“Chinese Democracy”: The Reviews Are (And Were) In

Nov 10th, 2008 // 10 Comments

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!



THE STARS
A: Four.
B: Three.

THE LEDES
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).”

THE KICKERS
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.

Chinese Democracy [Rolling Stone]
Guns N’ Roses, “Chinese Democracy” [Spin]

idolator

  1. Cos

    My favorite was Klosterman’s crack about the kitten being dead by now. That was a fine piece of work back at Spin.

  2. februarymakeup

    Is that THE Youth? From Killing Joke? Or is it, like, “I want to thank the fact that I was young once for uh…suggesting the initial arrangement of Madagascar”

    And this is further assuming that Madagascar is a song title, and not, in fact, Axl Rose, thanking his past self for the geographical and/or sociopolitical setup of a country.

  3. BigRicks

    I remember reading this a couple years back, but anyone who’s ever read CK, or read an RS review, will recognize words like “modernity” and “appregios” as words that would never appear in an RS review.

  4. Anonymous

    @februarymakeup:

    I believe it is indeed our beloved Bass Player…
    Youth has been involved with many people including “The Fireman” project with Paul McCartney…
    But he is back where he belongs…in KJ currently!

  5. Christopher R. Weingarten

    A+ idea!

  6. JohnOO

    I agree, great idea for a post. Also made me realsie I was more interested in working out which article was which more so then reading if the album was any good.

  7. AquaLung

    I miss the old Spin.

  8. Anthony Miccio

    @AquaLung: Are you referring to the Klosterman-driven SPIN of a few years ago, or the Guccione era?

  9. kicking222

    I will admit to being legitimately confused about whether Chuck’s review was real or not as I was reading it; I caught it in a store and did not realize until afterward that it was the April issue. (I want to say Yeah Yeah Yeahs were on the cover, but that might just be wishful thinking.)

    For the record, Chuck is my favorite writer in the world. Hands down. Period.

  10. Lucas Jensen

    Four stars for this record? I guess the Bob Dylan/Mick Jagger solo record rule is in full effect.

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