It is time for another exercise of nostalgia. This time it has to do with the last release of my favorite band, or better said, of the current project under the name of my favorite band, Guns N’ Roses, led by Mighty (and nutter) Axl Rose. I’m talking about the infamous Chinese Democracy. The cursed album which took about 15 years to be completed, or again we could say it took Axl 15 years to feel it was ready to come out.
I don’t think an album was surrounded by so much controversy as Chinese Democracy did. Fans were divided already, after the split of the band, with Axl as the only former member remaining, who acquired Guns N’ Roses rights and decided to go on like that, hiring a bunch of super musicians as his mercenaries. You know, Buckethead, Dj Ashba, Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus, Robin Finck, Josh Freese, Bryan Mantia, Tommy Stinson…and so on. Guns N’ Roses were divided into pro Axl versus pro Slash, quite supported after his revelations included in his autobiography. And then this album split opinions even more.
I don’t think Chinese Democracy has much to do with the former GN’R style. Of course Axl is there, and his unique singing style will prevail throughout the years, but the introduction of new resources, recording elements, crazy and overwhelming layering, and more industrial and electronic sounds, didn’t fulfill may people’s expectations.
Yesterday was November 23rd. 5 years ago FINALLY Chinese Democracy became a reality and it was released worldwide, even though some of us had already our copy, as in Spain, album releases are set on Tuesdays. We loved it. We loved it HARD, and to be honest I reckon if Axl had released an album with songs inspired in my hometown folk, we’d have loved it all the same. Arguments, tension in forums, excitement and emotion, it’s unbelievable such landslide of situations came from the release of an album. If you think of it, this is the greatness of Chinese Democracy. It was capable to turn the world upside down, and Axl was responsible for that.
Many would like to kill the ginger, others think he lost his mind long time ago, and his eccentricity has been blamed for destroying the last great rock band in the world. Probably everybody’s is partially right, but I love Axl just because he’s done whatever the fuck he’s wanted any time, facing fans, critics, record labels and band members. He’s never justified his acts and decisions through statements, or autobiographies for laving. And I respect him for that. He’s always doing it his own way, even though I might not follow him as closely as I used to.
Back to the release of Chinese Democracy 5 years ago, I remember that time clearly. I even arranged a DJ’n session for celebrating the final release of the album so many times we had bet against it seeing the public light. My life was completely different back then, and my “half orange” was as excited as I was, thus the memories of those days are funny.
I hope he doesn’t get upset or something but one of the greatest things witnessed on a music forum was my later friend Joaquin creating a profile for Axl in the forum we used to participate. Rumours were saying that Axl was chatting in forums with fans, so this guy started impersonating him and addressing to his fans in English, asking what we thought of the album and stuff. It was awesome!
Now it’s the end of 2013. Axl is still performing, no video from the album was ever broadcast either, and apparently a new albums is being recorded. Hope for a reunion has vanished. And my life is completely different.
What do I think of Chinese Democracy 5 years later? I seldom listen to ir, but from time to time I like spending some time with its 14 tracks. I still like it. I love it, partly because of the good all times I enjoyed related to it, because it’s Axl’s, and finally because there are great songs included.
As some sort of tribute I’ve decided to write a comment on every song, to rate it accurately. Hope I don’t get you bored. It’d be awesome if you were trying the same yourselves and wrote your input here, but I know you won’t. Anyway, let’s start with the experience.
1. CHINESE DEMOCRACY
The gates of Axl’s universe open really slow, and the increasing Chinese buzz touches your ears. Everything is sort of apocalyptical, as if it as the starting of a new era. You know? It makes me think of the futuristic Blade Runner.
The opening riff, with the echo, is damn powerful, and starting Axl’s yell is so high pitched and acute I just can believe it. I adore Axl’s low voice.
Very good starter.
