24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I have to say that, apart from one or two tracks, I've not really been much of an admirer of GNR - however, for my birthday, my eldest son purchased a copy of Black Ice for me - which, unfortunately (for him!) I had already got in my collection - so he said he'd go and get me a surprise.....and came back with a copy of Chinese Democracy. Well, I have to say that it took me a couple of days before I actually gave it access to my car CD player and then when I did give it a spin, the first and second tracks went by, with me just thinking that I knew why I was never really that much enamoured by this band - But then "Better" started up, grabbing me by the throat demanding my undivided attention - great riffs, voice box mashing vocals and some really stunning guitar soloing - this was something completely different, and most unexpected. I played this track a couple of more times and then went on to complete the album and, I have to say that I had more than a grin on my face.....this album truly ROCKS!!
I have since given this album a great deal of listening time as "background noise" and also with a set of cans on and I am now even more impressed with this strong and complicated album which is capable of being "dived" into at any level because it covers all the facets that an excellent rock, or indeed, any type of album should serve up....be it fast paced raucous rock or just plain beautiful ballads, technically brilliant musicianship or just simple melodies, this album delivers it all!
The real test of course will be how long the follow up will be in the making and will it ever be able to eclipse this truly brilliant album....
189 of 202 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2008
Right first off I'm going to put aside all the stuff about the nonsense and millions that went into making this album as it serves no purpose and detracts from the music - yes it happened - yes Axl Rose is a bit mental and has gone OTT, but what's new? If we put such a high mantle on our artists and musician then mental is what you get, people. If I had to like every man behind every piece of music before I could enjoy their respective tunes I would have a very small CD collection indeed, so onwards and upwards.
Now then, here is my, hopefully, not overly long, down and dirty, review of Chinese Democracy in a cheeky little list format that I hope won't take up too much of your time with pretentious musings. (Please note I am not reviewing for NME who seem to think every piece of indie tosh that heads their way is a `masterpiece' and `totally astonishing` - I am assuming everyone who reads this will be from camp realism.)
- The vocals are top notch and harken back to the days of yore when I used to launch myself around my bedroom as a rebellious teen shouting the lyrics to get in the ring (when my parents where well out of earshot of course - rebellious, yeah - starting a rebellion, not so much.) There are even some points here where I think the vocals definately surpass what has passed. Bonus.
- The riffage and solos on offer within are some of the finest I've taken in in a good long while - sure Slash is a brilliant guitarist but there are other equally brilliant guitarists out there, and I'd say quite a few of them have racked up points on this album.
- There are a vast range of styles and ideas from track to track and as the album moves on you are constantly passed from pillar to post in terms of what you're hearing. A tune for every occasion.Nice and challenging and a definate continuation of where use your illusion was headed me thinks.
- The production is obviously high and although some will see this as yet more proof of the excess that went into creating the album lets get real and remember the days of 'November rain'. What it really adds up to is a clear definition of all the elements in every track. Everything is big, bold and in it's proper place - If I wanted anything else I would go and listen to the grisly, lo-fi, sounds of some early Mayhem. It's a big rock album that wanders into the epic at times; as have it's predecessors.
- This album made me dig out all my other GnR stuff and I've realised just how good they really are - I mean I always knew they where good but I had a feeling that all the swearing (something which is kept to a minimum here) and attitude may have buffed them up in my teenage mind and left me with grander impressions than what was really on offer. However, this is not the case - they are very good albums so they'll be spinning in my player for a few months to come along with this new welcome addition.
- Why did this have to be a GnR album? I mean the band could have gone under any other name and just pushed the `Featuring Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses' element - e.g. Velvet Revolver. Maybe it's just nit picking but I can't help but feel that if he'd have just started a new band and wiped the slate clean we wouldn't be getting the hardcore fan boys (you know those guys who have GnR tattoo's and can't get over it - oh dear) whining about how it's not enough like Appetite for Destruction - let's face it nothing will be like that, it's a top album and very hard to beat.
- The back of the booklet features the most hefty thanks and musicians list I've ever laid my eyes on, and although I'm trying to dodge the whole back story to the creation of this monster 6 pages at the back of the booklet kind of rams it down your throat. All that's just more nit picking though, which is fortunately the only kind of thing I can add to my cons list, huzzah!
A top rock album - one of the best I've heard for a long time and expect to hear for a long time to come. Don't think of the time it's been lined up for, don't compare it to anything else, just take it, as you should with all things, as it comes and for what it is - an album with some familiar and unfamiliar sounds by some familiar and unfamiliar people, and if you do that I think you'll find it's pretty sweet.
