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Chinese Democracy (Album)

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Chinese Democracy (Album)

Post by Soulmonster on Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:19 pm

CHINESE DEMOCRACY
[img][/img]
[Original cover]

Release date:
2008

Track list:


Band members talking about the album:
I was adding to ideas that were already there. The entire record was written when I joined the band, except for, I wrote the chorus to 'Better' [plays another part he wrote]. Robin wrote the main riff. [Plays teh verse riff]. Which is really interesting harmonically. [Plays more]. Other than that...there's little bits and pieces I added but most of that record was done [Intimate guitar workshop with Richard, November 2014].

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Re: Chinese Democracy (Album)

Post by Soulmonster on Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:45 am

Review in The Word, 2009:

Jim Irvin wrote:"ALL I'VE got is time" sings Axl Rose in the opening, title song of Chinese Democracy.
Indeed. It was a generation ago that Guns N' Roses last issued some original material, Use Your Illusion I & II, in September 1991, a year before the World Wide Web was launched, ten years before 9/11 or the iPod. George Bush Sr. was president. Gordon Brown was not yet even Shadow Chancellor. Barack Obama had just graduated from Harvard. There is nobody left in Guns N'Roses who played on Use Your Illusion bar Rose, who is just a few months younger than the president elect.
In other words, the world in which Guns N'Roses arrived was remarkably different to the one in which they return after 14 years work and over $13m spent. Can this record possibly be relevant? Can any record released today sell the quantity this must to recoup? Maybe, in a climate increasingly used to low–budget, low–aspiration records it will blow away all comers. Maybe its impact will be akin to Cecil B De Mille releasing a silent, black and white epic in 1956.
I can tell you you've never heard anything so worked–over, so extravagant. It doesn't sound like a band playing but a small city, every inhabitant roaring at you for attention. Just when you think a track can't get any bigger, a juggernaut full of guitars pulls up and dumps its load, until the album is a vast mountain, which unbelievably, and at great expense, has been hand–polished, until not a chip or extraneous flaw is detectable, merely so people can stand before it and wonder at the effort and the folly.
It took a modest six producers to construct. At the head of the list is Rose himself and Caram Costanzo (Pearl Jam, RATM). Whatever, this was undoubtedly one man's mission, his Xanadu, his Hearst Castle. During its exhausting 72 minutes Rose assays many of his heroes: Queen (Roy Thomas Baker was another of the producers), Led Zeppelin (two tracks, 'Riad N' The Bedouins', 'Madagascar' are indebted to 'Kashmir'), Ozzy Osbourne David Bowie and Pink Floyd (a Gilmour–style blues solo adorns sarcastic ballad 'Sorry') are all audible influences, but there are other prominent, more surprising elements too: 'Better' ("No one ever told me when I was alone, they just thought I'd know better.") has the pop gloss of a Britney Spears song. The incredibly dense 'Shackler's Revenge' starts out like The Prodigy before shunting into a massive GN'R chorus: "I don't believe there's a reason for love", while apparently random guitars writhe like snakes over it. 'Catcher In The Rye' sounds, I swear, like a summit between Take That and Metallica – a carefully crafted boy–band chord–structure with fuck–you thrash metal decoration.
This "something for everyone" aesthetic abounds. 'Scraped' is a vicious tune with a bouncy "Oh–ho" hook that's pure hip–hop. 'Madagascar' is two–parts Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' and a jigger of Jay Z with Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech thrown in for added tang. Bollywood strings, classical piano, modish auto–tuned voices, Spanish guitars, break–beats and synthesisers crop up all over the place, and there are plenty of exquisitely realised solos. Messrs. Finck, Tobias, Buckethead, Bumblefoot and Fortus – not a firm of inept solicitors but the guitarists employed on the record – do a remarkable job. Layer upon layer of sound has had to be found room for in the insanely teeming mixes, which are quite startling examples of an arcane craft.
But if one thing stands out in this epic din it is the oddness of Rose's voice, apparently fed through so many plug–ins and processors it's become barely human, that signature, stratospheric, sandblasted whine mutated into a precision–tooled weapon – Vocatron AXL™️ – which lasers itself directly into your hippocampus. When, after a fantastical guitar solo in big ballad 'There Was A Time', Rose re–enters slightly flat – just for a few milliseconds – it's an unfeasibly exciting moment: 'Something human got through!' The lyrics are often alarmingly banal but, somehow, you sense their sincerity. If he can't believe in himself what has Rose got left? You can't fault him for his fealty to the majesty of rock.
Chinese Democracy actually sounds like Russian communism; a huge Mayday parade of might and money, hardware and manpower, meticulously directed. It's pure spectacle, preposterous and temporarily awe–inspiring but ultimately about little but scale and force and lavish resources. The few hours I was allowed to listen to it passed agreeably enough, mostly with a one–eyebrow–raised "what the fuck?" look on my face. It's fascinating listening, even if only as a cautionary tale about unfettered ego, or a guide to what music will never sound like again. I can't wait to find out what becomes of it.
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Re: Chinese Democracy (Album)