2. SHACKLER’S REVENGE
Or the videogame song. I always visualize a video as some sort of arcade videogame. It sounds super artificial and industrial, with lots of special arrangements, and Axl’s voice in chorus layered thousands of times, but it’s still impressive.
Buckethead’s main solo is overwhelming and excessive.
I don’t think I will ever get tired of Better. This was one of the first songs to be leaked and I’ve listened to it in all the possible ways. Verses are awesome, and lyrics talking about broken hearts are priceless “A broken heart provides the spark for my determination”.
4. STREET OF DREAMS
For many this is one of the best songs of Chine Democracy. For me it’s weird because there are parts which do not drive me crazy, but there are others I love much. it’s an in crescendo song, so by the end I always think it’s great. Axl’s falsetto is brilliant, and piano parts are very nice.
5. IF THE WORLD
On the other hand most people admit If The World is crap, but I have a huge thing for it. It really turns me on. I don’t know whether is the Spanish guitar, the exotic rhythm or the lyrics, so fateful. If the world would end today I’d see myself dancing this song naked, holding someone really tight and grabbing a bottle of something. Decadent and desperate.
6. THERE WAS A TIME
THE song of the album. Excessive, grandiloquent and HUUUUUGE. This is a song of hate, and lyrics couldn’t be sharper. Orchestral arrangements, piano, guitars… I just love it.
It’s always driven me crazy this verse:
Social class and registers, cocaine in the hall
All the way from California on the way to your next call
To those non-negotiations to stimulate a cause
For the betterment of evils and your ways around the laws
That keep you up and sitting pretty on a pedestal or bed
And now you’re sleeping like an angel near the man who you give head
7. CATCHER IN THE RYE /8. SCRAPED
Catcher overrated song (same as the novel). This is probably one of the songs I like least. I don’t need it, and right now I’m changing to the next song which is Scraped and always saturates me. Next, please.
9. RIAD N’ THE BEDOUINS
It might sound contradictory that I say Scraped saturates me and immediately after I state that Riad is terrific, because it’s one of the most overproduced songs in the album, but I can’t help it, when I listen to Axl yelling “Oh my salvation, and all my frustrations, caught in the lies no one had wove as well, somewhere in time where only I could tell”, I feel up!
This is a song whose greatness is inside its lyrics. Another song of Axl’s in a revengeful attitude. Probably Beta advised him to channel his anger in beautiful and calm down songs so everybody could get the message clearly.
I’ve always wondered how many times it took to Axl to record that “But I don’t want to do it”. At least 3 months.
It’s a great song that I think with the passing of the years has lost strength comparing to other songs. Chorus is still powerful, and I’m sure on stage it has to be a bomb, but at home I miss more attitude and raw sound.
Another magnificent song with that orchestral intro combined with a programmed electronic base. As soon as guitars start, this song takes off and it turns into something really big. That moment with the sequence of samplers including “What we got here is failure to communicate” and “Free at last, thank God almighty we’re free at last!” still gives me goose bumps.
13. THIS I LOVE
I don’t need This I Love when I’m aware that Prostitute comes next, so…let’s go for it.
Stephanie Seymour, you really fucked Axl. Not that I blame you for it, but after the whole album and especially through this song, it’s confirmed that he didn’t take it well you eventually turn him down. Wow! You defeated WAR and it’s impressive, but you also inspired one of the most powerful love revengeful songs ever written.
Axl starts almost apologizing trying to express he tried to do well but as the song advances he starts vomiting pearls I’d really like to know how his ex swallowed things like this:
I told you when I found you if there were doubts
You should be careful and unafraid
Now they surround you and all that amounts to
Is love you fed by perversion and fame.
It’s been said sad and anger caused by love failures are especially useful to enhance creativity. In this case it was the ignition point Axl needed to write a whole album, and it worked, and kept truly intense after 15 years of recording.
I love the Fade Out end of the song. When I reach the end since the very first time I listened to Chinese Democracy 5 years ago, the same thought comes to my mind and is this: