Chinese Democracy Review

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Guns n' Roses perform at the Roskilde festival, Denmark.

Why should I — a guy who doesn't like Guns n' Roses or heavy metal — review Chinese Democracy? Because I have it. The cool kids cutting class and smoking in the woods have no choice but to let me hang out now. (See pictures of Guns 'N Roses.)

Track 1: Better
This does not sound like 1994. The first 30 seconds are like a Rihanna song with this woman singing the chorus. Then Axl and the guitars break in, hard. It's catchy and rocking and modern sounding, and his voice sounds all over the place, in an impressive way. The chorus is from the woman, and there are some sound effects — like a rap song. And there are two short guitar solos, either from Slash, Buckethead or Bumblefoot — the first of which has a silly, fun Eddie Van Halen quality. All I get from the lyrics is that, apparently, Axl is upset about the way an ex treated him. She, apparently, is "crazy." I'm guessing she has a different take. I totally like this song. Grade: A

Track 2: Chinese Democracy
This is what took 14 years. The song actually starts with every person in China talking before there's any music. Then it starts with a riff that sounds a lot like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions. But then it gets a lot more interesting and catchy and rocks pretty hard. At first, you think it's about democracy in China — and it might be — but I'm guessing it's about a woman who changed for the worse and pissed him off. I like it, but not as much as Better. Grade: B+

Track 3: IRS
This is a really good song. Like this could sneak into a GnR Greatest Hits album and no one would notice. It starts with a sweet little wail about how a woman has changed to be no good. Then, to resolve this matter, he says he's "gonna call the President/ gonna call a private eye/ gonna get the IRS/ gonna need the FBI," which I can't get out of my head. It interrupts its super-rockingness with little bits of mellowness to keep me interested, and then some weird named guitarist rocks out and Axl's right back to calling the President. I play this all the time. I would love it a lot more if some band that wasn't heavy metal played it. Grade: A+

Track 4: Madagascar
This is that crappy song the band played when I was at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards and they sucked and he was fat and out of breath and I kept saying I was pretty sure it was a fake Axl Rose. It's Axl's attempt to do Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. It's vaguely Middle Eastern and slow and bombastic and a little trippy. But it's boring. And why does it end with all those clips of Martin Luther King Jr.? Grade: C

Track 5: Rhiad and the Bedouins
This song, oddly, starts with him wailing almost exactly like Robert Plant in Kashmir. Then Axl sings really fast. Kind of a nicely sung and interesting chorus, but the rest of it sucks. Slash/Buckethead/Bumblefoot seems to get to do whatever they like. Grade: C+

Track 6: New Song #2
Skwerl didn't know the name of this song, but I'm guessing its "Message For you" because Axl sings it more clearly than any thing else. And I'm guessing the message is "You done me wrong, girl." It's not a bad song, but it's very serious about itself and a little boring at the same time. It sounds like if it had come out earlier, Michael Bay would have used it for the soundtrack for the Transformers. Grade: B

Track 7: If The World
Pretty good for a metal ballad. I can almost picture the hot, big-haired, leather-pants girls I went to high school with having sex to this. With me. Because I have Chinese Democracy. Grade: B+

Track 8: The Blues
I'm pretty sure this is a song from some upcoming Broadway show: it's mostly just a piano and lots of emotive singing. Axl should totally be a Broadway singer. He's got the range and the histrionics. Picture Mandy Patinkin singing this: "So now I wander through my day/ Tried to find my way/ To the feelings that I felt/ I saved for you and no one else/ And though as long as this road seems/ I know it's called the street of dreams/ But that's not stardust on my feet/ that leaves a taste that's bittersweet/ That's called the blues." Again, Axl thinks some woman he loved has turned into a real bitch. Grade: B+

Track 9: There Was a Time
Again, an artsy intro. Then a ballad that kind of swings, if heavy metal ballad can swing. Oddly the verse is catchier than the chorus. And the guitarwork is kind of pretty and bluesy and mournful, as if it were hurt by a woman it trusted but then went and did it wrong. These guitars are so hurt the song lasts almost seven minutes. Grade: A-

Overall grade: B+

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