Post by Soulmonster on Thu Nov 29, 2018 6:53 am

Merlin Alderslade wrote:In defence of Chinese Democracy: Guns N' Roses' misunderstood gem
Metal Hammer's Editor shares his love of Guns N' Roses' controversial 2008 album Chinese Democracy.

You had to see it right there in the shops to believe it. After 15 years, $13 million dollars, a revolving door of contributors and so many false starts it had become its own myth, Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited new album from Guns N’ Roses, was finally out in the world. The better part of two decades after Use Your Illusion I and II, it served as the first new GN’R studio album for a whole generation of rock fans, and would mean that Axl Rose could finally answer the questions that had been following him around for all those years in the wilderness. Questions like: who the fuck was actually on it? What does a Guns album without Slash sound like? And, most importantly, would it live up to 15 years of expectation and controversy?

Perhaps that last point is where most people’s assessment of Chinese Democracy is a little skew-whiff. Really, the question should never have been whether it would live up to the expectation, but whether it could have. How can you possibly give an objective opinion of an album that was already so tainted by delays that it has since become the measuring stick for MIA musical ventures? And that’s not to mention the fact that a Guns N’ Roses album without, well, pretty much all of Guns N’ Roses, is going to be greeted by unprecedented cynicism from even the most battle-hardened Axl fanboy.

Upon release, ten years ago this past week, reviews were decidedly mixed. Rolling Stone described Chinese Democracy as a “great, audacious, unhinged and uncompromising hard-rock record”, awarding it 4 out of 5 stars. The Guardian gave it a solid but unspectacular 3 stars, stating that it “wears its agonising gestation like a badge of honour.” Many were less kind: Pitchfork gave the album a kicking, describing it as “prosaic letdown”, while Hammer’s own reviewer gave the record a measly 5/10, bluntly asking, “where’s the swagger? The danger?”

Commercially, the album did pretty well – debuting at number 2 and 3 in the UK and US respectively, eventually turning Platinum – but was deemed a disappointing performance overall, especially given its lofty production bill. It quickly slumped back down album charts after the initial hype faded, doing little to convince fans that Axl was justified in seizing control of the band and making it his own pet project in the first place. The new tracks rarely garnered much of a response live, either – even the sight of Slash solo-ing the fuck out of Better on the recent reunion shows provided a paltry reaction compared to a Rocket Queen or a You Could Be Mine.

And what a shame that is. Because here’s the truth of the matter: take away the circumstances of its creation and the context of its release, and Chinese Democracy slams. It’s a damn good album – fuck it, it’s a great album, and occasionally exceptional. It’s an explosive, fantastical, multi-multilayered rock ‘n’ roll opera, but more importantly than that: it’s absolutely stacked with great songs.

Let’s take it track by track. Chinese Democracy might not be on a Welcome To The Jungle level as an album opener (come on, what is?), but it’s an absolute beast of a song in its own right – a snarling, sarcastic, proudly messy banger underpinned by a riff dragged straight out of an LA gutter. Shackler’s Revenge follows: a claustrophobic, eccentric mish-mash of sparring sounds, with a particularly loopy, industrial-metal-on-crap-speed pre-chorus suggesting that Axl was binging on Nine Inch Nails at some point in the album’s lengthy conception. And it works! Better is up next: a song packing a chorus so meaty even the most cynical GN’R nostalgist can’t possibly deny it, with some particularly worthy guitar work from Robin Finck.

