Last week, I went to a Best Buy and bought Chinese Democracy and reported back to Idolator about it. And I have to admit, when I got back to the car and put the disc in and flipped through the liner notes, I got a giddy little rush that I probably haven't felt about buying a new album in years, possibly not since back in the '90s when this album was originally supposed to come out. Guns N' Roses were pretty much my first favorite band when I was 9 and the Use Your Illusions came out, and even though they were quickly replaced with more enduring musical obsessions for me, I've always had a big soft spot for GNR. I've also never thought for a second that the band would be what they were or anything close to it with just Axl and a bunch of hired hands, or that the album could possibly justify the wait. But fuck it, I still wanted to hear it, to own it.
Of course, like a lot of people, I downloaded a few of the leaks in 2006 that sufficiently lowered my expectations further from what they had been after 1999's "Oh My God." I loved "Better" (and I'm still kind of pumped about it being the new radio single and hoping it becomes a bigger hit than the lame title track), but most of the other songs sounded kind of weak and aimless, and at the most those were just rough demos that would sound much more beefed up on the official album. Unfortunately, after all the years and millions spent, the songs still sound kind of thin and poorly produced. And it's all kind of downhill after the first 6 tracks that I was previously familiar with, and even those are somewhat hit and miss. It's just kind of a bad record, but not outrageously bad like we all kinda feared or hoped it would be. Some people are slick enough to spin this as a good album, but you really can't spin it as a great one.
And while Chinese Democracy sounds nothing like the Slash/Izzy/Duff version of the band, I do kinda like the Buckethead and Bumblefoot guitars on here. Mostly, I'm annoyed that even Axl, after he wrestled all the control from everyone else, doesn't seem to be working very hard or singing well. There's a good amount of piano tinkling, but he doesn't even seem to be trying for something as epic and over-the-top as "November Rain," and the most ambitious-sounding song, "Madagascar," is also the worst. But as fucked up as Axl's voice sounds, possibly more from underuse than overuse (the most illuminating fact in Slash's book about the beginning of this album's creation is that he didn't hear Axl sing once in the last 3 years he was in the band), one of my favorite moments is that weird-ass a cappella intro on "Scraped."