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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
SoulMonster

2008.11.23 - The Toronto Sun - Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Reconstruction

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2008.11.23 - The Toronto Sun - Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Reconstruction Empty 2008.11.23 - The Toronto Sun - Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Reconstruction

Post by Blackstar Sun May 30, 2021 3:39 am

Guns N' Roses: Appetite for reconstruction

By Ben Rayner
Pop Music Critic


No matter how well Chinese Democracy ultimately fares upon release today, one thing seems almost certain: W. Axl Rose will not be satisfied.

It's common sport right now to speculate on the mental state of the Guns N' Roses frontman who dithered so long on his latest record that most of us had assumed years ago we'd just never hear it, so why be any different? Certainly, the final Chinese Democracy album should only serve to reinforce and deepen the myth that has grown up around Rose during the 15 years we've been hearing about the progress he wasn't making.

Axl's been painted by the press and music-industry insiders since 1991's Use Your Illusion days as a reclusive, obsessive-compulsive perfectionist – a sort of trash-metal Brian Wilson – who simply could not bear to let his Chinese baby go. And, well, the record sounds exactly like the work of that guy.

Long on paranoid, persecuted ravings and stocked with some of the most sumptuous, meticulous and expensive digital production you'll ever hear, Chinese Democracy is not the work of a band. It's the work of an army – the army of sidemen, producers, engineers and technicians Rose has burned through since dissolving the original GNR lineup. Most tracks have five guitar credits alone, some them for people like Buckethead who haven't been in the band for years.

This was a work of assembly, teardown and reassembly on endless repeat. I go a bit batty just thinking about the effort that went into piecing together each song or about how many alternate takes there must be stacked to the rafters in Axl's mansion. I can only figure, then, that you'd go a bit batty actually making the record. Battier still, I suspect, knowing that you've let this thing get so far beyond the control you crave that it can't possibly satisfy anyone's expectations.

"It's been said that anticipation is always much greater than the `get' and that applies to this album. The myth of Chinese Democracy will always be better than the realized Chinese Democracy," says Montreal music journalist and radio host Mitch Lafon. "I was hoping he'd have called it something else. Let the mythical Chinese Democracy exist in our subconscious and our fantasy and instead release these 14 tracks as Guns N' Roses: The Next Album."

Rose must have seen the whole affair was getting cartoonish during, say, the two abortive tours conducted in 2002 and 2006 under the Chinese Democracy banner.

Was it pride that finally compelled him to release the record? Or did Geffen Records – which hasn't received an album from GNR since 1993's covers disc, The Spaghetti Incident? – finally get the legal sway to say "enough is enough"?

"I don't think they ever expected this to come out," opines local manager/producer/publisher Cameron Carpenter, who worked for MCA Records when it acquired Geffen and the Gunners from Warner Brothers for the two Use Your Illusion albums in 1991.

If reports are true, Chinese Democracy cost upwards of $13 million (US) to make, making it – as another former major-label exec remarked to me – "almost, though not literally, impossible for the record company to recoup its investment, especially in (this) godforsaken marketplace. And that's before the perhaps even higher artistic mountain they have to climb, being measured against Appetite for Destruction or, if you're slumming, the Illusions. It's almost fated to disappoint."

Carpenter agrees. "It's going to be impossible for them to recoup in CD sales," he says, although he figures Geffen can make its money back eventually through licensing to film and videogames – something it's already done with two Chinese Democracy tracks. "They're still in the black with Guns N' Roses. But it's like trying to sell the world's greatest wooden hockey stick in a composite market. The kids don't know who he is ...

"At the same time, the hard-rock market has always been somewhat recession-proof. AC/DC just sold some records. And, if you think about it," Carpenter said, extending the hockey metaphor, "this is like one of the `original six' bands. They were the kings back in the golden days of Geffen and the height of the industry in the `80s."

There's no likelihood of Guns N' Roses of reaching the sales heights it enjoyed with its 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction – which just clicked over the 18-million mark in the U.S. this year. (Since '87, only one single album has sold more: Shania Twain's Come On Over.)

All the same there is a large and devoted Cult of Axl out there that should accord the challenging, slow-paced and kinda prissy Chinese Democracy a strong wallop on the charts for the first week or two.

Priya Panda, frontwoman for local rawk outfit Diemonds, which does evoke the Sunset Strip rock sound the Gunners came to embody, is just one of the millions of record buyers who still hold the "classic" Appetite extremely dear to heart. At the time, she says, GNR was "the ultimate American rock `n' roll band."

"At the time that it came out, it was completely different than anything that was out there. It was heavy as hell and really changed what was happening in the music industry and summed up the dark undercurrent of the glamorous `80s," she says. "Like we're talking Madonna and Rick Astley and then out of f---ing nowhere there was GNFNR, you know? They took cues from what Aerosmith did, mixed it with the life of an L.A. sleazebag and a tonne of booze and drugs and out came this natural work of art and disease. As soon as I heard GNR for the first time (I knew) this was the band."

Unlike many fans who filled the Air Canada Centre for Axl's tour stops here with the "new" GNR, though, Panda says she finds it "borderline personally insulting" that Rose has carried on under the original band name. That and the fact that "this is a band that went from scaring every parent and inciting riots to having cyber-cartoon avatars on their MySpace. It's pretty low, for sure."

The numerous faceless sidemen on the new record don't help. Long gone are Appetite's lead guitarist Slash and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, both vital creative contributors. Martin Popoff, local author and the man behind venerable hard-rock mag Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles calls Chinese Democracy's GNR a "fake band."

"It's Axl with four guys who are gone from the band, four more guys who are gone from the band and four other guys. You don't know who any of them are, nor do you care," he says.

Still, he adds, all of this discussion about Chinese Democracy's release today is only setting us up for greater disappointment. At the end of the day, says Popoff, "it can't live up to anything because it's just a record.

"I know it's a good record and it's not a really light record, either. It's bloated and huge and complicated and Axl is maybe way more `prog-rock' than we knew, and you've got to give him credit for that. But it's just a record."
Blackstar
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