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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

edit: an amendment to this review is posted here.

Before launching into this review, there are maybe a few minor points I should address.

1. I REALLY liked GNR a lot, from the time I was 17 until around 25.

2. That was 13 years ago. My musical tastes have changed a bit since then.

3. This is Guns N Roses back in the day:


4. This is Guns N Roses today:



Ok, I think we're ready to begin the review.

I'll start with the short version:  Save your money. Even at $9.99 you're going to feel a little ripped off.

Now the longer version: 

Like a lot of folks, I was pretty excited at the prospect of a new GNR release and after hearing Metallica's new Death Magnetic I thought ok, just maybe you can resurrect the good old days after all. (If you haven't heard the new Metallica CD yet, and you liked them BEFORE Load and Re-Load, stop reading this and spend your money on that. You'll thank me. If you liked Load, I can't help you.)

Unfortunately, it would appear Metallica (and Aerosmith) are going to be a bit lonely at the "we came back from the brink of extinction" party. GNR (I just can't bring myself to call them Guns N Roses anymore) just didn't pull it off. This could be because none of the original members of GNR, save Axl Rose, are still in the band.

What we have now is an Axl Rose Tribute Band. Almost.

You know the type, right?  Guy loves a band so much, and sounds kinda like the lead singer, so he forms a tribute band and spends every night belting out his favorite tunes from the 80's while dressed more or less like his rock idol. The guy even sounds pretty close to the original, and well he's trying. The problem is, none of the rest of the band really plays that kind of music. Oh sure, they're all talented musicians, but their playing styles don't really match the band they are celebrating. So they decide to play originals, and the lead singer decides to keep emulating his rock idol. Only now, he isn't singing the classic stuff or anything that really sounds like it, but he still needs to show off his chops. (In at least one song, he actually sings Lead AND Backing vocals.) So instead of a GNR tribute band, you have a pale imitation of a Lead Singer tribute band that does their own material.

It's every bit as bad as it sounds.

For those of you who have heard the new material, before you object, yes there are a couple of good songs on Chinese Democracy. Out of 14 songs, 2 are good and 3 are listenable. The other 9 are filler crap.

Musically speaking, all of them are talented. Buckethead, while weird as hell, is a talented guitarist although he does favor the esoteric in his solos. He's just not cranking out the sound you expect on a GNR cd. Not that it matters anymore, since he left the band. He's on all but two of the (14) tracks.

For you Metallica devotees, think of this as GNR's Load and Reload, or if you must... consider it their St. Anger.
For you gamer geeks, this is the BattleCruiser 3000AD of rock. Seriously.
For you sports fans, this is Mike Tyson's "easy win" comeback fight against Danny Williams.
For you comic nerds, this is Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin, complete with latex batsuit nipples.

So much potential, wasted.

My first thought when I heard Chinese Democracy was taking a page from the AC/DC playbook (WalMart exclusive) and was going to be a Best Buy exclusive, was huh? WTF? Why would they limit themselves so much? All the folks in cities and towns without a Best Buy are just out of luck? Now I realize they did those people a favor.

Take it as a sign. And if you're in a Best Buy, just back away from the register slowly, listen to them online, and download the one or two tracks you like.

If you absolutely must hear something that sounds like new Guns N Roses (the band, not the singer) then go check out Velvet Revolver's excellent Contraband & Libertad CDs. (Sadly this group has broken up as well, so who knows when you'll hear any real GNR again?)


edit: an amendment to this review is posted here.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2008 1:47 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy review

# re: Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy review
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Amen brother...oddly enough, it was Axl's voice that turned me off the new album.

Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Nov 26, 2008 5:05 PM

# re: Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy review
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+1 on the -1...

With the entire band gone, it's not GNR. There's no dirt or grit and some of the songs even sound like they're TRYING to get POP CRED.

Good post.
Left by Lee Brandt on Nov 27, 2008 2:23 AM

# re: Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy review
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I would hardly call Velvet Revolver, G'N R.

You know, if Chinese Democracy sounded just like Appetite, everyone would be complaining that it was dated and he should have released it like 14 years ago. Some of you are gonna complain regardless.

This is a good album. Well worth the $12 at Best Buy. There are three songs that to me personally are just filler. This is what makes this a good and not a great album.
Left by w myers on Nov 27, 2008 11:36 AM

# re: Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy review
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I didn't call Velvet Revolver GNR, I suggested that if you want to hear new GNR-like material, VR is worth checking out.

I certainly don't expect Chinese Democracy to sound like Appetite for Destruction, but the fact is, what people liked about Appetite and Lies and even Use your Illusion 1 & 2 was the edge that comes from living a crappy drunken drug addled occasionally homeless life in Los Angeles. Chinese Democracy has no such edge... and honestly over half of the album is filler garbage.

Even if it were a band I'd never heard of, it wouldn't be a good album. The fact that people have expectations of quality from a band they've heard of makes it even worse.
Left by Chris Williams on Nov 27, 2008 4:26 PM

# re: Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy review
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it is nice to see GNR back. It was too long time since "Use Your Illusion". This album is not that good, but still shows that Axel is back on the track.
Left by biz on Nov 08, 2009 6:26 AM

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