Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chinese Democracy?!

I don't think anybody's holding their breath on this one (a lesson learned over the last decade and a half), but it appears that Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy album may finally be released this year.

Most of us thought it wouldn't ever happen. Some of us kind of hoped it would never happen. Count me in the latter camp.
Ever since this project began, and especially when the band started playing shows in 2000 (and again last year), I've just sort of rolled my eyes.

I cannot tell a lie. I have a deep-rooted appreciation for Guns n' Roses. They were the first band that I really got into, perhaps even obsessed with back in the day. Guns n' Roses was my graduation from a steady diet of pop music into rock and roll. Their music was contraband in our house (God forbid that obscenities should send me on a path of destruction!). I had to smuggle them in on tapes friends made for me or hide the cds that I bought when my parents dropped us off at the mall. I taped all of their videos off of MTV, and watched them obsessively (including the Rockumentary - remember those?).

So it's not as if I write off Guns n' Roses from the history of rock music. But that's just my problem - this isn't Guns n' Roses. It's Axl Rose using the band name that he had the foresight to retain when they broke up. Now, I'm not going to downplay Axl's creative contribution to G n' R's music. But he was merely one element. While there were some switchouts from the original lineup (Matt Sorum for Stephen Adler, Gilby Clarke for Izzy Straddlin'), the core of the band was always Axl, Slash and Duff. THAT was Guns n' Roses.

So I take issue with operating under the Guns n' Roses moniker. It's almost like David Lee Roth recording solo records under the Van Halen name.

And of course, 1999's "Oh My God" (from the End of Days soundtrack) and the regrouped band's performance at the 2002 VMAs did little to restore any confidence.

A good friend of mine (who, despite much overlap in our tastes, I spar with frequently on music matters) saw Guns n' Roses last year. He said it was incredible, the band was great, Axl was in good form, the set was solid, etc. I'm suspect. Said friend also said that the songs he's heard off Chinese Democracy are better than anything on the Use Your Illusion albums, which I dismiss immediately. I actually view those albums as their best.

All of this said, I've been critical of Chinese Democracy as a concept. Is Axl Rose still relevant at all? Even if the album was to see the light of day, could it really be any good minus Slash and Duff?

All of that remains to be seen I suppose. I have very low expectations, and I won't be rushing out to buy the thing. However, I will say that the buzz as the album allegedly nears release got me a little excited last week, and I listened to all of the G n' R albums in succession, which I still love.

The title track is now streaming on the band's website and through imeem. Take a listen:

Chinese Democracy - Guns N Roses

It's so-so. It isn't horrible (certainly better than "Oh My God"), but it's not great either. It sounds like a lot of other contemporary radio rock.

We'll just have to wait and see (hear) how the album plays out (if it isn't pulled), but I'm not so excited/interested in it. I'll give it a fair listen, but my expectations or horribly (and understandably) low.

For now, I'll just rock out to this:

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