After 13 years, as many millions of dollars (allegedly), 14 studios, 15 musicians and more ideas than sense, the running joke of Chinese Democracy is finally upon us. It may be a new Guns N’ Roses album in name alone but fans of what were once the biggest band in the world, will not be disappointed by what Axl Rose and his many hired hands have created.
The audacity of Chinese Democracy alone is staggering. There’s the Elton-inspired piano (the title track, -Catcher In The Rye’), industrial clamouring (-There Was A Time’), killer melodies (-Better’) and subtle hip-hop aesthetics sprinkled throughout. Thankfully, it never feels like the dated, laughing stock many were expecting. If anything, the fluidity of styles and mongrel spirit root it fi rmly in the present, which is an impressive feat given the breadth of time it took.
Predictably, Chinese Democracy’s strengths are also its greatest weakness. A lack of restraint and measure over 14 tracks makes for an incohesive whole and the obsessive pursual of Rose’s every creative impulse can be exhausting and oftentimes confusing. But when a near-balance is struck, it sounds gloriously epic (think Use Your Illusion I and II).
Given the incredible indulgence of its creation (fi nancially and artistically), anything less than the greatest record in rock history would represent failure for Rose’s pet project. On those impossible terms it’s an obvious failure but a noble one nonetheless and kudos to Rose for setting the bar that high and actually managing something none too shabby.