You know what there’s not? A dearth of reviews of Chinese Democracy. Well first of all, the only review of Democracy that anyone really needs to read is Chuck Klosterman’s. Secondly, this isn’t really a review, it’s a Popten list. And thirdly, Guns N’ Roses has been my favorite band since I was eleven, which I feel gives me a special, completely biased perspective on things.
So real quick, before we get to the list: I think Chinese Democracy is fucking awesome.
I heard it for the first time in its entirety last Friday/Saturday at midnight on 92.7FM while attending a Popten pot-luck dinner, so I was pretty drunk, but I’ve listened to it a whole lot since then, and I still think it’s super. Was it worth 14 years and 13 million clams? Of course not, life is for living, not for spending 1.5 decades slavering over a single album that you hope will make the world think it was worth spending 12/8ths decades slavering over. But what’s done is done, and all that jive aside, I can’t think of very many albums I’ve enjoyed this much since, well, Use Your Illusion II.
One more quick note. Parts of what follows might come across as Axl worship. Fair enough, but understand that it is an entirely artistic appreciation. Honestly, I doubt that I could make it through ten minutes in the same room as that guy. But boy, I’d sure love the chance to test my mettle.
After the jump, the Top Ten Things About Chinese Democracy.
10. Axl’s bizarre obsession with gimmicky guitar players. Buckethead? Bumblefoot? I’m not saying these guys aren’t amazing musicians, because gosh, they really are – much of the guitar work on Democracy rivals anything put out by GNR’s original line-up. But now that I think about it, even Slash is a guy with a made-up name and a carefully affected image. And all three of those guys have single iconic accessories! (a. KFC bucket… b. foot-and-bee-shaped guitar… c. top hat.)
9. Thank God none of these tracks sound anything like My World, Axl’s first (failed, just utterly) foray into programmable drums and ignoring everyone else in the band. That song sucked.
8. The guitar solos. Man oh man, the guitar solos on this album are great. Slash forgive me.
7. The beginning of the song Prostitute, which for a few moments sounds like a neat David Bowie song. (like, Earthling-era Bowie, which is still pretty neat.)
6. Just because it’s “over-produced” doesn’t mean that it isn’t sincere. It is. Axl is an obsessive perfectionist and a gifted control-freak, for better or for worse, and in that sense this album is a beautiful expression of himself. As Slash puts it in his best-selling autobiography, Slash (which I read on the subway tonight, while listening to Chinese Democracy on my iPod. Do I love Guns N Roses too much, you ask? Fuck you. Maybe you don’t love them enough.): “Axl is a dramatic kind of individual. Everything he says or does has a meaning, a theatrical place in his mind, in a blown-out-of-proportion kind of way.”
5. This is not the best vocal performance that Axl Rose has ever recorded – that can still be found on Appetite – but it is still hands-down about eleven times better than that of any other rock or pop or R&B singer alive today. I mean that literally.
4. The album’s credits list is longer than the lyrics sheet. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but it is distinguishing.
3. Chuck Klosterman’s unprecedentedly insightful/hilarious/humanistic review of the album.
2. The entire song Better, which is my favorite track on the album so far.
1. Despite the impossibility of separating Chinese Democracy from the circumstances in which it was made, if it were somehow able to exist in some sort of contextual-vacuum it still might well be the most interesting album of 2008, even if it isn’t the best. Which I think it might be also. But like I said, I’m having a hard time being objective here.