“Chinese Democracy”: The Reviews Are (And Were) In
Rolling Stone published its official review of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy today, and reading it made me think to that day some two and a half years ago when Spin, ever the prankster, tried to pull an April Fool’s joke by running a Chuck Klosterman-penned review of Axl’s magnum opus, despite it being only sort of close to finished at that time. So I decided to read both reviews back-to-back, and what I saw–well, it inspired me to give all of you a little test. Can you tell David Fricke’s real album review from the one that was written with tongue in cheek? Let’s find out!
A: “Let’s get right to it: The first Guns n’ Roses album of new, original songs since the first Bush administration is a great, audacious, unhinged and uncompromising hard-rock record.”
B: “It’s been a long time since Guns N’ Roses have released an album of new material. Everybody knows this, but it’s a fact that bears repeating. If you purchased a kitten on the day that Use Your Illusion I & II arrived in stores, it’s probably dead by now.”
THE PONDERING ABOUT HOW MANY TIMES AXL RETRACED HIS STEPS
A: “And there is so much going on in ‘There Was a Time’—strings and Mellotron, a full-strength choir and Rose’s overdubbed sour-growl harmonies, wah-wah guitar and a false ending (more choir)—that it’s easy to believe Rose spent most of the past decade on that arrangement alone.”
B: “One is forced to wonder if a track like ‘Madagascar’ was only recorded 75 or 80 times, which calls Axl’s alleged ‘maniacal perfectionism’ directly into question.”
THE “IS IT RETRO?” BIT
A: “At times, it’s the clenched-fist five that made 1987’s perfect storm, Appetite for Destruction; more often, it’s the one sprawled across the maxed-out CDs of 1991’s Use Your Illusion I and II, but here compressed into a convulsive single disc of supershred guitars, orchestral fanfares, hip-hop electronics, metallic tabernacle choirs and Axl Rose’s still-virile, rusted-siren singing.”
B: “Obviously, the sexy albatross hanging around Rose’s wiry jugular is simple modernity: Could he create an album that would sound contemporary–and competitive–in today’s ever-evolving marketplace?”
THE LINER NOTES
A:“The voluminous credits that come with Chinese Democracy certainly give detailed credit where it is due. My favorite: ‘Initial arrangement suggestions: Youth on ‘Madagascar.’ “
B: “Chinese Democracy is simultaneously propulsive and ponderous, and there are some electrifying guitar arpeggios on both ‘Silk Worm’ and ‘Thursday Morning Strip Club’ (performed, I assume, by either Buckethead, Robin Finck, Zakk Wylde, Johnny Marr, or Brian May–all five are listed in the liner notes).”
A: “To him, the long march to Chinese Democracy was not about paranoia and control. It was about saying ‘I won’t’ when everyone else insisted, ‘You must.’ You may debate whether any rock record is worth that extreme self-indulgence. Actually, the most rock & roll thing about Chinese Democracy is he doesn’t care if you do.”
B: “But a deeper quandary remains: Does Chinese Democracy accomplish its goal? After all this time and all that money, will this album truly bring democracy to China? I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
OK, OK, so the Rolling Stone writeup is all the “A” answers. But you have to admit that you wavered on Klosterman’s description of “Madagascar,” too.