After that comes what might just be the centrepiece of the whole record: a triple-whammy of power ballads worthy of any lighters-or-phones-in-the-air moment. Street Of Dreams, with a piano line straight out of the Elton John book of songwriting, and If The World, its flourishes of flamenco guitar and scatty percussion bathed in a warm wash of strings, are both anthems worthy of the GN’R moniker. But it’s There Was A Time – the best track on the record – that really steals the show. A stirring, strings-powered colossus, it’s the kind of song that’d have people slathering if it was released under the umbrella of a Use Your Illusion III in 1995. If you’re keeping score, that’s six straight-up screamers all dished out one after the other.

The album admittedly takes a slight dip here – Catcher In The Rye is another decent ballady number but a step below its predecessors. while Scraped and Riad N’ The Bedouins feel like two sides of a coin found down the back of Axl’s sofa, even if the latter has some interesting, self-deprecating lyricism going on. Then, however, comes the outstanding Sorry – an embittered, bile-spitting Western waltz that sees Axl at his most typically defiant, his goading vocals propelled by the heaviest riff on the album.

.R.S. is a (relatively) simplistic but effective rocker that fans had been used to hearing live for a couple of years before the album actually dropped, while Madagascar – an impassioned horns, strings and kitchen sink epic – had been knocking around since way back in 2001. In truth, perhaps the latter would have been the best place to let Chinese Democracy finish, as the two tracks that follow – the overwrought This I Love and messy but dramatic Prostitute – are decent but not quite in the same league.

Still, though: at its very worst Chinese Democracy is merely ‘OK’, while at its best it’s nothing short of fantastic. There are a flurry of songs that should stay in GN’R setlists for years to come, and moments that none of the other members of Guns have managed to match in any of their time away from the fold. If this had been released as an Axl Rose solo record in the aftermath of a more amicable Guns N’ Roses split, it’d have been embraced with open arms. Actually, I’ll go one better: if this was the album that the now-reunited lineup decided to put out in 2019, it’d be heralded as a thunderous comeback and end up topping a ton of end-of-year-lists. You know I’m right. So, forget the background noise and give Chinese Democracy the credit it deserves: a killer rock ‘n’ roll record with scope, ambition and, most importantly of all, kickass songs. Happy birthday, kween.
Source: https://www.loudersound.com/features/in-defence-of-chinese-democracy-guns-n-roses-misunderstood-gem
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Re: Chinese Democracy (Album)

Post by Blackstar on Sat Dec 01, 2018 6:05 am

Review from The New York Times, November 20, 2008:

John Pareles wrote:
How Axl Rose Spent All That Time

“ALL I’ve got is precious time,” W. Axl Rose sings in the title song of Guns N’ Roses’ new album, and he must be well aware of how that line sounds now. Mr. Rose, 46, the only remaining original member of Guns N’ Roses, needed 17 years, more than $13 million (as of 2005) and a battalion of musicians, producers and advisers to deliver “Chinese Democracy,” the first album of new Guns N’ Roses songs since 1991. It’s being released on Sunday, with CDs sold exclusively at Best Buy. (In another 21st-century fillip the album’s best song, “Shackler’s Revenge,” appeared first in a video game, Rock Band 2.)

“Chinese Democracy” (Geffen) is the Titanic of rock albums: the ship, not the movie, although like the film it’s a monumental studio production. It’s outsize, lavish, obsessive, technologically advanced and, all too clearly, the end of an era. It’s also a shipwreck, capsized by pretensions and top-heavy production. In its 14 songs there are glimpses of heartfelt ferocity and despair, along with bursts of remarkable musicianship. But they are overwhelmed by countless layers of studio diddling and a tone of curdled self-pity. The album concludes with five bombastic power ballads in a row.

