17 years since their last release of new material, an alleged €13million in the making, using 17 musicians, various producers, studios and writers, one of the most delayed albums of all time is finally released. GnR may be back, but the classic 1985-1990 line-up has fallen away, apparently due to various problems with Rose, time, money and members being unceremoniously replaced.
So an album that’s taken that long to perfect would probably be the best ever written right? Well, no. From the tinny-thrash of the opening track and first single Chinese Democracy, to the piano and solo guitars of last track, Prostitute, the album is over produced, over complicated and over played. The focus is all over the place, as is probably to be expected with so many contributors and so much time, and the creative editing has been left at the door. Genre-wise, there’s hard-rock, soft-rock, M.O.R., pop, a dance feel to some stuff, lots of strings and orchestral flourishes everywhere and false endings, long outro’s, long intro’s, long solo’s, and in some places you can probably hear a kitchen sink being clanked.
Often the guitars and vocals are multi-tracked to create a wall of sound, and the sheer amount of layers on the first two songs, the title track and Shacklers Revenge, makes you wonder how much studio software Pro-Tools is to blame. However it’s not all bad. Better – possibly the album standout – is a stomper; Rose’s trademark howl in fine form. The Catcher in the Rye chugs catchily along and over a couple of listens throughout the album the melodies begin to appear, like on eighties-ish Raid n’the Bedouins and the Martin Luther King-sampling, Madagascar. There is way too much going on, but Guns n’Roses were never exactly known for their restraint. You get the feeling that if there hadn’t been such a wait it might be judged quite differently.
Chinese Democracy comes out as a ridiculously-overblown commercial hard rock album, which isn’t as good as it should be, but thankfully isn’t as bad as 17 years of self-indulgence would have signaled.