it is actually RC Cola. Had this album been properly labeled as an Axl Rose solo project, and had it not cost $XX million , or taken 15 years to produce, it probably wouldn’t be such a big disappointment.
If you think you might want to get the album, go onto the GNR MySpace page and listen to the tracks, they’re all there.
I hope it makes Axl feel happy and accomplished, however Chinese Democracy leaves me wondering when the next Velvet Revolver album will hit store shelves.