On March 26, several media outlets broke a story that shook me to my core. If Guns N’ Roses releases its long-awaited album, “Chinese Democracy,” in 2008, every American will be given a can of Dr. Pepper. Every American, that is, except for former GNR guitarists Slash and Buckethead.
Nothing says motivation like an ice-cold Dr. Pepper. But do we really need this album? Do we even really care?
After almost 15 years in the making, “Chinese Democracy” has become such a monstrosity that Blender recently named it one of the 20 “Biggest Record Company Screw-Ups of All Time.” Geffen Records has purportedly dumped more than $13 million into this train wreck, giving various commentators cause enough to dub it “The Most Expensive Album Never Made.”
Though many consider GNR’s debut “Appetite for Destruction” the band’s finest work, Guns N’ Roses still continued to have a legendary career until its inevitable dissolution in the mid-’90s. The volatility Rose, Adler, McKagan, Stradlin and Slash personified ultimately led to the group’s implosion, leaving Rose the only remaining original member.
So what was Axl doing when he should have been making this record? Let us see. Contributing to the “End of Days” soundtrack? Check. Doing video game voiceovers? Check. Getting punched in the face by Tommy Hilfiger? Check.
At this point in his career, Axl Rose has developed into the musical equivalent of Cuba Gooding, Jr. Having started with critical and commercial success, he has now strayed into an abyss of repugnant semi-accomplishments and turgid failures.
Every so often, a DJ will announce a news blurb about the album’s production or tentative release date, but as time goes on these tantalizing pieces seem more like flotsam and jetsam of an aural nightmare.
It’s more interesting when material is leaked. A few years ago former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza got his hands on copies of several demos from the album and decided to play one on Eddie Trunk’s “Friday Night Rocks” show. In no time Trunk was hit with a cease-and-desist order.
And when a critic harshly judges any of these tracks, Rose continually maintains that his work is only a “rough cut” or that “it still has to be mixed.”
Shit is shit, no matter how you try to church it up.
As an enormous Guns N’ Roses fan, I too have heard some of these leaked tunes. Songs like “Madagascar” and the title track strive for the stateliness of “Use Your Illusion,” but are inescapably melodramatic, synthetic and grandiose. Rose’s acidic, shrieking vocals have now deteriorated into a croaky, monotonous drone. While the material is extremely heavy it is often forgettable, lacking any hint of a memorable riff or lyric.
There was a time in this country when a Guns N’ Roses record could melt every other piece of vinyl in your collection. Now, every minute Axl Rose stalks the streets of an American city, the legacy of GNR is denigrated even further.
Always the showman, Axl is mainly carrying this album to be a monument to his self-indulgence and egotism. He probably needs the money too; facelifts and cheek implants aren’t cheap. Even if it stays shelved permanently, “Chinese Democracy” stands to be a first-class example of a rock superstar struggling to achieve the prominence of yesteyear.
If it is released however, we’re guaranteed at least a riot, a leg of the tour to be canceled and Rose to pick a fight with a fan.