Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Guns N' Roses' 'Chinese Democracy' reviews are in ... sort of

October 17, 2008 |  8:46 am


More than a decade in the making, Guns N' Roses' "Chinese Democracy" seems as if it's about to transition from being a punchline to a reality. The long-awaited, much-delayed and recently leaked album is expected on retail shelves at the end of November, barring any unexpected, last-minute delays.

It's a retail exclusive, according to Billboard, meaning the album will be available first at Best Buy, and then only at that the outlets that choose to pick up its stock from the big box retailer. It also means that those awaiting news on the album will probably be checking this Best Buy page as much, or more, than any artist or label website.

In fact, there's no mention of the album on the news pages of either of the aforementioned sites, this despite the fact that you can pre-order the 14-song set for $13.99 from Best Buy. For now, it looks as if at least some mystery will continue to surround "Chinese Democracy." While Billboard reported that the album would be released on Sunday, Nov. 23, Best Buy is listing the release date as Tuesday, Nov. 25.

But relax, it does appear to exist. The retailer has gone so far as to post cover art from the album, which was picked up earlier this week by sites such as Blabbermouth and Stereogum, among others, and pasted up above. Although it doesn't look like that's the last of the art to be revealed, as Best Buy is selling another version of the CD with an alternative cover, of which an image is not yet available.

But, really, who cares about the art -- how does this thing sound?

Is it possible for an album, one that most people thought would never actually be released, to live up to its insane hype? Will the backstory of its release prove to be more interesting than the actual release? Was it worth it, to have a federal agent track down Kevin Cogill, who leaked songs from "Chinese Democracy"? Will fans really be interested in an album that was recorded by Axl Rose and a rotating cast of musicians, and lacks original guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan?

Well, despite not yet being released, a verdict appears to be in. As of late Thursday night, more than 30 reviews of the album have been posted on the Best Buy website. Here's a sampling of what some are saying, cut, pasted and unedited direct from the Best Buy site:

User Nachbar compares "Chinese Democracy" to the psychedelic classic rock of Pink Flyod, and sees the album as a sort of pop-culture rescue device. "In a day where Gwen Stefani and Fall Out Boy can dominate the charts, Axl throws us a much-needed life preserver. Each song, to me, is incredible. 1-14, each track takes you on a little journey, and to me is the closest thing to listening to "Dark Side of the Moon" as I have ever gotten, in terms of a complete album."

User oneAXLinamillion believes the album will render other pop stars obsolete, listing the only con for the album being "less time" to listen to Rihanna. oneAXLinamillion adds, "Many fans (me included) had the chance to listen to many demos (leaks). Most of them are on the record and they are all "epicly" outstanding.That's what the entire music world needed."

User gnrshades is a bit more fair. "Pros: power ballads. Cons: techno influence."

User jarmo wants nothing to do with "Chinese Democracy," giving it one star, and seems unable to forgive Rose for using the Guns N' Roses name without the original line-up. "It's not right that Axl Rose is using the GNR name to promote his solo albums," jarno writes.

User referee11 says to skip it, and offers what he or she believes are some better alternatives than Guns N' Roses. Writes referee11, "i've been a fan of GNR since the appetite days, and have been following the development of chinese democracy since at least 2003. i've heard all but three of the tracks on chinese democracy, and must say that the music is disappointing and not worth the wait. it pales in comparison to earlier GNR, and cannot compare to current artists like Radiohead who are really pushing the boundaries of pop music."

User bassetlover lashes out at other Best Buy shoppers for giving the album a low star rating prior to its release, and urges people to purchase it before reviewing it. "Come on people, stop bashing this album before it's even out. So what if it's not the old Guns and Roses! You need to get over it! Axl is a very talented man. This album is going to be awesome. I have heard most of the tracks and they are great. At least wait and buy the album before bashing it."

It should be noted, however, that bassetlover has given "Chinese Democracy" five stars.

User barcheddy is skeptical, but believes "Chinese Democracy" will usher in a new era of heavy metal, even though the shopper admits some songs aren't to his or her liking. "Not crazy about Rhiad and Catcher in the Rye but it's very possible that these tunes will grow on me over time. After all, I hated the Spaghetti Incident when it first came out, but if C.D. is at least on par with that effort I will lose my mind! I'm obviously partial here, but I really feel that once these singles hit the airwaves, rock music as we know it will be changed forever. Just like the late 80's when it all began. Long live GNR!"

User Tic9 thinks the "Chinese Democracy" leaks were so good, there will be no need to ever purchase another album after this comes out. "So I haven't technically bought it yet, but hearing the leaks and such have been enough to prove this as a superior album. Save for Death Magnetic it will be the first CD I've bought since the '90s, perhaps the last. Several of the songs are absolutely stellar."

User Weedwacker is bummed the album doesn't have medicinal powers, and seems skeptical it will even come out. "
Cons: Doesn't cure cancer. May not actually exist ... The release of this album may very well rupture the very fabric of space and time and set off a cataclysmic chain of events eventually causing the universe to collapse in on itself. Hopefully, GnR fans will get a full listen before we are erased from existence. Repent, my friends. The end is near."

But hey, even if the world does implode, it sounds like you'll be able to get some free soda out of this whole deal. Earlier this year, Dr. Pepper pledged to give a free can of the soft drink to everyone in America if the album ever came out.

-- Todd Martens

Screenshot: www.bestbuy.com