Well it’s certainly not coming to the country, but one day soon the long awaited Guns’N’Roses epic album Chinese Democracy will drop. Through back channels and clandestine measures we got our hands on what will probably not be the final mix or final track listing for the album.
And before the lawyers descend upon us with cease and desist orders we’d like to say to Axl, “you’re one bad dude.” You need to finish this album up, get the $13 million monkey off your back and get back to making music. First, the copy of the album we have is good. It’s surprisingly good in fact. I don’t know if we had any expectations but shit, this bucks them all.
In some respects, I was afraid I’d become one of the Nazis looking into the Ark of the Covenant after listening to this album. My face would just melt from the spirit of Axl coming to get me. But in truth, my face did melt a little because of the music.
Does the album suffer without Slash’s guitar solos? No, it doesn’t. In fact if you didn’t know Slash wasn’t on the album you probably wouldn’t ask about his absense. Score one for the triple negative. It’s easy to deduce from listening to this that Axl Rose is the genius of the band. Genius used loosely, maybe more like hard rock maestro.
Though the album runs out of steam after the initial seven tracks, the first seven are magnificent. It features an older Axl with remorse and reflection in his voice. What’s always been great about G’N’R was the duel nature of the band. They were like that abusive boyfriend (and please we don’t make light of domestic abuse it’s a very serious issue, but it’s the only analogy for the band we could think of). One minute they could be tender and loving and the next dangerous and violent. But the swings were so frequent it was hard to tell who was the real G’N’R, or if one of those personalities would dominate. Early it was the violent one, but this time around there is a, dare we say it, tenderness to Axl Rose.
Grab a few tracks after the jump while you can before the lawyers find them and take them down.
One thing is for sure. He still rocks hard.
We’ll save you the ins-and-outs of the history of the album. In fact the fine folks at Wikipedia have done a better job compiling the skinny then we ever could. This is the track list we have:
- There Was a Time
- Catcher in the Rye
- Chinese Democracy
- The Blues
- Rhiad and the Bedouins
- Oh My God
The final three songs have been confirmed to not appear on the final album. That’s good, since the only complaints one could have with the album is with those three songs. They sort of suck big time. Like heavy metal punk meets industrial rock bad. Also too, the released album may contain 13 tracks.
Axl has said in a brief interview with Rolling Stone his favorite songs on the record are “Better,” “The Blues” and “There Was a Time.” And for good reason since those three, along with “Madagascar” and “Catcher in the Rye” are our favorites as well.
Is it true you think Axl Rose would beat Jack Bauer in a steel cage death match? Yes it is, that’s how much love we have for Axl, although the Axl on Chinese Democracy might be more apt to hug Jack Bauer.
Most of these songs sound right at home with the Use Your Illusion era. Lots of orchestral arrangements, pianos and subtle guitar licks. On “Better,” Axl laments “The hardest part of this troubled heart…is it shows the scars it got from you now.” The song is about someone who falls in love and then realizes the person they fell in love with is different. They should have known better. He screams, “I never wanted you to be someone else. I only wanted you to be you.”
It’s deceptively emotional territory for a guy who once sang about “turning a bitch over” cause he “had no better use for you.”
On “Catcher in the Rye” (could Axl be music’s JD Salinger?), the songs starts with an optimistic piano intro, which gives way to a regretful guitar lick. “Wish I could have had more fun,” he wonders. Though if Axl had more fun he may have already died. Midway through we get a nice guitar solo and some Axl “na-na-nas.”
And on “The Blues” we have another tender piano intro and then a wall of guitars. “I tried to hard to make you, to make you change your mind. It hurts to much to see you. It’s a hell I can’t describe. I walk through my days trying to find my way.”
It’s just about impossible to critique any of this. Afterall, the temptation to make jokes like Chuck Klosterman in Spin, is too great. It’s almost impossible to judge the as-yet-unreleased album on the merits of the music without talking about all the extemporaneous bullshit involved. But just listening to this album recalls how freaking awesome G’N’R was in their prime. This is solid work from Axl and he deserves to release this album on his own time frame and give it the care it deserves. Even if that means taking an entire decade-and-a-half to do so. One wonders what the reception would have been for this album had it been released in the mid-to-late-nineties.