Friday, February 24, 2012
Review of Chinese Democracy, by Guns N' Roses
This is a review I wrote a couple of years ago. Being that this is my first one, it could be better. I felt that it wasn't too bad though, so I posted it.
There are some things that I would like to say about Guns N' Roses. It is not a secret that the singer, Axl Rose is the only original member left in the band. Many criticize him for keeping the band name. However, the choice to do this was not of his making, but the record label's. Many people feel that without Slash and the original line-up, that Rose could not ever make any good music ever again. These people who feel this way are then biased and don't even give the new album a chance.
I understand that when they hear the name Guns N' Roses, they expect to hear a certain kind of sound. However, that is still not a good reason to hate the music that is on the album just because it is not what is expected. The saying, "A book shouldn't be judged by its cover." has a good place in this situation.
Just because this isn't the line-up people grew up with, it doesn't mean the tracks are no good. Chinese Democracy is a seriously under rated album and it is a crying shame that it has under sold as much as it has. This new line up has worked hard for several years to put together this masterpiece of an album.
I know that 15 years is a long time for an album to be made, but not every single thing that went wrong was just any one person's fault. Therefore, if after reading this review and listening to the tracks on the GN'R myspace, I encourage and implore you to go and by Chinese Democracy. You can find it on iTunes and at your local Best Buy.
Track 1: Chinese Democracy
Track 1 of Chinese Democracy is the track that self titles the album. It was the first single from the album to be put on radio. It starts off with what sounds like Chinese people chattering in the streets along with some oriental sounding string backing. Then, there is a muted single string guitar part that comes in which leads into a very distorted and heavy main riff which is soon accompanied by a very refreshing scream from Axl. Then, the bulk of the song starts. It is a political song about how communism in China is failing and how democracy is needed over there now. Its very heavy and pounding throughout the whole song, with some kick ass solos from Buckethead. The song then ends very similarly to the intro to the song. Overall, its a very worthy title track and is definitely worthy of being on radio.
Track 2: Shackler's Revenge
Shackler's Revenge is a rather odd track for being considered a GN'R song. It is enjoyable nonetheless though. It is an industrial style song with Buckethead taking over the entire lead guitar part. It starts off with a rather unexpected almost techno riff. Then, the guitars come in and the singing starts. In this song, Axl shows off how low he can sing, rather than how high. However, there are some higher register singing parts in the song. The song's guitar solos are amazing. Buckethead tears it up. The song ends with the same techno riff and then shuts off abrubtly. It's a very good song to listen to if you're angry because anger seems to be the tone of the song. Brilliantly done in my opinion.
Track 3: Better
Better was the other single from the album put on radio. It starts off with a fairly quiet and high EQ treble single string melody. Then, the rhythm guitar part and the other parts come in and make the song a lot heavier really quickly. I quite admire the way it was done. The song is about one of Axl's past girlfriends. It is a very heavy metal song that just won't stop with the energy throughout the whole song. It has a very memorable melody that you can find yourself singing and humming from time to time. In my opinion, it was a very good choice to put this song on the radio. It has 2 distinct guitar solos that are both quite different in style. But they both fit in the song and make it that much better. In my opinion, Better couldn't be better.
Track 4: Street of Dreams
Originally, this song was going to be called The Blues. However, the name was changed at the last minute before the album was released. Street of Dreams is a piano driven song that is not quite hard rock, but not quite middle of the road either. It has a very interesting balance of piano, guitars, and vocals. The song starts out with a very pleasant piano part done by Dizzy Reed. As it progresses, its joined by soft guitar chords in the background. Then, Axl comes in with a bit of what sounds like a croon. The solos in this song are done by Robin Finck. In my opinion, these are very well crafted and go with the song perfectly. They are very heart felt and amazing. Throughout the song, there are some synthesized string parts, but they also fit in very well. If you like piano driven rock, you'll like this song.
Track 5: If the World
If the World was one of those songs that took a little time for it to grow on me. It starts off with a very Arabian sounding acoustic guitar part. The majority of the song though is synthesized strings, Axl singing, and low power chords. The solo is very nice and is a good part of the song. My favorite part of the song though is the part where it sounds like the song is playing through an old AM radio and then comes back to sounding normal. The way its done works so well and fits so perfectly, that I was pumped when I first heard it. It reminded me of the intro to Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd. Not the best track on the album, but it is definitely worth listening to.
Track 6: There Was a Time
There was a time starts off with a very interesting choral part that is then joined by synthesizer and then leads into Axl singing with Robin Finck playing a held out guitar part to accompany Axl. The song seems to have a minor scale feel to it. The subject matter of the song is prostitution. There is a solo in the song done by Buckethead, and one by Robin. Naturally, the Buckethead solo is more of a shredding solo, but it works. The song has an R&B kind of feel to it, but its still good. It's the longest song on the album with a duration of 6:41 The song ends very similar to the sound of the beginning. This song took a couple listens to get a feel for it, but after I did, it seemed better to me. Definitely one of the better songs on the album.
Track 7: Catcher in the Rye
What is interesting about this song is that it was originally going to feature a guitar solo done by Brian May, of one of the most phenomenal bands of all time, Queen. However, it was later decided during the development of the album that the solo recorded by Brian May should be replaced by one done by Bumblefoot. In my opinion, both solos are good. Also, if you look on youtube, you can find the demo of this song with Brian May's solo. Anyway, this is a very melodic song. I've often found myself singing along to it. Catcher in the Rye has a lot of focus on guitars, yet it isn't that heavy of a song. This is easily one of my top favorites on Chinese Democracy. It is very upbeat and actually pretty bright, despite the fact that the subject matter is the murder of John Lennon. I would recommend this song to anybody.
