Sunday, November 23, 2008
CD review: Chinese Democracy
This morning, I picked up a copy of Chinese Democracy and listened to it in its entirety. Countless reviews have been published already (see post below), but I'll post my thoughts on the album, song by song.
1. Chinese Democracy opens very quietly which made me initially wonder if I had somehow purchased a defective copy off the CD or if the sound on my speakers was messed up. The noise level gradually builds, evoking the feeling of when you're at a concert and the hubbub starts to build and you realize the band is just about to go on stage. So, yes, seems like a deliberate way to begin and album that's been in production for over ten years. One minute in, the guitars start and Axl wails. This is definitely a Guns N' Roses album. Hey, and it's pretty go so far. I like it, maybe more than I expected to.
2. Shackler's Revenge. Axl's voice sounds weird. Oh wait, that isn't him, here he is. I check the liner notes. He's the only vocalist listed, so indeed it was normal Axl singing over a deep, weird Axl. I don't like the low voice thing, but the song isn't bad. It's heavier Night Train-ish stuff.
3. Better. Ew, this one's pretty bad. The heavy guitar chords sound Soundgardenesque, like something straight out of the late 1990s. And that's not a compliment. For a couple of years, I had next door neighbors who listened to terrible music- lots of Candlebox, Limp Bizkit, and Bush. This sounds like something I would have heard coming through their wall.
4. Street of Dreams. For just a split second, the opening piano sequence sounded just like the beginning of "Friends in Low Places." It's ballad time! Axl starts out singing in a weird vampire voice. You know the scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which was really funny, by the way) when Jason Segel and Jackie go to a tropical bar, and Jason Segel performs a song from his Dracula musical and starts singing in an eerie vampire voice, and everyone in the bar is like WTF? Well, that's how Street of Dreams starts out. But in a good way. As the song goes on, I like it more and more. Yes, it's campy, and theatrical, and sort of like a modern November Rain, but so far, it's my favorite track.
5. If The World. Mellow, modern sounding. I like this one, too.
6. There Was a Time sounds like classic G N' R, a calmer track that's not a ballad. The song picks up speed and gets better towards the end. Axl's vocals sound great, as do the guitar solos.
7. Catcher in the Rye. Kind of reminds me of the song "Yesterdays," which I always liked. But naming a song "Catcher in the Rye" is just plain pretentious. Sorry, Axl.
8. Scraped. More late-90s heavy guitar datedness. Do not like.
9. Riad N' The Bedoiuns. The title must allude to something, but I have no idea what. And G N' R are obviously big fans of using N' instead of And when naming things. It's pretty good, though, and sounds like their classic heavier material like Rocket Queen.
10. Sorry. Uh-oh, the weird vampire voice is back! Klosterman put it best in his review:
On the aforementioned "Sorry," Rose suddenly sings an otherwise innocuous line ("But I don't want to do it") in some bizarre, quasi-Transylvanian accent, and I cannot begin to speculate as to why. I mean, one has to assume Axl thought about all of these individual choices a minimum of a thousand times over the past 15 years. Somewhere in Los Angles, there's gotta be 400 hours of DAT tape with nothing on it except multiple versions of the "Sorry" vocal. So why is this the one we finally hear? What finally made him decide, "You know, I've weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I'm going with the Mexican vampire accent. This is the vision I will embrace. But only on that one line! The rest of it will just be sung like a non-dead human."
11. I.R.S. More of the classic G N' R sound.
12. Madagascar is by far the strangest track on the album. Axl starts out using a low, raspy voice. Why? Because it's a Sad Ballad. Towards the end of the song, an odd stream of samples are used, including several bits from Martin Luther King speeches and the movie Mississippi Burning (Perhaps Axl is trying to atone for past racist remarks?), as well as the same "What we have here" clip used in Civil War. What is going on here? Only Axl knows.
13. This Is Love is the only song on the album written solely by Axl Rose. It's another ballad, that starts out terribly- more Dracula musical stuff. It gets better, though, and goes from tolerable to almost good by the end. I never noticed how many G N' R songs suck at the beginning and then get really good.
14. Prostitute. I'm glad that this is the last song, because I'm just starting to get tired of the album. It's pretty standard, but this one has more of a polished studio feel than some of the other tracks.
Overall, Chinese Democracy is not as good as earlier albums like Appetite For Destruction, but it's not half bad. And it's definitely fun, entertaining music. Axl is the only original member still in the band, but since Guns N' Roses has always been defined by his voice and the guitar solos, this album still sounds like the band you knew and liked way back when you had braces and an unfortunate haircut. Mostly, I purchased Chinese Democracy out of pure nostalgia, and I wasn't disappointed.