Alright, it's been a long time. Everybody gets it, but that really has nothing to do with the album. If all everyone does is focus on that then what's the point really? A review is about the music so let's cut to that. The track list is as follows:
1. Chinese Democracy
2. Shackler's Revenge
4. Street of Dreams
5. If the World
6. There Was a Time
7. Catcher in the Rye
9. Riad N' the Bedouins
13. This I Love
The album opens with a long buildup of voices and sirens before Axl's trademark caterwaul of a scream. The opening song, “Chinese Democracy,” the title track, is both brilliant and unjustifiable. It's probably the worst song on the lineup, but the way it begins is a perfect way to open an album. Then it kicks into “Shackler's Revenge,” which starts by begging you to turn it off, but if you stick with it, it quickly turns into a very catchy song with one helluva solo. Third up is the radio hit, “Sweet Child 'O Mine,” not that good, but it's definitely awesome. There's a sweet slide in there, awesome drums and a chorus that'll be stuck in your head all day. “Street of Dreams” is an awesome rock ballad. Axl pours almost as much emotion into this one as “This I Love,” the piano ballad that will have your hairs standing on end. “If the World” should have been the new James Bond theme. It certainly would have been better than the weird rap, techno thing that appeared on Quantum of Solace. Its flamenco guitars are odd, yet wonderful.
“There Was a Time” is when the album really starts to pick up. It's dark and has one of the second best solo on the album. One that, along with the solo in “Riad,” could be in the top ten solos of any Guns, though some would prefer I say Roses, song. “Catcher in the Rye” is an interesting epic, which most people, from what I've read, seem to think has something to do with the book. In reality it's more about John Lennon's death -- "On an ordinary day/Back in an ordinary way/All at once the song I heard/No longer wouldn't play for anybody/Or anyone." And the book Catcher in the Rye, happened to be with Lennon's killer and he said it was his motivation. On top of that, he wrote inside the book, "This is my statement--The Catcher and the Rye." And when the chorus begins, "The Catcher in the Rye again/Ooh won't let ya get away from his gun/It's just another day like today" It's almost too obvious that's what it's about.
Next up is “Scraped.” This song is the most interesting on the entire album. It features Axl going back and forth with himself in a clean, choir-like voice and then back to his “Mr. Brownstone”-esque sound from stanza to stanza. While it's very well put together, it might take a few listens to fall in love with (though that chorus will stick after round one). Now we come to the aforementioned “Riad N' Bedouins.” What the hell a Riad is -- I couldn't tell you, but a Bedouin is some kind of nomad, as Axl also points out in the lyrics. Excellently put together and a hard rocker, it sounds like something from the Appetite era and has arguably the single greatest solo in Guns history, along with the only F-bomb dropped on the entire album. Overall it's a great song, with a great chorus, phenomenal solo and still not the albums peak.
We're at song ten, “Sorry,” and it's a doozy. It sounds like Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath met, got into a fight in the studio and a pretty cool tune came out of it. There’s a lot going on in the backgrounds -- a lot of slow, heavy (not in the sense of hard, but heavy sounding) stuff. Then you have Axl crooning in a slow, grinding kind of way. It's really interesting and has you wondering who he's talking to when the chorus starts, "I'm sorry for you/Not sorry for me/It's harder to live with the truth about you/Than to live with the lies about me." It could be about Slash, Seymore, or anybody but it's pretty catchy and an interesting/enjoyable listen.
“I.R.S.” is probably the oddest song. It's VERY close to being one of the best, but the chorus is just out of place. It's a nice rocker, probably could be well liked in mainstream music but it's nothing special; a notch above the track's opener. “Madagascar” is a beautiful epic, it has some MLK, Cool Hand Luke and Braveheart, but that doesn't stop it from being an awesome song on the whole.
Finally, we have the last two tracks and the best two at that. “This I Love” is mostly Axl and his piano. He's singing in a way that can make your hair stand on end. It's different from anything I've ever heard from him. “Patience” is probably closest, but even that is raspy in comparison. The song is beautiful, tear-worthy and still manages to work in a pretty sweet guitar toward the end, and while it first comes in seems odd, it goes so well with its emotional sound that it's tough not to love. And then “Prostitute.” Contrary to what the title may suggest, this one is a masterpiece. It's heavy but not too heavy, Axl's voice has some of his trademark rasp but not too much. Everything is the way Goldilocks likes it, just right. It is the perfect ending in the way “Chinese Democracy” was the perfect beginning. While the opener gave you a taste of Axl and was just good enough to make you want more, this one leaves nothing to be desired. The lyrics seem to be speaking to you, while holding all of the eloquence one could imagine coming from a sort of apology. “It Seems Like Forever, And A Day/If My Intentions/Were Misunderstood/Please Be Kind, I've Done/All I Should”... Axl manages to throw everything into this without it seeming cluttered and overdone.
Overall the album is great. It has something for everyone and sounds nothing like anything I've ever heard but in the best way possible. It's brilliantly different and while some may wish the old band was still there, they never could have made this, for better or worse. Maybe someday they'll come back together, if this is what Axl had invisioned so long ago, he needed something else for it, so maybe now he can bring them all back, but probably not. Either way, in a word, Chinese Democracy is excellent.
Executive Producer, Soundcheck
Joel joined Soundcheck in 2007. Prior to that, he worked at Air America Radio’s The Al Franken Show, Broadcasting & Cable magazine and WRHU-FM in Hempstead, N.Y. His radio career began at the college/alternative station Radio K in Minneapolis.