Track 8: Scraped
Scraped is definitely a rocker. Its very heavy and has a lot of distortion on the guitars. It starts off with a fascinating vocal intro done by Axl. It then leads into a heavy guitar intro. What I like about this song though isn't just that its heavy, but that it features a lot of Axl Rose's vocal range. At some points he's going really high, but others fairly low. It features a really cool solo that is undeniably done by the guitar master, Buckethead. What is most interesting about this song though is that it gives a very positive message. It tells the listener to believe in his/herself and that s/he is worth more than they tell him/her. This is definitely a headbanger tune and is a good choice for rocking out to.
Track 9: Riad N' the Bedouins
This song is one of the most unique songs on Chinese Democracy. Its intro features a lot of different sound bits that all blend together very well and lead into the song perfectly. Riad is the only song on the album to have an "F Bomb". It was one of the first of the new songs that the new Guns N' Roses line up performed once they started doing live shows. Riad N' the Bedouins was the first song that was actually put on Chinese Democracy to be played live after the song Oh My God that was written for the movie End of Days was performed at the same show. This song is also another real rocker. It has a nice blend of heavy power chords and really thin and quick notes done by Buckethead and Bumblefoot. Axl uses a lot of his higher range vocals to make the harmonies and heaviness of this song that much better. If you're looking for a song that is really unique, this is definitely one worth checking out.
Track 10: Sorry
Sorry actually featured former Skid Row lead vocalist Sebastian Bach on backing vocals. This is a not so heavy song. It is slow paced, yet has a rhythm that you can kind of sway to. As the song progresses, more and more instruments come in, adding to the richness this song truly has. The chorus is where the guitar parts get a tad thicker to give the singing the backing that it needs to make it the emotional powerful house it is. The solo is a very beautiful slow paced one done by Buckethead. It is minor, yet sounds like it has blues influence to it. The song sounds like Rose could be singing about an ex-girlfriend/wife, but it also sounds like he could be singing about his former bandmates. Either way, this is a pretty cool song.
Track 11: I.R.S.
This is another hard rocker that you can bang your head to. It features a lot of heavy chords set in more minor scales. The intro is a neat combination of acoustic guitar chords and high drawn out electric guitar single string parts. Then not too long after this gets started, the other electric guitars come in with the chords and then Axl begins to sing. Throughout the song though, you can hear the acoustic playing at certain parts adding to the musical value of the song. What I also liked about I.R.S. was the parts where Axl would hold out a really high note for a good few seconds before letting it go. The guitar players did wonderful in this song. The outro is just like the intro in where there is both acoustic chords and electric single string in a blend that goes very well.
Track 12: Madagascar
I'm going to be honest, I didn't really like this song the first time I listened to it. However after a while, I started liking it. This is not a rock song at all by any means, but it is still good. This is a very political song showing Rose's strong beliefs. The beat has a very R & B feel to it. There is also a lot of synthesized violins, violas, cellos, etc. There are quite a few guitar parts in this song, but I wouldn't say that they are ever the main focus that much. The guitar solo was actually played by Axl over sound clips from speeches from Martin Luther King Jr and some movies. It isn't an especially intricate or tough solo, but it still fits with the song. If you're into political songs, Madagascar is right up your alley.
Track 13: This I Love
I fell in love with this song the moment I heard it. The piano in this song was played by Rose and is the oldest song on the album dating all the way back to 1994. It is a very sad and emotional song about Axl's ex-wife with some wonderful, yet heart breaking lyrics. This song also features synth strings, but they are a very nice touch. There are even some subtle horns thrown into the song that add some nice feel. What really impressed me though were the parts where Axl would not only hold out a note, but he would bend it into different notes all in the same breath. The most heart piercing part of the song though is Robin Finck's guitar solo. I actually shed a tear the first time I heard it because of how well it fit into the song and how beautiful it actually was. To this day, my spine still tingles a bit when I hear it coming. Then during the breakdown, the drums come in, and the song comes to a very soft and dramatic end. This I Love is easily another favorite of mine from Chinese Democracy. For those of you who like sad songs, this is for you.
Track 14: Prostitute
The album closer of Chinese Democracy, Prostitute is another song that had to take some time to grow on me. It is a very good song though. It has a very soft synth intro with a really soft drum beat that I like very much to back it. Then, the piano and guitar being played by Buckethead come in and Axl starts singing. Then when you least expect it, the full band comes in and the song gets somewhat heavier, yet is still driven by the synth strings and the piano. The tempo is somewhat below a running speed, but it still isnt that fast paced. The solos which are played by Buckethead are very well done. The styling of them both are distinctly his. The song has a long, soft ending which are taken up by the piano, drums, and synth strings. As the ending progresses though, each instrument fades out one at a time. The last instruments you hear are the synth strings, in a very calming fashion which I like to hear very much. In my opinion, Prostitute was a great song to end the album with.
Overall, I feel that Chinese Democracy is a wonderful album. I definitely feel it is worthy of having the name Guns N' Roses being put on it. I feel that this album is like a really fancy meal. There are no filler tracks on it and a lot of the songs are very rich in musical value. Although its different to what we have all heard from GN'R in the past, I feel that this new line up has done a wonderful job in writing, recording, and performing these songs. I am definitely looking forward to future releases from them.