P.S. I didn't give it five stars because five star things are few and far between in life - so, no, it's not five star perfection but it's pretty close. Also my review was overly long, sorry.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
There can only be a few words and phrases which suit an introduction to this album: Axl and Dizzy; G'n'R or not G'n'R; 50 guitarists?; and most importantly- finally! Yes the album which was spread over 2 millenniums finally arrived but could it be G'n'R as only Axl and Dizzy survived? I guess that depends on what sort of fan you are. Axl chewed his away through so many musicians on this album that it all becomes a farce, an irrelevance, and all that matters in the end as it always only does, is the music. So, is it more Appetite than Spaghetti?
`Chinese Democracy' opens with a screaming siren a cacophony of voices and sounds- Axl is back and still crazy. A chunky set of chords start, we hear that famous screech, and then the drums blast off. The song starts in high gear and progresses through a rampage of lyrics concerning the situation in China and by relation, the situation both in the US and Axl's head. and a variety of riffs and hooks. The chorus is typically brutal, the melodies and guitars are angry and more than slick, skilful, and tuneful enough to make us forget that Slash is not involved. This is a raucous opener which will force the body to move and whet your buds for more, although after repeated listens it doesn't have many memorable moments.
`Shackler's Revenge' opens with effects laden guitars, sounding almost (gasp) nu-metal. Thankfully this is forgotten as the various phases of the song bun their way into our ears. Axl's voice doesn't sound as strong as it once did here and it is clear that there has been some studio `magic' help. Having said that, he is still able to scream with the best of them, and the music is good enough here that he can simply groove along. The pre-chorus is funky, the chorus features the good old lower register of Axl's voice and has an instant singalong quality. Once again the guitars are excellent, lots of tapping and effects gadgetry which Slash was never too accustomed to using.
`Better' is probably the best song on the album and one of the most famous in the years before the album's release. This one mergers Axl's softer side with pained vocals and lyrics which show that even decades on love still has the power to confuse, anger, and enrapture him. The verse melodies are great here, especially when mixed with the child-like rhyming of the intro and the groovy guitars. Axl lets out a few raw, metal screams unlike what we are used to and the song takes a left turn half way through for an interesting, heavy middle section. There are some brilliant guitar solos here, lots of new ideas mostly based around new technologies, but some showing Axl's innovative song-writing. We know he is capable of epics, and this is as good as some of the more well known classics though cuts out the self-absorbed over the top style which annoys and entertains many.
`Street Of Dreams' is the first piano led track of the album, a stirring anthem with a fat 80s USA heart at it's centre. A song of love, hope, and inspiration with the usual sprinkling of cyanide Axl really lets loose with some soaring vocals here. It may come close to cheese for some, but for the rest of us it reminds us of all the best fist pumping moments of Paradise City et al. I was hoping this one would have a chaotic, ultra fast ending like PC but it is content to rest on a magnetic middle and calm, but affirming conclusion.
`If The World' doesn't really sound like anything the band have done before, starting with the Spanish guitars, the weird wah guitars, the synth strings, and Axl's brand new voice over some strange melodies and timing. It is quite experimental, new territory for the band and it doesn't always work for me. There are funk and jazz influences, and it should really be more interesting than it is- it's ok but I don't find the melodies capture my attention enough and I can't work out if sounds like a lost Bond or `adult' movie song.
`There Was A Time' continues with the experimentation though to a much smaller degree. The verse builds up to a crushing chorus, the following verses with emotive strings and emotional lyrics sung with Axl's heart being chewed to bits in his mouth. The song seems to reference a past love, possibly Stephanie Seymour, but you could easily make it about ex band members. He sings of once happy times corrupted into sickening memories, the solo is great and Axl's vocals at the end are as effective as anything he's ever done.
`Catcher In The Rye' gets the silver prize, but wins the `Should have been a single' award as it has the universal quality of old G'n'R- enough emotion and melody to be commercial- heavy, angry, and with enough guitars to please everyone else. Referencing the Sallinger masterpiece in name and powerful content this is a great song. We get plenty of solos in all the right places and the melodies are full of anthemic punch, with big choruses and singalong moments everywhere. This has all the hallmarks of a live classic.
`Scraped' is a weird one. We have Axl's new voice mixed with old, some interesting riffs and heavy production, guitars coming in and disappearing without warning, bizarre verses, and a big chorus which doesn't grab as much as it would like to. That said, it is still heavy enough and has plenty of head banging potential- it simply isn't as memorable as some other tracks and sounds quite similar to the next song.
`Riad N The Bedouins' opens in Immigrant Song style, lyrics covering Nomadic travel, war, and love. It's all quite cryptic and can be taken anyway you wish, but more importantly it is packed with crazy guitar antics, a decent chorus with strong vocals, and is one of the sadly few high paced songs on the album.
