It's been quite a while since I did an album review on this site, but this was too big of an album to pass up. Yesterday, "Chinese Democracy" by Guns N' Roses... the most delayed album in history... was released. So I wanted to see if a 13-year wait would make this album worthwhile.
BUT... as longtime 11points readers know, when I do an album review, I don't do it like the traditional reviewers in the Liberal Media... i.e. listen to the full album and write my impressions on it as a whole.
Instead, I listen to the 30-second samples of each song on iTunes. Because I feel like the handpicked 30 seconds should be long enough to hook me. And I formulate all of my opinions on the album from that method.
Hey, it worked on my Coldplay and Nas reviews. Let's see how Guns N' Roses fares.
"Chinese Democracy" - Very tricky and clever sample selection by iTunes. All we get is a tense buildup followed by some strong rock guitar chords. THAT makes me want to listen to this song. I am going to track it down, because I'm completely hooked. I have no idea if the song is actually good or not, I just know I want to hear it. One track in and iTunes has already outsmarted me.
"Shackler's Revenge" - Eh. I felt like this one sounded like very generic modern rock (which, by the way, is my least favorite genre of music). In fact, toward the end of the 30 seconds, I drifted off for a second and thought I was listening to Puddle of Mudd. That comparison is NOT a compliment.
"Better" - The sample here was very whiny. It just kept repeating the same melody with fairly whiny vocals. I was hoping we'd get more of the hook at the end of the sample, but we didn't. I think this might have potential to be a good song, but based on this sample I just cannot get on board.
"Street of Dreams" - I would actually listen to this track to hear where it was going. Fascinating iTunes sample. The first few seconds are some classic Axl vocals. Truly classic. Then suddenly a frog appears in his throat and his voice sounds weird for the middle portion. By the end he's back to wailing. The sample cuts off just as the track is starting to go somewhere intriguing musically. I'm going to go find this one.
"If the World" - The most interesting aspect of this album, for me, is that it was written over the course of 13 years, which means it spans a huge transition in music. GNR started writing this when grunge was still huge. Since then rock has been all over the map, from post-grunge to rap rock to pop punk to Nickelback and Daughtry.
This one feels like a throwback to post-grunge, and I mean that in a good way. I could get behind this one.
That's in stark contrast to the eighth track on the album, "Scraped", which sounds like it was written six minutes ago by someone whose only influences are the bands whose shirts are sold at Hot Topic. Just tragic. Probably the worst track on the album.
"There Was a Time" - The first part of the sample was ambiguous, but sounded really good. I wanted to see what was going to happen, because it felt like the track was about to swell. Unfortunately, when it did, I didn't like where it went at all. It became very generic rock-y. The track listing says it's 6:40. There's no chance I could make it through that.
I'm going to second the "way too long" notion for the 10th track on the album, "Sorry, which has the sound of a Ratt-Cinderella-Poison hair metal love ballad. Unfortunately, I was already bored with the droning in the 30-second sample, and this thing trudges on for 6:14. No thanks.
The iTunes track listing for "Chinese Democracy".
"Catcher in the Rye" and "Riad N' the Bedouins" - These tracks feel like old school Guns N' Roses, songs that would've definitely made this album if it'd come out back in the mid-'90s when it was supposed to.
Neither wouldn't have been a single or been something you'd want to listen to repeatedly (you'd probably skip both on subsequent listens) but they have that more classic feel. And I think people buying this album are looking for a old school GNR, not to hear how their sound has evolved.
"I.R.S." - This feels like a filler track to me. I don't really have any feelings toward it. It's like on "American Idol" when Simon hears a performance and says he feels like he could hear that performance at any karaoke bar/cruise ship/talent show in America right now; I feel like I could hear this ultra-generic track on any modern commercial rock album in the world right now.
"Madagascar" - Strong job by iTunes here. The sample was plodding along, nothing too special... when, at the very end, some serious drums exploded in and the song started going to a much more hardcore rock place. Now I want to hear it. Well played again, iTunes.
"This I Love" - It's not "November Rain". But it's a song that mixes classic hair band love moaning with some vintage Axl shrieking... at least according to the sample. I can't hate it too much, but I'm not sure if it's going to be the anthem that millions of 12-year-old girls cry to after their boyfriend breaks up with them... like "November Rain" once upon a time.
"Prostitute" - I just don't know the point either. Doesn't feel like a very strong end to the album. Totally disposable and forgettable.
There are some songs that intrigue me here. Yeah, there's some good old school type stuff. But there's also a lot of weak, vision-less stuff too; some serious swings and misses.
Worth listening to some of the tracks? For sure. Did 13 years produce yet another legendary album like "Appetite for Destruction", "Lies" or the "Use Your Illusions"? Absolutely, definitively not.
Based on iTunes samples, I give "Chinese Democracy" by Guns N' Roses a six out of 11.
This post was originally published on Monday, November 24, 2008 at 12:01:00 AM under the category Music.