An article from the RS Archives (2008) on the release of “Chinese Democracy”
When this issue comes out, the biggest joke of the past 15 years will no longer be funny. If heaven hasn’t fallen on our heads or Universal Music has suddenly gone bankrupt, then “Chinese Democracy” will be in stores on November 22nd. Chinese Democracy in store! Officially available to buy! In the US, the album will be released a day later, exclusively by the electronics chain “Best Buy”. Of course, November 23rd is the Sunday of the Dead in Germany, so it would have been a rather unfavorable day for the first sale, purely symbolically.
What should one expect from this album? “Chinese Democracy” can never be as good as hoped – and never as bad as feared. Of course it’s not a Guns N’ Roses album either, it’s an Axl Rose album, but now, after all this time, I don’t give a damn. What some critics may have suppressed over the course of the ridiculous years in which Axl attracted attention above all with ill-fitting dreadlocks and mostly mediocre performances: There are good reasons why so many people have been waiting so longingly for “Chinese Democracy” for so long.
A short look back (possibly slightly nostalgic)
In the late 80’s early 90’s Guns N’ Roses were not only the biggest rock band in the world, they were also the most exciting. They never did what was expected. There were already four incredibly long years between the debut “Appetite For Destruction” and the next real studio album. The songs from “Use Your Illusion I+II” didn’t smell a bit like the rampant teen spirit, but indulged in even more than a touch of good old glam metal. The two double albums, which may also have been forgotten a bit, were naturally overloaded (the overdose epic “Coma” alone lasted ten minutes), but also a great adventure at a time when many Guns N’ Roses were already doing it for the first time had written off.
It was the excessiveness, the courage to excess that made the band so attractive. Everyone was kind of an alcoholic or a drug addict or something else, but together they were perfect, “I’m a hard case that’s tough to beat” Rose sang in “Paradise City”, it wasn’t an empty promise. In the end he only hit himself, even the most patient of his colleagues couldn’t stand his need for recognition and his thirst for control any longer. As early as 1991, Izzy Stradlin, one of the main songwriters, left, in 1996 Slash left, and in 1998 Duff McKagan too. The new, constantly changing backing musicians no longer knew the boy from Indiana, but were subordinate to the biggest tyrant in Hollywood – Axl replaced colleagues with servants. A bad idea.
I don’t know if ‘soon’ is the word
In 2002, the new version of GN’R presented the song “Madagascar” at the MTV Awards. When asked when the album was coming, Axl gave the legendary answer: “I don’t know if ‘soon’ is the word.” Concert cancellations and other embarrassments followed, separation from the manager and a first self-awareness: “To say the making this album has been an unbearable long and imcomprehensible journey would be an understatement.” Rose expressed surprise that while he reportedly smashed $15 million in the studio, it had actually been “over a decade in real life.” During this time he had achieved what no other so-called celebrity can do in Los Angeles: he was practically invisible when he didn’t want to be seen.
Contrary to all prophecies of doom, in the summer of 2006 the Greta Garbo of rock music appeared at “Rock am Ring”, albeit well after midnight. In February 2007 he announced that the album recordings were now complete, in advance you could only hear the single on gunsnroses.com, but one or the other “new” song was already on the internet.
“If my intentions are misunderstood/ Please be kind/ I done all I should,” Rose grumbles on “This I Love,” and the longing for understanding and a little love characterizes this album – just like every other GN’R work, even if that was sometimes swept under the sex, drug and rowdy rug. “There Was A Time”, “The Blues” and “Better” showcase Axl’s still unique voice most beautifully; the instrumentation can be described as classic. In any case, you don’t hear that 17 years have passed since “Use Your Illusion”. In other places he doesn’t find the right arc or at least an end. Of course, by now at the latest, one would like to see Slash, Duff and Izzv back with their relative down-to-earthness. Rose himself fuels the nostalgia when he lets the captain from “Cool Hand Luke” appear again in “Madagascar”, who grunted so appropriately back then in “Civil War”: “What we got here is… failure to communicate”.
Chinese Democracy may not be a miracle, but it is a miracle that it exists.