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Guns n’ Roses – Chinese Democracy (2008)

August 30, 2017

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Fabulous logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

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Raise your hand if you ever made a Chinese Democracy joke.

(raises hand)

I definitely made/laughed at several back in the day.

Typically with theme variations on being overbudget (“I’m spending way too much on this, it’s my Chinese Democracy!”), missing deadlines (“This is taking way too long, it’s my Chinese Democracy!”), rotating personnel on a project (“observation, followed by Chinese Democracy punchline!”)…and then Axl finally released the album in 2008.

I remember bringing the CD to a Christmas party gift-stealing game, not-so-secretly hoping to re-claim the ‘gift’ & bring it home again at the end of the night.

The gift-stealing game scheme worked, I promptly imported the CD to my iTunes, switched the artist name to “Axl Rose” on all the tracks, and clicked play.

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If you can get past the ridiculously high expectations & the seemingly 1000s of tracks on each song, when Chinese Democracy is good, it’s excellent.

The title track is a solid opener, the simple yet effective drop-D riff reels me in every time.

I imagine the dance beat in the bridge of Shackler’s Revenge is a deterrent for many but I really like the chorus pay-off.GNRchinesedemocracy

Better is another winner, especially the crunching late-tune guitars after the first solo.

Street of Dreams wouldn’t sound out of place on the Use Your Illusions; a few tunes later, Catcher in the Rye is the album highlight, easily one of my favourite tracks of the 2000s.

I don’t believe the album is on any of the revised lists of the 1001 albums (my book ends in 2005) but an argument could be made for its inclusion.

I think it’s safe to say there will never be an album quite like it, the journey from conception to release is surely one-of-a-kind.

As the most expensive album ever made, even if only from a trivia standpoint, it’s a significant recording.

It was never going to be on par with Appetite and to Axl’s credit, he didn’t try to make Appetite Part Deux.

Editing has never been a GNR strength but I’d argue if you trimmed this down to the top 10 tracks, it would be more potent.

And I suppose if they’d edited the time of production down to less than 15 years, that might have helped its initial reception as well!

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Verbalize the Positive

The three Chinese Democracy tunes they played in Ottawa (Chinese Democracy, Better, This I Love) sounded fantastic.

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54 Comments
  1. Beach Boys’ Smile is one album that had a pretty long gestation period. Recorded in 1966, The Smile Sessions was released in 2011.

  2. It’s impressive that Mr Roses took his own time, even if some fans fell away (or passed on) during the wait.

    • I have a feeling this album may continue to be more appreciated as time goes on.
      Like the Seinfeld finale, it was despised upon release, but in hindsight feels like the logical ending for the show,
      Chinese Democracy sounds like a logical next step for Axl – I enjoyed most of it at least!

    • Mr Roses! LOL

  3. I absolutely love this album. Very underrated by the general public.
    I would loose Catcher In The Rye or Street Of Dreams long before all four in your trim-able pile (Rhiad – fun, feels like a lead single, Madagascar – emotional epic better than Coma, etc.) but that’s all just personal taste.

    • And that’s a nice problem for GNR with this one – I imagine different songs appealed to different listeners.
      Whereas a tune like My World from UYII, I’m still looking for someone to say nice things about that song!

  4. I’m with KCP on this. Love it. And your trim-able section has a few of my faves in it! I’d take this record over both UYIs any day of the week.

    • I found with the ones I consider ‘gems’ – I liked them right away, but to carry on the discussion from your site the other day, surprisingly their appeal hasn’t faded over the last 9 years.
      Whereas I didn’t initially dig the ‘trim-able’ tunes, also somewhat surprisingly, they hadn’t grown as much as I thought they would have
      What’s that old saying, one man’s trim-able is another man’s fave?!

      • I actually wasn’t that fussed about the album at all when I first heard it. But it did really grow on me. I find the songs just get better and better as it goes on. And it’s really worth tracking down on vinyl if you haven’t already. It sounds great and each of the four sides work really well as mini-groupings.

