Thursday, December 11, 2008

41 Greatest Albums: Guns N' Roses - 'Chinese Democracy'

I know.


You fall into one of two camps.

Camp 1 hates Guns N' Roses but hates Axl Rose more. You consider him to be Journey on steroids or Poison with pretension. You can't fathom how a sensitive, educated, progressive, avant-garde leaning artist like myself could waste any brain space on Guns N' Roses. You probably think less of me for it. I have nothing to say to you.

Camp 2 loves Guns N' Roses, but only the first Guns N' Roses. The scruffy glamour scumbags who bummed cigarettes from hookers in front of the Whiskey and then threw up on the whole world with 'Appetite For Destruction'. You cringed at the racism of 'One In A Million' and were old enough to be turned off by the MTV over-saturation of 'November Rain'. The fact that the dirtbags now wanted to be IMPORTANT left you cold. You are predisposed to ambivalence. To you I shout, 'Let NOT the past deprive you of the glorious present!'

This prelude to the actual review is for those who fall into Camp 2. If you ever had any love for Guns N' Roses, I implore you to open your heart one more time. Try to listen as if you'd never heard of these guys. As if your hard rock itch had never been scratched, as if your adrenaline cherry had never been popped by 'Welcome To The Jungle'. You will feel like a virgin, touched for the very first time. Well,'ll feel like you're touching a virgin for HER very first time.

For 'Chinese Democracy' is not only easily the best Guns N' Roses album, I am, two weeks into listening to it, very comfortable putting it on this Top 50 list.

I have to start the fuck over. FUCK. This review sucks and YOU suck for taking it the wrong way even though it isn't actually the review I intended to write. So take your lack of patience and wrap it up in a live lemming and let 'em drag you ever the edge, buddy, coz' I ain't gotta put up with your misinterpretation of my elaboration.

See? Axl's vision is contagious. And if you don't let yourself get swept away, you are missing the fuck out.

What else kicks things off but 'Chinese Democracy' which, of course, is about Axl Rose making the album 'Chinese Democracy'. This whole album is like one of those photos where someone is looking into a million mirrors and each reflection stares back at them from a little bit further away. The power chords ring in but are immediately stifled, falling away in a gust of wind that conjures up Genghis Khan on the Steppes braving the 1,000 mile blast of snow. I admit I felt a pang of fear here, as if the entire affair was going to be Axl striking-curious-poses-they-feel-the-heat-the-heat-between-me-and-you.

And Axl anticipates this reaction in the first line...

It don't really matter
Gonna find out for yourself
No it don't really matter
Gonna leave this thing for somebody else

With that salvo, he breaks the funhouse rigidity into a billion little pieces, each one reflecting your own prejudices towards him and his band. Er, him.

I'm sorry for swearing at you earlier, it's just when I start off wrong I get so fucking angry. Can I please start this whole fucking thing over again? Oh, you're just gonna keep on fucking reading now even though I just asked you if I could start over? You've got a lot of fucking nerve and you're on my last one you fucking hypocrite. I love you more than you'll ever know and you know it's true because I'm standing on top of the Concorde as it takes its last flight into the Indonesian night.

That's it, I've had just about e-fuckin'nuff. I'm skipping ahead to the crown jewel of this whole sexy mess, 'Sorry'.

I like it more than 'Sweet Child O' Mine', '...Jungle', 'You Could Be Mine', 'Breakdown', 'Civil War', more than all of it. It is my favorite Guns N' Roses song.

It is also absurd.

Backtrack time I can do what the fuck I want it's my fucking review.

In the early 21st century I became aware that Guns N' Roses would include a song called 'Riad n' the Bedouins' on 'Chinese Democracy'. I wondered just what Axl Rose would have to say about a nomadic desert tribe. Well, the waiting paid off with this opening line...

Riad n' the Bedouins had a plan and thought they'd win
But I don't give a fuck 'bout them coz' I am crazy

See? He lets you conjure the image of the proud sand blasted warriors all by yourself and then looks right back into the broken fun house mirror.

I know you're tired of this album even though you've never heard it. I know Axl long ago forfeited any right to anything but skepticism. But even that adds to the pathos of this music. Here is a guy who KNEW he had a great album in him. He knew it wouldn't sound like the band he'd forced upon the world, making it the biggest baddest band on the planet. He believed in the album to the point that he let himself be the posterboy for all that is wrong with big label excess. He didn't say, 'Fuck it, I'll put it out now, it's good enough.'

No, he waited until it was too late to save his reputation.

And lo, there came unto him an angel who said, 'Fuck that...this album restores your motherfucking reputation, dog.'

This review sucks and I'm gonna start over. If I keep working on it until 2024 I'll have mimicked Mr. Rose. Don't be fooled, folks. This sucker is the real deal.

p.s. There's also the amazing fact that Tommy Stinson of The Replacements plays the bass. Which is absolutely bizarre. And awesome.

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