If 3D Realms ever get off their collective arse and decide to release Duke Nukem Forever, the intertubes will need a new meme or two regarding unfinished works. After 13 long years, Axl has finally decided that he’s satisfied with the album. And the result? Well, … It really is hard to say. It’s not an album which is likely to rise to the rank of ‘classic’ alongside their previous three full-length studio releases. (The Spaghetti Incident? doesn’t count, since it was all covers. Well, that and the fact that it sucked.)
Chinese Democracy suffers heavily from its pre-release reputation. It had to be good, and it is, but we were all waiting so long that now there’s just that twinge of depression. The wait is finally over. It’s like when Inigo finally kills Count Rugen and no longer knows what to do with himself. (Maybe Axl can be the next Dread Pirate Roberts.) No matter how good this album was, it was never going to live up to 14 years of
silence, it’s been 14 years of pain expectation.
Having said that, there is a lot of good material here. Not necessarily good Gunners, but strong songs and catchy melodies none the less. In the context of being an Axl Rose solo album (which it ostensibly is), it is rather impressive. The songs are simple in structure, but what they lack here they make up with some progressive arrangements. It is layered like Trent Reznor’s best work, and still it reminds us of the great music that was: Guns N’ Roses in their previous incarnation (sometimes very directly), Faith No More (imagine if Jim Martin had stuck around for King For A Day…). There’s lots of little snippets of keys darting in and out against processed guitar sounds, along with some awesome solos by Buckethead and Bumblefoot. And there are some rockin’ cool melodies. If nothing else, it should provide a catalyst to go back and listen to the classic albums again. Really listen; to the layers and the structures behind the songs. Not just the singles; the hidden gems which we all know are there but sometimes struggle to remember.
In fact, I would have to rate Chinese Democracy as one of the most ground-breaking albums of 1998.