`Sorry' again sounds unlike anything the band has done before, beginning with downbeat lyrics and gloomy, slow paced melodies. Again this can be read as a response to the ex-bandmates who have accused him of a variety of things throughout the years, some justified, others not. In this way I find the chorus to be an apology to the fans who are unsure where their loyalties should lie- with Axl in moving forwards, or with the old band in leaving an untarnished record. The chorus edges towards doom metal, though more Sabbath style than anything recent with it's massive riff and grimy snail's pace. The more I listen to this one, the more it grows on me as there are many subtleties which you won't catch first time round.
`IRS' sees Axl dealing with the paranoia of circus of opinion surrounding him from both the media and fans. It's a good enough song with some variety in sounds and mixes heavy parts with more mellow places, but has some of the best lyrics, and best delivery on the album- it is Axl at his snarling, vitriolic, intelligent, and humourous best.
`Madagascar' was for years before the album release the most famous song. It had been played live many times, and was seen by die-hard fans as proof that Axl `still had it'. I too loved this song over those years, but now that the album is out I have to admit that it has lost something. Yes, it is still an epic, still a great song, but I think it has been somehow diluted. The song is in the fashion of (and samples, kind of) Civil War, moves through a few different time and melody changes and is packed with emotion and sound clips. There is plenty of the usual- good guitars, fine drumming, and potent melodies. I enjoy how Axl places himself in the position of a wronged God with some of the lyrics, and seeing himself as a living Madagascar- floating alone and small away from a much larger group. Nice metaphors, nice song, and in the end does prove that Axl `still has it'.
`This I Love' is the middle song of the fantastic ending trilogy of the album. This is typical anguished Axl, like November Rain but stripped back with a hundred razors- this is a skinless Axl, open and exposed to such simple of horrors of daily life like waking, breathing, and the touch of air. Axl's vocals are on top form here, the melodies are gut wrenching, and the twinning of piano and guitars is sublime, especially when their grander sister strings joins in. Axl is clearly still the tortured soul who will attack anyone in a knee jerk reaction, a man wronged who wants to have it right for once.
`Prostitute' is a brilliant ending song, similar to the previous song, but thankfully free (mostly) of the pain and is much more optimistic- make what you will of the title. It is another weaving epic with many stages, each as strong as the one which preceded it. The piano and guitars again are extremely effective, Axl is at his most emotive and questioning- of others and of himself, of coping with living `fortune and shame'. There is a ferocious solo before the song splits off into one of the best final few moments of any G'n'R song with that lonely piano.
In the end this album was never going to live up to the hype, and it would probably never live up to the excellence of those first albums. That was never the point. What it accomplishes is forever proving that the spirit of Guns'n'Roses lives on through Axl, and proves that there is still a place in the world for them and their music. Axl has moved on, the rest of the band has moved on, and it seems like many fans need to as well. We are left with an album that rocks, pleases, and frustrates- I would have personally liked to have seen some faster songs, and there aren't really any songs with a universally recognizable riff or hook; but that's just me. We have quite a personal album, packed with emotion and madness, one with quite a few great ballads, and quite a few average, forgettable rock songs. Hopefully we get to hear more from the band as Axl it seems still has a lot to say, and many more ghosts to uncover; there is a haunting sense though that this may be the end.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 2008
Alice Cooper once commented it "doesn't take an age to complete an album" - to Axl he said. This is true but for all I respect and admire the gentleman monstrosity, Alice is that combo of write/tour/radio show/write/tour/radio show...Golf! This isn't how everyone approaches music everbody is individual and his albums are getting muddier all the time - this isn't.
Axl is a hard nut to crack (take that anyway you want), nobody seems to really know him and maybe that's how he wants it to stay. The closest anybody will get to him is through his songs.
Here's a quick dash through Chinese Democracy: The title track will definitely be the opener of any show, the stop and start of the guitar is made for screams of adoration. A typical Axl lyrical assault on the Chinese government, good start - one of the rockier songs. BETTER has fantastic vocals as do all the songs but on this song in particular Axl's cadences are perfectly displayed. CATCHER IN THE RYE I love this song again the lyrics and that voice are remakable. There are touches of Nine Inch Nails, the old Gunners and strangely Elton John(!?) and it works! This, as has already been stated by others is Axl's solo album, he has some great musicians especially the guitarist 'Bumblefoot' who is reminiscent of Derek Frigo (R.I.P - go look him and Enuff Z'Nuff up) sounds like he's using the Ibanez/Marshall combination for that beautiful looping guitar sound.
