Wednesday, November 26, 2008

{Cough, Chinese Democracy, Cough}

Forget, just for a minute, about Guns N’ Roses. Forget about who Axl Rose is and what is wrong with him and forget about all the hype and waiting attention this album has got. Just let that ease out of your mind and take this as a singular grouping of songs on a disc called “Chinese Democracy.” It’s best treated standing alone; by itself with no specific expectations. Just start it and see how it comes out. It at least deserves that much after all the sweat, time, and money poured into it.

And there lies the biggest compliment that can be said here: the musicianship is fantastic. It really caught me off guard how layered and polished everything sounded (almost too much at times though). You can tell everyone involved was trying and trying really, really hard. That’s the biggest pro here, but thank goodness it’s not the only one. I didn’t buy this album, but I’ve listened to it a few times. After two or three listens, I can conclude there’s much more worse investments out there (especially nowadays). While there's no "November Rain" to be found here, at least there's no "Get In The Ring" either:

Cons: Starting out with the weaknesses, sometimes the material is too layered and too bloated. The effort to make it big is appreciated, but sometimes simple is better and much more coherent. Multiple listens must be experienced to get a real feeling for most of the tracks; which brings up some of the song’s life span’s. “There Was A Time”, while being a solid number, is far too long and runs out of steam quicker than estimated. Same thing for “This I Love“. It works well as a complex love ballad, but could’ve been cut a tad short. “Catcher In The Rye” is a pretty lifeless 6 minute track and the disappointing closer “Prostitute” has the sound of a band running on fumes. And even though it’s appeared to be the most popular song off the album thus far, I’m still not quite feeling the title track. It gets the blood going, but that’s about it. And that’s about it for the cons. Expecting more? So was I.

Pros: While sometimes too layered and BIG in sound, there are moments here that flow shockingly well. “Sorry” is a terrific song; a opus that sounds effortlessly created yet contains just a powerful emphasis. Then there’s “Madagascar” which is the complete opposite: It tries ridiculously hard to be epic and yet still works great; although it doesn‘t really pick up until the half way mark (the Martin Luther King Jr./Cool Hand Luke segment is wonderfully bombastic). “Better” overcomes a bad opening to become another high point and the heavy foot-stompers such as “IRS”, “Shackler’s Revenge”, and “Scraped” are fun listens just for that very purpose. I also have a feeling that “If The World” is going to become the underrated gem of this album when everyone looks back on it. It sounds like a cross between Alice In Chains and Steely Dan to me; no matter how weird that sounds. The most shocking pro though is the fact that you forget about the loss of Slash. The guitar play is very respectable and doesn’t try too hard to be what Slash was.

There are still a couple of things I gotta wrap my brain around and that will come in time with increased listens. “Street Of Dreams” keeps alternating between above average rock ballad and filler the more I hear it while “Raid N’ The Bedouins” sounds like a snapshot of a much larger Tool song. But all in all, this is an extremely interesting experience. And that’s a large pro in my book.


The Hemogoblin said...

If only Axl Rose wasn't a selfish, money-grubbing bastard, and this album was done for the love of the music, it'd be perfect.

(Read as "Slash is missing")

Robert Langellier said...

I don't think that would be different if Slash were there.

I've listened to little tiny snippets of Chinese Democracy. It sounds okay. Not awful. Not anywhere close to buyable.