Under The Radar: Guns N' Roses: Chinese Democracy (2008)
There are lots of unanswered questions and unexplained mysteries of the world that still have us stumped; Stonehenge, Pyramids of Egypt, The Bermuda Triangle and the 17 year wait for Chinese Democracy, the last set of original music by Guns N' Roses(GNR)
Chinese Democracy became one the most notorious albums in rock history, when founding member of GNR’s Axl Rose went into a self-imposed exile, spending millions of dollars on refining, obsessing over a handful of tracks, and spending an excessive amount of time chasing the sound in his head. The album was released on November 23, 2008. This certified Platinum album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. Needless to say, Chinese Democracy failed to meet its mythical expectations, and has quietly disappeared from existence.
Almost a decade later, it looks like Chinese Democracy may be getting a second chance because 4 to 5 tracks have been included into the set list of the GNR’s reunion tour. What’s weird is that none of the original members of GNR, besides Axl, played on Chinese Democracy. But then again, when has anything been normal with GNR to begin with.
So, I decided to revisit the record and to my surprise Chinese Democracy sounds a lot better now than it did when I originally purchased it 2008. Chinese Democracy is a solid record that unfortunately fell under the weight of its own legacy. With all the hype of the seventeen-year wait, the 13 million dollars in production costs, and the endless list of producers and musicians whose credits look like something out of a summer blockbuster, most rock fans were expecting the greatest rock album ever made. Obviously, “the greatest rock album ever made” is subjective save for within the ear of the beholder, and no matter how good Chinese Democracy is, it can't conceivably be good enough.
What you must remember is that Axl Rose wasn’t setting out to create a masterpiece, its abundantly clear now that he was refining, obsessing over a handful of tracks that revolved around his inner struggles about his heartbreak, persecution, and paranoia, and spending an excessive amount of time chasing the sound in his head -- that's it, no more, no less.
Luckily time heals all wounds or in this case, disappointment, but Chinese Democracy is a lot more enjoyable now because all the hype has finally come to pass. Highlights include: the atmospheric, Sorry: the hard rockers, Better & Shackler’s Revenge: the Queen-esque This I Love and the mid-tempo Catcher in the Rye.
Chinese Democracy is a misunderstood and unfairly judged record that truly deserves a second chance to be heard. So if you like GNR or rock and roll in general then Chinese Democracy is a record that you need to rediscover.