“Chinese Democracy” sounds like a loud last gasp from the reign of the indulged pop star: the kind of musician whose blockbuster early success could once assure loyal audiences, bountiful royalties, escalating ambitions and dangerously open-ended deadlines. The leaner, leakier 21st-century recording business is far less likely to nurture such erratic perfectionists. (Mr. Rose did manage to outpace Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, which re-emerged on tour this year but hasn’t yet released a successor to its 1991 masterpiece, “Loveless.”) The new rock paradigm, a throwback to the 1950s and early 1960s, is to record faster, more cheaply and more often, then head out on tour before the next YouTube sensation distracts potential fans.

“Chinese Democracy” is such an old-school event that at this point no album could easily live up to the pent-up anticipation and fascination. Over the last two decades Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 debut album, “Appetite for Destruction,” has sold 18 million copies in the United States alone. The original band, particularly the guitar team of Slash on lead and Izzy Stradlin on rhythm, collaborated to forge a scrappy combination of glam, punk and metal behind Mr. Rose’s proudly abrasive voice, which could leap from a baritone growl to a fierce screech. Singing about sex, drugs, booze and stardom, Mr. Rose was a rags-to-MTV success story for the 1980s: a self-described abused child from heartland America who got himself out of Indiana and reinvented himself as a full-fledged Hollywood rock star, charismatic and volatile, never pretending to be controllable.

Amid tours, band members’ addictions and liaisons with models, Guns N’ Roses went on to make an EP and the multimillion-selling albums “Use Your Illusion” I and II, which were released simultaneously in 1991. Those were followed by a desultory collection of punk-rock remakes, “The Spaghetti Incident?,” in 1993, before the band splintered and left Mr. Rose as the owner of the Guns N’ Roses brand. Clearly it would be a very different band, but there was little doubt that Mr. Rose had more to say.

He has been announcing the impending completion of “Chinese Democracy” since at least 1999 and has been singing many of its songs on tour since 2001. Concert bootlegs and unfinished studio versions circulating online have defused some of the surprise from the finished album. Yet meanwhile, year after year, Mr. Rose worked on and reworked the songs. The album credits list 14 studios.

For years Mr. Rose has been tagged the Howard Hughes of rock, as his manager at the time was already complaining in 2001. That didn’t have to be a bad thing; estrangement and obsession have spawned great songs. But “Chinese Democracy,” though it’s a remarkable artifact of excess, is a letdown. Mr. Rose’s version of Guns N’ Roses, with sidemen he can fire rather than partners, leaves his worst impulses unchecked.

Guns N’ Roses is still collaborative; the songs on “Chinese Democracy” are credited to Mr. Rose along with many of the musicians who have passed through the band since the mid-1990s. The guitarists Buckethead and Robin Finck, the bassist Tommy Stinson and the drummers Josh Freese and Brain pushed Mr. Rose toward rock, others toward ballads. By way of comparison with the old Guns N’ Roses, Mr. Rose’s latter-day songwriting tilts more toward the pomp of “November Rain” than the thrust of “Welcome to the Jungle” or the pealing guitar lines of “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” The one song on “Chinese Democracy” written by Mr. Rose alone, “This I Love,” is by far the album’s most maudlin track, and he hams it up further with a vibrato vocal homage to Queen’s Freddie Mercury.

Like the old Guns N’ Roses albums “Chinese Democracy” whipsaws between arrogance and pain, moans and sneers. The present-day Mr. Rose presents himself as someone beleaguered on every front, a cornered character with nothing to lose. He’s tormented by inner demons and, from outside, by antagonists, lovers and users who constantly betray and exploit him. “Forgive them that tear down my soul,” he croaks in “Madagascar,” amid French horns playing a dirge. (The middle of that song inexplicably gives way to a collage of movie dialogue and speeches by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

All the labors of Mr. Rose and his various lineups, both inspired and overblown, come through the finished album. Mr. Rose and his co-producer, Caram Costanzo, just keep piling up the sounds. String orchestra? Toy piano plinks? Voices muttering in foreign languages? Harp? Drum machines? Choirs? “I Have a Dream”? They’re all there, along with indefatigable drums and phalanxes of guitars.

