Sunday, January 31, 2010

First Listen: Chinese Democracy

For years, my friends and I would make fun of the fact that Chinese Democracy seemed to be perpetually delayed, and at times seemed like it would never come out. We made jokes like: I bet the Lions win a super bowl before Chinese Democracy comes out. Well, now it is out, and in spirit of the album's many delays, I too have delayed listening to it...I have heard bits of the title track on the radio, but never any full songs. So, here at Battle Hymns, I will listen to Chinese Democracy for the first time, and blog about each song as I do so. Enjoy!

Track 1: Chinese Democracy: The opening riff strikes me as very unGNR-esque. Axl is harmonizing with himself on the is almost too much Axl. Now that I am in the thick of it, this song seems to be cranked right out of the GNR hit machine. I know it isn't Slash on guitars, but whoever is playing on this song is doing a pretty damn good imitation.

Track 2: Shackler's Revenge: Sweet song title. Axl's voice sounds like it has had some serious auto-tune tweaking...he kinda sounds robotic. Stylistically, this song is a lot different than Chinese Democracy...not necessarily a good thing. The solos sound like they would fit better in a techno song.

Track 3: Better: Another WAY different sounding song. Am I listening to Guns and Roses? Whoa, Axl busting out some deep throaty growls! Axl is showing off his vocal range on this song...I actually wasn't aware he had a "range" I'm waiting for his wail. There's a sweet sounding crunchy riff at the half-way point here. Now there is a splash of Mario Brothers sounding guitar...where is this song's identity?

Track 4: Street of Dreams: Axl is...crooning. I'm totally feeling the "emotion" of this song. "You know I wouldn't want to be you/now there's a hell I can't describe". DEEEEP! Damn, another epic solo. This song is lame, but that solo was pretty fly. Sometimes Axl sounds great when he wails, other times he sounds like a cat getting run over...this one is the latter.

Track 5: If the World: Spanish guitar intro, moving on to some porno sounding guitar with lots of wah pedal. I heard that during one of the songs, you can hear Axl banging one of the other GNR guy's girlfriends in the background. I feel like it might be on this song... Cant here it though. Whoa! Circular! Ending with the Spanish guitar outro.

Track 6: There was a Time: The past few songs have lacked the energy of the opening track. My theory is that you should kick the listener in the throat with the opening track, then never let the pressure off until the end of the album, much like Mastodon's Leviathan album. This isn't happening with this album so far. The "there was a time" title must refer to the time when rock/metal albums gave massive amounts of space to the guitarist for solos, because this song is like 50% guitar solo. Say what you will about Axl (he's a douche), but at least that vain fucker gives his guitarist lots of space.

Track 7: Catcher in the Rye: The Novel, Catcher in the Rye is a classic of American literature. Catcher in the Rye, the GNR song, is generic rock music fare.

Track 8: Scraped: Kickin' off the second half with a nice fast paced rockin' song. I bet this song would sound sweet live. Axl sounds like he was just scraped off a coke mirror, and fed some pork ribs. This is how I picture Axl's diet: Coke and ribs. Best song so far.

Track 9: Raid N' the Bedouins: I think the first lyric sung by Axl on most of the tracks so far is: "AHHHHH!" Wanna know how much Axl's song writing skills have improved over the years? Well, he still writes shit like: "But I don't give a fuck 'bout them/cause I'm crazy". Yep, he's still on top of his game.

Track 10: Sorry: Who's read for some Sebastian Bach? I am! ol' SB sings backups on this song. Oh, by the way, this is a ballad too. 80's/early 90's rock math: Sebastain Bach + ballad = recipe for an "epic" song. Speaking of "epic", Sebastian described this album as "epic". I'd take that statement with a grain of salt, Bach stopped being musically relevant in the early 90's. Wow, I really hate ballads. This song sucks.

Track 11: I.R.S.: The songs are starting to run together. They all seem to all fit into a very specific GNR song mold. Good for those who are nostalgic for Appetite for Destruction, but none of these songs are nearly as good. The only thing this song has going for it is Axl's longest yell of the album, it sounds like the length of the scream was extended via all those shiny dials the producer uses to make shit sound better. 3 more to go.

Track 12: Madagascar: Axl is busting out his blues voice. Think: Don't Cry or November Rain.

Track 13: This is Love: Oh brother, a piano based Axl love song, complete with generic rhymes: "there is a special light/still shining bright/and even on the darkest night/she cant deny". Yay, more Axl harmonizing with Axl. Got some orchestral arrangements too. Twice as nice. Tack on a smoky/searing guitar solo and you've got another crappy song. When was this shit recored? 1991? According to this song, Axl will never say goodbye. Great.

Track 14: Prostitute: The last song on the Album. So far, the song sounds nothing like you'd expect a song called "prostitute" to sound. I expected more "rock". Slowly, this song is gaining momentum. Axl's voice is gaining too, I expect some sort of classic Axl screech where he climbs that vocal mountain and hovers at the precipice of shattering your ears...I've been waiting all album. And I'm still waiting...

Well, Chinese Democracy wasn't the total piece of shit I expected it to be. It wasn't great either. I guess if you are a GNR fan it might scratch that 15 year long itch for new GNR material. While it kinda sorta felt familiar and felt like a GNR album, it never once managed to capture that white leather-Paradise City-GNR that I wanted to hear.


Brad Frye said...

This was great reading for my lunch break at S.M.H.S.
I really loved the track-by-track review. I felt like I just listened the entire album on thirty-seconds-a-song snippets.
Anthony and I listened to this album two Thanksgivings ago in Bham. I was really surprised with how each song was stylistically different. I wasn't surprised that they all sounded like shit.
Very entertaining.

Brad Frye said...

After hearing the song 'Chinese Democracy' on the radio a few times, I think they ripped off Yes. The opening riff sounds just like "Owner of a Lonely Heart." No wonder you felt like it didn't sound like GnR. Cuz it doesn't. Listen to it again, see if you hear it.