Chinese Democracy review: no holds barred!
21st Nov 2008 | 12:03
The painful truth about Guns N' Roses new album
After 15 plus years and $13 million spent, Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy is finally out on Sunday 23 November. So, what is it really like?
Three MusicRadar staffers (Chris Vinnicombe, Joe Bosso and Michael Leonard) listened to Chinese Democracy separately – so as not to influence each other – and these are our honest opinions of the world's most expensive album ever. We didn't compare opinions before writing.
If you are a diehard Guns N' Roses fan – or Axl Rose himself – you may want to look away now.
Or better still, tell us if we're wrong...
Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy: track by track
"A punchy, if over-processed riff drives along nicely. Axl's voice sounds great in the verses, recalling his Appetite-era menace. The shouty choruses might have benefited from a little more melody and the soloing is tedious. But a solid enough opener." CV
"Decent riff, Axl sings okay, but the lead guitars are too much. A stuttering, spluttering mess." ML
"A not-so-bad power chord riff announces 'We're off!' And then...we're not. The chorus is decent, but not memorable. And Axl's voice sounds like an impersonation. The guitar solo is flat and ultimately pointless." JB
"Is it 1993? Industrial-metal numbness, with guitar solos that sounds like a malfunctioning Nintendo. There's a tune here somewhere, lost in an insane mix." ML
"Hideous intro recalls mid-'90s video game soundtracks, and the industrial flavours are long past their use-by date. A shame because there's a decent tune fighting to get out here." CV
"Whoa, boy. That's some dated video game sounds for you. The guitar solos are literally fighting to be heard amidst the wannabe-techno clutter. Way too much going on here. If there was a song, it's lost." JB
"The guitar solos are mostly horrible. Can somebody call Slash please?"
"The strongest melodies so far. Probably about two minutes too long though and the guitar solos are mostly horrible. Can somebody call Slash please?" CV
"I think this is better. It has a groove of sorts, as opposed to chucking 67 guitars at the problem of not-having-a-song. Best so far." ML
"The best song so far, which might be why it's called Better. Sadly, what could have been a strong tune wears out its welcome. Axl just doesn't know when to stop. Three tracks in and we have yet to hear a killer guitar solo." JB
Street Of Dreams
"The ripple of piano is ominous and it signals Axl entering lighters-aloft stadium ballad mode. Axl's been trying to be Elton John and Queen at the same time since Use Your Illusion."CV
"Overwrought, too many vox overdubs, too many strings, too much of everything. Awful." ML
"Where's the chorus? This is simultaneously too much and too little."
"The piano intro is the kind that is meant to signal 'This is my next November Rain.' Problem is, Axl throws the kitchen sink at us production-wise but he hasn't written a memorable song. Where's the chorus? It's simultaneously too much and too little." JB
If The World
"A decent tune undermined, again, by lack of focus and a too-fussy R&B-ish arrangement. It shrieks, but never really rocks. Could use a Slash solo." ML
"The misguided R&B beats and cod-flamenco trappings are almost certainly surplus to requirements. Any melodic potential hamstrung by the arrangement." CV
"A Latin-tinged R&B number is a fine idea, but Axl lacks the necessary soul. The arrangement sounds forced, it doesn't flow. Vocal-wise, he's trying to emote, but he doesn't connect. It's more of an idea than a song." JB
There Was A Time
"Sounds like several different songs bolted together in a not entirely seamless manner. Strong melodies concussed by the kitchen sink and there's yet another 'call Slash' moment when the solo arrives." CV
"The melodies are decent, but the verses and chorus sound completely unrelated. A bolted-together horror." ML
"This is a cut-and-paste job. But unlike other tunes that have been welded together, this one doesn't work as a whole. There's big power chords piled on, but they don't deliver dramatic force. A fair-to-decent slow solo that Slash could've knocked out of the f-ing park." JB
Catcher N' The Rye
"All the worst excesses of the Use Your Illusion era are on display here. Axl aims for The Beatles and hits Wings instead. But still one of the record's more accessible tunes." CV
"Actually sounds like a band… for a bit. Then it starts to believe it's Hey Jude. Bombastic to the max, there's too much going on. Anyone else exhausted yet?" ML
"A piano-driven, mid-tempo song that has potential until Axl starts to believe he's going to teach the world to sing. Not that he's singing all that well - his voice is shot! The overwrought Hey Jude ending is frustrating - why can't he just keep it simple?" JB
"Echoes of Welcome To The Jungle, but again appalingly over-egged. Where's that good riff gone again? Terrible production." ML
"There's balls-out singing and there's needless screaming. This is the latter."