      • I haven’t tracked it down yet – and that’s a good point about the difference in the running order as 4 sides, rather than 14-consecutive on my CD.
        Just checked how they broke it up, those mini-groupings do look good!

      • It feels like the album (like the UYIs too) was designed for vinyl. It is (or was) very cheap on vinyl too. Too many unsold copies I imagine! Well worth looking into if you enjoy the album.

      • Lots of supply, limited demand? My kind of price point!

      • Mind you, now that I’ve expressed my love of it the price will probably have skyrocketed!

      • Darn you HMO and your ability to single-handedly create surges in product demand!

      • Ach. Thanks very much for suggesting this (sarcasm there).

      • Sell your QOTSA album if you need to free up some funds.

      • Haha.

        I hate you.

  5. Oooft. Madagascar rules. But hey at least you liked a lot of it!

    • I’m not sure why Madagascar didn’t win me over – maybe it’s like Wayne’s World 1 & 2 for you: When Cool hand Luke showed up the first time (in Civil War), it was great. When the same line appeared in Madagascar, the sequel just wasn’t as memorable for me!

  6. Like how use Trimmed instead of Filler just incase Axl is reading! haha

  7. Like Deke, I admire your diplomacy but I’d be happy to be namechecked.

  8. I never gave this one a chance beyond a brief listen when it first came out. I might give it another chance. Sounds like there might be a tune or two I could get into.

    • The encouraging thing from the comments here is that there seem to be a variety of favourite tracks – so it doesn’t seem like there’s only a handful of good and the rest are universally despised.
      I tend to prefer the more melodic GNR but if you prefer the more aggressive, my trim-able tracks may be your keepers!

  9. I have to admit that this is one of my least favourite albums ever. However, you and HMO have convinced me to revisit. Especially vinyl. Damn.

  10. Here’s one outtake that they played live but wasn’t on the album. Maybe they should re-make it with Slash. “Silkworms”. Very techno.

    • Interesting to see the lineup performing on this one – I think it’s just Dizzy and Axl that are still there!

      • Yes that’s correct. This is before even Richard Fortus joined the band!

        Axl – lead vocals
        Dizzy – keys
        Chris Pittman – keys
        Buckethead – guitars
        Robin Finck – guitars
        Paul Huge – guitars
        Tommy Stinson – bass
        Brian Mantia – drums

        Amazing that the original Chi-Dem lineup has already left the band completely. And they’re down to two guitarists instead of three. Still have two keyboardists though.

      • I really liked the current lineup – I’ve certainly stopped my moaning about (to borrow a sign from the Don’t Cry video), where’s Izzy?!

  11. I’m glad you had enogh here to like! And you got to see them… coool… will there be a seperate concert review (pleeeez?) 🙂

    I reviewed this album. Drunk.

    https://keepsmealive.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/drunk-review-guns-n-roses-chinese-democracy/

  12. Never listened, so I probably shouldn’t judge. But this seems like a weird inclusion on the list. Point taken though, about how its a significant album in music history due to the expense/drama surrounding it.

    • It’s worth a listen – now that it’s 9 years after the release, it’s removed from the drama of the recording, so It might be easier to appreciate the music for what it is, rather than the hype!

  13. You know, I’ve never actually listened to the album in full. I never got caught up in the BS that surrounded it, and if I remember correctly 2008 was a pretty good year for new music. This seemed like it was from a bygone era.

    • I think it’s 70+ minutes, so it’s a bit long for a single sitting – but I have a feeling despite not sounding like much else in 2008, it’s going to get better with age!

  14. I still can’t quite understand how this made the cut for the book. I mean, its okay but …

    • Oh I don’t believe it’s actually in any of the revised editions (mine ended in 2005 so I’m not sure) – I’d argue it perhaps should be, but I’m guessing the editors likely didn’t agree!

  15. A really long but interesting read…http://antiquiet.com/misc/truth/2014/01/full-story-behind-chinese-democracy/

    I like this album a lot. Nice review

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