Their last album of original material was released in 1991. There is only one original member of the band remaining. Their recent activities over the past decade have made them the laughing stock of the music industry, and most of the pop culture scene. And yet, when Guns N’ Roses’ heavily anticipated album Chinese Democracy finally became public a few weeks ago, everything seems to have been forgiven. All but the die-hard G N’ R fans had long since given up on this album. But even with the cancelled concerts, postponed release dates, and a revolving door of band members, it was inevitable the Chinese Democracy would see the light of day, and that W. Axl Rose (call him a perfectionist jerk, an uncontrollable monster, an absolute genius, whatever) would eventually release the album that fans have been craving.
In listening to the CD, which was finally released on November 28, 2008, you’ll have to convince yourself that this is no longer the band that produced ‘Paradise City,’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘November Rain’. Obviously, with almost an entirely different lineup, the sound of the album is very different from their mega-platinum record Appetite for Destruction, which made people criticize their new offering. Honestly, though, it’s a little silly to compare any of their albums to Appetite – the greatest rock and roll album ever produced. It captured everything a perfect CD should be: high quality lyrics, rocking beat, head exploding guitar riffs, perfectly executed rhythms, a flow from one song to the other, and most importantly, capturing a band, as reckless as they were, for exactly what they were, the epitome of the Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll era.
On Chinese Democracy, songs like ‘Scraped,’ ‘Shackler’s Revenge’ and the title track, show the rough edge that you know and love from the band. Songs like ‘Sorry,’ ‘This I Love’ and ‘Street of Dreams’ show Rose’s soft side. Some people might say that ‘this is not the Guns N’ Roses sound’ or ‘Axl has lost his touch,’ but one has to realize this is the new Guns N’ Roses. While Slash, Izzy, and Matt Sorum may be long gone, the music that we have been missing since the early 1990s has come back strong.
The third song off the CD, ‘Better,’ is clearly one of the best tracks to be heard. With strong lyrics, headbanging action, and Axl’s screaming voice, it brings back memories of ‘My Michelle.’ ‘If the World,’ which starts off with a little Middle Eastern guitar picking before jumping into a groovy little beat, is as pure and distinct a song as Axl has ever written. ‘There Was a Time’ is very much like a shortened, more rocking version of ‘Estranged.’ It may take a while to correctly pronounce the 9th track of the album, ‘Riad N The Bedouins,’ but that doesn’t mean it didn’t rock right out of the gate. ‘Sorry’ recalls some similar themes from the last few songs off of Use Your Illusion, while ‘Madagascar’ strongly reminds us of the classic ‘Civil War’. While ‘This I Love’ might be called a cheesy ballad, isn’t that what critics said about ‘Don’t Cry’?
There are rumors circulating that Chinese Democracy is just part one of a three-CD set that Axl plans on releasing over the next 4 years. Hopefully this is true. There are several other songs that were circulating the Internet, rumored to be included on Chinese Democracy, but were not. Could these extra songs be used for the follow-up albums?
Whether or not this album will sell millions of copies remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: it may be a different sound, a different band, a different decade, but Axl Rose is back with a vengeance, and hopefully 10 more years won’t go by before his next offering.