"Bonkers intro, too much shrieking. Yet more fucking atrocious soloing. Next!" CV
"This sounds dangerously close to a Guns N' Roses cover band trying to write an original. There's balls-out singing and there's needless screaming. This is the latter." JB
Rihad N' The Bedouins
"More aimless riffing and caterwauling in desperate need of a groove. Axl lost at sea without Izzy or Slash to provide the riffs." CV
"Chipmunk Led Zeppelin at 78rpm. More insane tuneless guitar soloing. Axl still shrieking. I am dying now." ML
"A title that flows right off the tongue. Be that as it may, there's not much here. It's just guitar madness, but not good guitar madness. Again, Slash could've turned this into something." JB
"Plodding Floyd-go-grunge filler that would have been better sacrificed in order to trim six minutes off the running time." CV
"Sorry, Axl says? He should be." ML
"'Influenced' by Pink Floyd is one thing. 'Xeroxing' them is quite another. Axl seems to think that the slower this song goes, the trippier it'll get. Unfortunately, it's just boring." JB
"Sounds virtually identical to how it did when it first leaked years ago. Strong melodies, but the arrangement sounds dated." CV
"Decent stalking riff in chorus but, I agree, it sounds old." ML
"Could've worked if it was fleshed out a bit. Might have been fresh 10 years ago, but it's reached its expiration date. Chorus is fair, but that's as far as I'll go." JB
"More overblown bombast. Rose's voice shows its age here. Although for all we know the vocal could have been recorded a decade ago. We're not sure about the wisdom of the man who penned One In A Million sampling Martin Luther King Jr alongside Michael J Fox either." CV
"The EPIC button must be broken by now. OTT horns and strings, this is like having your ears bullied. I'm now shattered and confused." ML
"You'd think Axl would have gotten the hint that this was a bloated clunker when he and 'Guns N' Roses' played it at the MTV Awards years ago. Singing-wise, it sounds like somebody 'doing an Axl,' not the real article behind the mic. And throwing in MLK... self-importance gone to the extreme." JB
This I Love
"There is no light and shade on this album: just loud and LOUDER." ML
"The piano is wheeled out again and we're really flagging now after a 13 round pummelling. Melodic potential ruined by some horrible multi-tracked vocals that genuinely make our eyeballs ache. Nurse, is the pain going to stop soon?" CV
"A long album feels even longer with yet another attempt at an EPIC IN PANORAMA. Axl doesn't build a song, he just drops it you and keeps piling, piling, piling. Without a strong foundation, however, well, you know what I mean." JB
"Whoever played the guitar solo sounds confused, and probably was."
"Does this sound good purely because it's the last song and we're astonishingly punch-drunk? Possibly, but the sense of relief is palpable. Genuinely decent melodies here handcuffed at 4:20 to the most catastrophically inappropriate guitar solo you are ever likely to hear." CV
"Axl's voice is great on this, though: he almost sounds like he's human." ML
"An average-to-good number that comes at the end of an album that has been exhausting (and not in a good way). Whoever played the guitar solo sounds confused, and probably was." JB
The MusicRadar verdict
"Over-egging the pudding on an Olympian scale, Axl Rose has single-handled created a genre all of his own here. At times bewildering and frequently exhausting, it's easy to imagine that Chinese Democracy took 10 years just to mix.
"This album is conclusive proof that Izzy Stradlin was the genuine songwriting talent in Guns N' Roses."
"There are flashes of real promise in some of the melodies here but all too often they are mired in bombast and misguided arrangements. None of the team of lead guitarists Rose has recruited are any substitute for Slash, but ultimately this album is conclusive proof that Izzy Stradlin was the genuine songwriting talent in Guns N' Roses." CV's total rating: 2.5 out of 5
"Too many ideas, too much bombast, too few memorable tunes. There's talented people here of course, but they're all at sea. Fifteen freaking years? It will be another 15 years before I listen to this album again." ML's total rating" 2 out of 5
"It's the audio equivalent of Axl erecting a monument to himself. He calls the band Guns N' Roses, but it's an Axl Rose solo album - an Axl Rose self-portrait. When he tries to recall the glory days of his former band, the music sounds forced, imitative. But mostly he tries to erase the aura of the old group, which is another kind of mistake. As a whole, there's no direction, no theme, no focus. And after 15 years, well, that's bound to happen." JB's total rating: 1.5 out of 5
Listen to the album at G N' Roses' MySpace.