First the bad news: Chinese Democracy is not the heavy metal sonic assault suggested by the early release of the title track. On the other hand, it very well may be the best album of the year.
After a rock band becomes a major success, they’re really in a ‘no win’ position. If they try to break new artistic ground, exploring different sounds or influences, they’ll invariably hear complaints that they were better the way they ‘used to be’. If they keep doing things the same way, a band risks losing any sort of artistic relevance and becoming a ‘nostalgia act’. Some bands try to stay innovative for awhile, but eventually assume the role of a ‘nostalgia act’ due to the financial upside that sometimes results.
Axl Rose could have taken the same route with Guns n Roses. Patch things up with former lead guitarist Slash and they could have toured forever playing the old songs for nostalgic fans and made a ridiculous amount of money. To some extent, Slash has chosen this route with his band Velvet Revolver. They play similar blues based hard rock to vintage GnR, and brought in former Stone Temple Pilots vocalist Scott Weiland on vocals (who sounded almost just like Axl on a number of the early STP songs)
Axl refused to play the nostalgia game. He deserves credit for this, but he doesnt have much of a knack for self promotion or media spin. For that reason, there are plenty of people including media and critics that have predisposed to hating this album before it was released or even having heard any of it.
Many albums are fairly straightforward and are easy to figure out with a couple of listens. They fit a certain formula, with a power ballad, a hit single, a filler song, etc. Others evolve and change with repeated listening”different songs become your favorites, you notice new things about ones you thought you knew well and most significantly songs that you glossed over the first time around start to grow on you.
On Chinese Democracy is definitely an album that lends itself to repeated listening. A great case in point is the song ‘Better’ It doesn’t really jump out on first listen, but may be the catchiest pop song since The Killers first album.
One of the real triumphs of Chinese Democracy is the difficulty that a listener has in pigeonholing the songs. There’s definitely a lot of the Elton John-esque piano material first heard on the ‘Use Your Illusion’ releases but overall its evident that the band is breaking entirely new musical ground and even they don’t really know where they’ll end up.
Perhaps the worst thing about ‘Chinese Democracy’ is that a number of the songs have clearly been overproduced–not really surprising for an album that took so long to make. The best example of this may be ‘Madagascar’–the band has been playing this song live for almost a decade, but the finish product doesn’t have the same ‘edge’ or emotion that has been on display during live performances.
Still, that’s a very minor caveat about what is overall an amazing piece of work. Hopefully those who have bought in to all of the negative media hype can put their prejudices aside and give ‘Chinese Democracy’ about it. They’ll hear the powerful sound of a great band charting new musical frontiers which is what rock music is supposed to be about.
Ross Everett is a experienced freelance writer who covers travel, poker and Uk marriage visa sports handicapping. He is a staff handicapper for Anatta Sports where he is responsible for providing daily Uk marriage visa free sports picks. In his spare time he enjoys fine dining, fencing and scuba diving. He lives in Las Vegas with four dogs and a pet coyote.
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