“Chinese Democracy” reveals multiple archaeological layers, including what might have been passing fascinations as the 1990s and early 2000s rolled by: the Metallica of “Enter Sandman” in the surly, self-righteous “Sorry”; the distortion effects of Nine Inch Nails in “Shackler’s Revenge”; U2’s sustained guitars and martial beat to begin “Prostitute”; a combination of Elton John piano and strings (arranged by Mr. John’s longtime associate Paul Buckmaster) with Smashing Pumpkins guitar crescendos in “Street of Dreams.”

Some of the album’s best moments are its intros. Flaunting what time and money can accomplish, there are gratuitous ear grabbers like an a cappella vocal chorale in “Scraped,” a siren matched by a siren swoop of Mr. Rose’s voice in “Chinese Democracy” and the narrow-band, filtered beginning of “Better.” That track goes on to hurtle across so much of what Guns N’ Roses does well — from steel-clawed hard-rock riffs to metallic reggae-rock to arena-anthem melodies — that it almost makes up for the whininess and lazy “-tion” rhymes of the underlying song. “If the World” opens with acoustic guitar lines suggesting a Middle Eastern oud but segues into wah-wah rhythm guitar and sustained strings fit for a blaxploitation soundtrack, while Mr. Rose unleashes something like a soul falsetto.

Is it demented? Sometimes. Does Mr. Rose care? Apparently not. “I am crazy!” he belts over the frantic guitar and tom-toms of “Riad N’ the Bedouins,” while he’s a potentially trigger-happy maniac in “Shackler’s Revenge.” In “Scraped” he’s alternately depressive and manic, warning “Don’t you try to stop us now” over a riff fit for Led Zeppelin. “Catcher in the Rye” echoes the Beatles in its melody while it alludes to Mark David Chapman, who was carrying that book when he killed John Lennon: “If I thought that I was crazy/Well I guess I’d have more fun,” he sings.

Even when he’s presumably being himself, Mr. Rose is forever overwrought. He pushes his multiply overdubbed voice every which way — rasping, sobbing, cackling, yowling — while at the same time Mr. Finck, Buckethead and Ron (Bumblefoot) Thal are playing frantic guitar solos, with a mandate to wail higher and zoom faster.

The craziness on “Chinese Democracy” isn’t the wild, brawling arrogance that the young Mr. Rose and his rowdy ’80s band mates gave the fledgling Guns N’ Roses. It’s the maniacal attention to detail that’s possible in the era of Pro Tools: the infinitude of tiny tweaks available for every instant of a track, the chance to reshape every sound and reshuffle every setting, to test every guitar solo ever played on a song — or all of them at once — and then throw on a string arrangement for good measure. That microscopic focus is obvious throughout “Chinese Democracy”; every note sounds honed, polished, aimed — and then crammed into a song that’s already brimming with other virtuosity. At points where the mix goes truly haywire, like the end of “Catcher in the Rye,” a Meat Loaf song title sums things up: “Everything Louder Than Everything Else.”

It’s easy to imagine Mr. Rose determined to outdo his own brazen youth and his old band, but with less perspective and hundreds of new tracks as each year goes by. If Guns N’ Roses had released “Chinese Democracy” in 2000, it would still have been an event, but it might also have been treated as the transitional album in a band’s continuing career. By holding it back and tinkering with it for so long, Mr. Rose has pressured himself to make it epochal — especially if, on this timetable, the next Guns N’ Roses studio album doesn’t arrive until 2025. And fans were waiting for him to defy the world again, not to do another digital edit. Sometime during the years of work, theatricality and razzle-dazzle replaced heart.

As Mr. Rose bemoans the love that ended or vows to face life uncompromised and on his own, the music on “Chinese Democracy” swells and crashes all around him, frantic and nearly devoid of breathing space. It’s hard to envision him as the songs do, that besieged antihero alone against the world, when he’s sharing his bunker with a cast of thousands.

Correction: November 30, 2008
An article last Sunday about Guns N’ Roses misstated the name of a video game that first featured their song “Shackler’s Revenge.” It is Rock Band 2, not Rock Star 2.
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