It isn't anything like Appetite... but if it was it would only be a cop out and a waste of time, Appetite... fit it's era it wouldn't be relevant for a man in his forties (Motley Crue!!!) to be writing about individual rebellion. Chinese Democracy is more about social rebellion and that fits these turbulent times. If you can believe the rumour factory there are another two albums on the way before 2012 - let's hope so!
(John Hutton in issue 127 of Classic Rock Magazine - the sometimes brilliant publication sums the album up completely)Appetite For Destruction
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2008
I have to admit that my first listen of this album on MySpace was conducted in something of a daze. Having waited eagerly for so many years, and having deliberately avoided the leaked bootleg tracks - to actually hear the new material felt surreal and rather overwhelming. But I've now spent much of the weekend listening to it in its full glory, it is sinking in, and I'm coming to the conclusion that there are some extremely good tracks on here.
From the back catalogue, I personally prefer the slower, pompous tunes like Heaven's Door, Estranged, November Rain, Don't Cry etc, which I feel really showcase Axl's immense songwriting (alright I know he didn't write KOHD) and singing talent, and his ability to drench a song in emotion. Alright they can be a bit cheesy and perhaps even venture into guilty pleasure territory, but I've always loved the way these big bluesy tunes get my emotional juices going. There's loads of this kind of stuff on Chinese Democracy, so fellow fans of the slower stuff will probably be really pleased. The run of tracks 4 (Street of Dreams), 5 (If the World), 6 (There was a Time) & 7 (Catcher in the Rye) are all fairly grandiose numbers featuring beautiful lyrics and deep and rich arrangements, as is the superb Madagascar at 12, and track 13 (This I Love) is Axl at his most sensitive and emotive, featuring some really beautiful lyrics. This track seems to epitomise the poetic and sensitive side of the egomaniacal enigma that is Axl, and leads me to believe that alongside the hubris there is a guy with a long-ago broken heart that will not heal, no matter how much he bares it to us.
I am slightly disappointed with some of the rockier tracks on the album. I love IRS and Better, but I felt that Riad N' The Bedouins and Scraped, though interesting and different, do not really work. The title track and Shackler's Revenge also fall a little short for me, though they still have their moments and are still pretty good. Even the tracks I'm not too keen on feature moments of anthemic beauty, something which Axl has such a knack for.
Not much to say about the vocals: He's totally still got it and the performances are consistently excellent. Let's face it - no-one sounds like Axl. His outro "Ah-ah-ah..ing" on Street of Dreams is an absolute joy. That's my favourite track, hands down. The vocal melodies throughout the album are incredibly strong and very catchy - I just can't get these tunes out of my head.
In terms of the guitarists: whilst everyone would probably agree that Izzy and Slash were toweringly excellent and could never be fully replaced, the guitar work on this album is top notch, even though it is a bit of a hotchpotch of different players. Solos abound, often running alongside verses and choruses, and particularly awesome is the monster in There was a Time (which I believe is shared between Finck and Buckethead!), plus there's quite original rhythm stuff going on in tracks like If the World and Catcher in the Rye, and the overall guitar sound is hard, full, bluesy, funky, and more.
In summary, this contains some absolutely excellent tracks, and is a rich, complex, original and slick record, but is perhaps let down by a few of the quicker numbers which lack the brilliance of past work. You won't find much to rival the Appetite stuff, but if you love the Illusion records, chances are you'll love this.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2008
Ok - first things first - a Gn'R album this ain't. It's The Axl Rose freakshow for the 21st Century, and trading in on THAT name is pushing things a bit to far for comfort....and yet somehow....
Somehow, the whold thing works. I approached this with a great dollop of scepticism. After all, this was the band that I'd loved since hearing them on Tommy Vance's (RIP) Friday Rock Show just before they played Donnington '88. I was hooked the moment I heard the opening riff of Mr. Brownstone and continued to enjoy the melodrama until the early 90's. They never did things by halves, even then. Acoustic album with racist overtones? Check! Releasing 2 double albums simultaneously? Check! Never being sure if they'd turn up to the gig you'd paid your hard earned cash for? Check! Ah, those were the days. And then everything went pear shaped, original band members dropped off the radar one by one until things fizzled out, and nobody was interested in Axl's demands, extreme ego and diminishing genius...
Fast-forward 17yrs (if we ignore the curiousity that was "The Spaghetti Incident") and what do we find?
