I'm probably about as unbiased as they get when it comes to Guns N'Roses, so what follows is my humble, half-assed review of the newly released Chinese Democracy.
I was never a big fan of Guns N' Roses back in the day when they were big. Back when everyone and their dog liked them. I can't put my finger on any specific reason why I didn't like them. Maybe it was Axl's voice... or that goofy swaying back and forth thing that he did while singing... or maybe the head scarf... I don't know. I just didn't like them.
It wasn't until (many) years later when they more or less disappeared that I started to enjoy a few songs from Appetite for Destruction. I even got one of the Use Your Illusion albums, although I can't recall if it was 1 or 2. Mind you, the only reason I did get it was because I forgot to return the card to Columbia House so they wouldn't send it to me. Once I had it, curiosity got the best of me and I kept it.
A year or two ago, I won 2 tickets from a local radio station to a GNR concert here in Ottawa. (Why do I win things that I could care less about? Why not a million bucks??) I went to the show and I actually enjoyed it. The head scarf was gone, but Axl still did that swaying thing. Thankfully, it wasn't enough to ruin the show for me.
Which brings us to the long-awaited Chinese Democracy.
I picked up a link to the GNR site via Twitter, where the entire album was streaming for all to listen to. I slapped on some headphones while I was at work and listened, as I worked away during the day.
The first time through was "meh". A couple of hard-edged GNR-like songs and some really different songs, quite unlike the GNR that I knew.
By the third or fourth listen, the songs started to grow on me. So much so that I went out yesterday and bought the CD. I probably could have found it online somewhere and downloaded it, but I'm a firm believer in paying for what I like to listen to.
The reviews of Chinese Democracy have been mixed. The comments on those reviews are also mixed. I'll use a common quote from many of them: "This isn't Appetite for Destruction". Words could not be more true. I'm sure that anyone who expected it to be that is disappointed.
I've read many references to possible influences throughout the album; Linkin Park, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, U2, and even Roger Waters and Elton John. I have to include Queensryche among them. They're all there -- some more obvious than others. But realistically, is it even possible these days to write a new song without having it compared to the style or sound of any existing or past bands? How can any musician or song writer not allow the music they listen to influence their own music?
Anyway, as I alluded to above, this isn't an instant "I love it and gotta have it" album -- at least it wasn't for me. I think that anyone who dismisses this album as crap after one listen, or based on hearing one or two tracks on the radio, is really missing out (aside from those who never have, and never will, like Axl Rose's voice)
But for those of you who don't mind Axl, give this album a chance. Put aside the fact that the name of the band is Guns N'Roses. Pretend it's a new band. And then listen to the entire album, more than once. Or twice. Open your mind and listen to what this album has to offer. There's some good stuff in there. Accept it for what it is -- don't knock it for what it isn't. And if you still don't like it, you can go back to your other bands dishing out the same old canned formula.
The stream is still active here.