If you are in a hurry, here is the review in brief: this album is the sound of mediocrity violently sodomizing banality.

Now that those pressed for time are gone, let me expound on this theme. This album is shit. This album is so much shit that it will forever color the way in which people think about shit. This album is so much shit that it threatens to become infinitely massive and collapse unto itself. This album is such a massive shit that it will have to be stored in a hangar designed to house zeppelins. If this album is the lowest common denominator, scientists will have to find a way to divide by zero.

For more than a decade I have been getting comedy mileage out of the joke that the title Chinese Democracy will no longer be ironic by the time the album is actually released. The in-joke, of course, was that the album would be released right about when China became the land of the free, i.e. never. But after fourteen years (!!!) and $31 million (!!!!!!!) without an album, it seemed quite likely that China would reach democracy before this album reached stores. Indeed our friends in China have taken numerous steps toward imbuing their vast economy with market principles. China is not a true democracy though, and William Bailey, aka the Pride of Indiana, aka Axl Rose made good on his, um, "promise" before the market could declare victory over the Reds.

Guns 'n' Roses are, of course, horrible. This complicates the task of reviewing the album semi-objectively. Until you torrent your own copy (please, please do not pay for this) I will do my best to inadequately convey with mere words the extent to which it is shit.

Chinese Democracy is not the bottom of the cultural barrel. It is from a parallel universe in which barrels do not even exist. Imagine the worst thing you have ever heard, then imagine yourself listening to it while being drawn and quartered. Imagine cleaning out the grease trap at the nearest White Castle with your tongue. Imagine having dinner with Joe Lieberman, Elizabeth Hasselback, and Dog the Bounty Hunter. Imagine watching your parents have sex while John Madden provides color commentary and you have some idea of what 10 minutes of this album are like.

For the first minute of the eponymous first track I feared that I had fallen victim to a digital prankster. You know, every once in a while you download a torrent labeled Frampton Comes Alive! only to discover that it is some other album and you have been duped. I thought for sure that my pirated Chinese Democracy was actually a re-labeled Hannah Montana album. In hindsight I wish it was. But I was actually listening to the "lead single" off this "album", a track I can only describe a repetitive four-chord riff written by deaf people who were raised by apes and who have never heard music. As for Mr. Rose, well, imagine an 80s butt-rock band fronted by a fat Gilbert Gottfried and you have some idea of the singer's delivery at this point in his sad, too-long life. He has the vocal range of a belt sander.

Moving along, "Better" proves to be a stunningly inappropriate title for the next alleged hit, sounding like Guns 'n Roses after listening to Pretty Hate Machine too often – plus shit. Lots of shit. If any single phrase could describe the sound on this album, it is a faux-industrial version of the G'n'R you hated twenty years ago. This track is the poster child.

If you need proof that America needs to be hit by a large comet, the critics love this radioactive dog link of an album. Rolling Stone sayeth "Like (the album), "Better" feels like classic Guns N’ Roses" which is roughly akin to praising child rape for being just like it was in 1987. Further, they note that "Rose’s growling croon in the verses could have floated out of the Use Your Illusion sessions." I must regrettably report that they intend this as a compliment. Another critic says of "Better" that it "might actually be the best song on the record." True, and Rommel was probably the nicest Nazi.

How can anyone, even some misguided soul who likes this shit, not feel let down after waiting fourteen fucking years for this monument to irrelevance? Thirty million dollars and more than a decade gone, and this is the payoff. Given equivalent resources, either your neighborhood 14 year-olds' garage band or a shipping container full of disoriented monkeys could have produced something of equal or greater entertainment value.

Maybe the last three tracks save the album. I don't know, I don't care. I could not listen anymore. If there is justice in this world, one of Mr. Rose's numerous meth labs will explode while he tends to it and spare us from future output. Whether it is one, fourteen, twenty-eight, or a hundred years from now I hope never to hear anything this uninteresting again. Chinese Democracy succeeds in only one area, and that is in the incomprehensible alchemy of making Ratt and Def Leppard sound like Chopin in comparison.

It is insufficient to declare that I do not like this album. More accurately I am offended by its existence. It will find no audience beyond hipsters enjoying it "ironically" or as misguided nostalgia for people who were retards in 1991 and remain so today.


  • You know I love old GNR and I haven't actually listened to the album yet so I really can't make judgment calls but I still nearly peed laughing.

    Thanks, Ed.

  • I wasn't planning on ever listening to the album, despite my GNR fan-hood from the high school days, but I've seen nothing but vitriol and mocking from formerly huge GNR fans regarding this recent 'effort' on the part of some guy named AXL. My feeling is that if THEY don't like it, I'm DEFINITELY not going to give it a go. Your review sort of wraps all of the others I've read up nicely in the most entertaining way possible.

    As for Rolling Stone, I've always felt that their fear of irrelevance made them feel obligated to give positive reviews to sucky crap in order for them to seem like some flavor of quirky or to have an especially gifted ear in the eyes of those not willing to have their own musical opinions, i.e. 'If Rolling Stone says it's good, well then…'.

  • For reasons other than blue balls and overhype, the album was doomed. Anything that takes this long to make probably won't have any degree of clarity, much less purity — but the vision wasn't good to begin with. Young people (Axl's early phase) have emotions that tend to the shallow, but which burn hot; add talent and it takes the listener for a ride. Axl is now older, with insulated emotions that are even more childish — and withered talent. No burning emotion, no burning talent, and inexcusable grown-up pissiness.

    Young talents who become comfortable and insulated (mature, therapized) turn out over-orchestrated, juiceless, masturbatory dreck. Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, David Bowie (and let me not get started on authors) went through this, and I thought the alternative was sticking to the formula ("we do what we love") — from AC/DC to ZZ Top. I was expecting the former, hoping for the latter, and ended up with Axl's catharsis-free therapy session.

    People he trusts have lied to him. He obviously doesn't have a buddy who will take him aside and tell him the facts. (When therapy starts working, therapists stop getting paid. Does Axl have a Colonel Tom Parker leading him in circles?) Was no one surprised by the recycled seventies grooves? Has no one told him to glance at himself before he leaves the house and remove at least one sampled track? Was there no concerned citizen to pry him off the mixing board? Did execs figure the all-but-ripped-off "Magical Mystery Tour" flavors would be the best part of the album, and let him rip?

    I think he needs to start churning out crummy albums, get the bowel blockage out of his system, and redeem himself after years of being the new Howard Hughes of the rock world.

  • it's only right that anyone remotely interested should go right ahead and willingly steal/rip this lp. seriously, the rigamarole surrounding this thing has been beyond insufferable. who honestly cares if it's even "good"?

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