We discover, quite unexpectedly, that Axl and his hired hands have created a rather fantastic collection of modern day rock classics. Forget what all the critics have said. This is a truly amazing rock album! It doesn't sound like Gn'R - but what did you expect? People change and styles evolve - deal with it! Remember the final track on "Use Your Illusion II" ? If Gn'R had continued as they were back in the 90's, they would've started to move away from 'traditional' rock songs and stuctures anyway. It's just taken a little longer than anyone expected....
That's not to say "Chinese Democracy" is perfect. It's not. It's overlong, over-produced and over-hyped. But you'll not hear anything like it right now. And Axl has never sounded better. But then, ProTools is an amazing invention....
To finish off this review (and thanks for reading this far - you're a patient browser!) - all I can say is that I've listened to this CD now pretty much continually for a fortnight. In this day and age, when we are bombarded with music that is available just about anywhere and anytime, how many of us can say that we give new music a chance to get under our skin and let it submerge itself within our inner rock consciousness? I can't remember the last time I felt so compelled by an album to press play again and again. Actually, yes I can - it was back in 1988, on a Sony Walkman (remember those?) and the tape was "Appetite For Destruction".
Spread the word....they're back. Well, Axl is anyway!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2008
Needs some dedicated listening time but, if you do put in the effort, its well worth it. As Ive read from a number of other "punters", this album really does just get better and better. It certainly is complicated with parts of some tracks sounding a bit of a mess quite frankly on first listen but, when you really concentrate on giving it your full attention, those messy bits become incredibly intricate and so, so clever. In my opinion, Prostitute (the first track) is absolutely outstanding in the "clever melodic changes" department. I defy you not to be swallowed whole by it by the 6th or 7th time. Be patient .... all good things come to those who wait (and considering we've all waited for 15 years, it really is pretty darn good). Still getting to grips with the latter part of the album but Im sure that this too will grow on me with time.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2008
Like everyone else, I've waited a long time for the release of Chinese Democracy and on first listen, I was very disappointed. But then I remembered how I needed to listen to Appetite more than once to get into it, and I feel its the case with this album. The more I listen to it, the better it gets and the standout tracks for me are the four concurrent tracks starting from 'Better'.
Is it a masterpiece? Only time will tell, but in my opinion, its close and Chinese Democracy is the most interesting album I've bought in a long time (apart from Muse's 'Black Holes & Revelations'). I now can't stop playing it. Yes, I think we all wished Slash could be on this production, but let's not dismiss the guitarists who are - they are all superb and deserve recognition for their talents, and maybe if the old band members had been involved, the album would never have seen the light of day. Axl Rose is a genius and his voice is amazing. It takes you back to your school days, but at the same time it's new, modern and totally different from anything else out there in the bland production of today's music. Perfection for me would be for Axl to ditch the corn rows and goatie, start promoting this album, and give us a world tour worth waiting for.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2008
Personally I'm sick of people slagging off Axl and Guns n Roses in 2008, yes there's no Slash or Duff, Izzy or Matt but really if the music sounds good that's all that matters and this album is superb, it gets better with every listen, it's different to their old stuff but it should be, that was 16 years ago. This album is really diverse with lots of different styles; the guitar work by various axe men is great and not far off Slash's high standards. My personal favs are I.R.S, There was a time (Axl's shrieking vocals towards the end of the track are awesome), the title track and If the world, which does sound quite different for Guns n Roses. Forget the reviews in music mags such as Q, it doesn't matter how good the album was, they still would have slated it because it's trendy to slate hard rock. Ignore the hype, just enjoy the music. This is a great return and I can't wait to see them perform these tracks live again in the UK hopefully next year.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 November 2008
Has there ever been an album so many wanted to hate without ever listening to it ? Has there ever been an album so delayed ? Has there ever been so many guitarists credited on one record ? Lets get this straight, if Axl Rose ahd released this in 1995 like he perhaps should have done it would easily have sat up there with some of rock's greatest albums. However the interminable delays and band changes just pushed both expectation and antipathy to ridicuous levels. Ok so Slash isn't there, but we all know Slash is a live guitar playing icon. He was never the driving force behind what Guns N Roses did in the studio and arguably if he didn'thave frizzy hair and a hat he may never have quite had the persona he as now. Anyway give this album a listen or two. Its a more consistent album than Use Your Illusions without perhaps not quite hitting the highs of November Rain & Estranged. And the dirty punk of Appetite disappeared as soon as they sold their first million records - so don't expecta Welcome to the Jungle. But in There Was a Time, Street of Dreams, Sorry, Madagascar and the title track there are so truly memorable moments. A couple of tracks like Scraped don't really stand up but then neither did the likes of Right next door to hell off Illusion or dare i say it Think About You on Appetite. The world has moved on and none of us are ever going to recapture 1988 I'm afraid but isn't it good to hear that voice again.