CHINESE DEMOCRACY

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:56 AM ET


Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy
(Universal)

It's been said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

And maybe -- just maybe -- the greatest trick Axl Rose ever pulled was convincing the world Chinese Democracy was never coming out.

Think about it: Had Rose slapped together a disc 10 years ago, few would have cared about a Guns N' Roses album with virtually no members of GN'R on it. But by vanishing from the scene, holing up in studio after studio, treating his bandmates like chattel, and control-freakishly tweaking these songs for more than a decade, he told the world he was building something monumental, on no one else's terms. And by withholding it for year after year, he turned it into the mythical Holy Grail of rock: The Most Wanted Album in Music History.


Tell us what you think of the new Guns N' Roses album "Chinese Democracy" HERE!

Everyone thought he was nuts. Turned out he knew exactly what he was doing. Listening to Chinese Democracy, you can hear -- and appreciate -- how much time went into these songs. Nearly every one of these 14 cuts is a massive epic crammed with umpteen parts, endless twists and turns, and layer upon layer of overdubs: A Great Wall of guitars from Bumblefoot, Buckethead and others, sure, but also electronica beats and loops, horns, strings, choirs, sound effects, you name it. And, amazingly, it all works: Instead of a bloated, indecisive, self-indulgent mess, Rose -- whose corroded, Joplinesque shriek is still capable of shattering glass, by the way -- has created an audacious, over-the-top magnum opus that almost justifies all the years and money and mayhem and hype.

And, to give the devil his due, that's a helluva trick in itself.

Chinese Democracy 4:41

Fade in on a haunting Asian melody, whispering voices and ominous arpeggios -- and cut to a buzzsaw guitar riff, a swaggering beat and snarled lyrics about power and control. After 17 years, what are Axl's first words? "It don't really matter ... All I got is precious time." So there.

Shackler's Revenge 3:35

Axl's fascination with electronica asserts itself here as he fuses squiggly keyboards and modem-shriek stabs with hard-chugging guitars and a serpentine beat. Call in GN'R V 2.0.

Better 5:00

Opening with a sing-songy falsetto vocal, a pulsing melody and a beatbox, this seems to be a ballad -- until it kicks into a surging midtempo electro-rocker. Now we know better.

Street of Dreams 4:46

Cue the strings: Now it's time for the big, lushly orchestrated grand-piano power ballad -- aka the disc's November Rain. Axl's throaty warbling takes some getting used to, but it works.

If the World 4:50

Can Axl be funky? Apparently, yes -- judging by the Philly soul strings, hip-hop backbeat and wah-wah chicken-scratch licks on this groovy slow-roller. Extra points for the flamenco guitar.

There Was a Time 6:38

An orchestra and choir merge with a beatbox and shuddering, distorted guitars, while Rose waxes nostalgic over an old flame. We presume the tune's acronym is not an accident.

Catcher In the Rye 5:53

Another piano-driven slow-burner set to a gently funky groove and topped with existential lyrics inspired by Salinger. Honestly, this is the only song here that doesn't quite cut it.

Scraped 3:27

An a cappella intro leads into a punchy rocker a la Welcome to the Jungle -- but topped with intricate duelling vocals about how Axl is "unstoppable." No kidding.

Riad N' the Bedouins 4:10

Bedouins? We have no idea what the hell Rose is on about. But the thundering tom-toms and -- sorry, N' -- hard-driving funk guitars are the real stars of the show anyway.

Sorry 6:12

Axl broods through this lethargically slow waltz, blasting an ex (or perhaps an ex-bandmate?) with lines like: "You talk too much / You say I do / Difference is nobody cares about you." Ouch.

I.R.S. 4:30

Returning to the slinky, slow-grinding rock, Rose enlists the president, a PI, the IRS and the FBI to catch a woman who's cheating on him -- or perhaps her taxes. Still, killer chorus.

Madagascar 5:39

Plummy horns and shivering strings, a grandly sweeping landscape, a mid-song audio collage that samples both Martin Luther King and Cool Hand Luke -- Rose pulls out all the stops here.

This I Love 5:34

One last yearning, richly orchestrated piano ballad for the girls -- and the Queen fans in the crowd. Surprisingly but wisely, Axl keeps the studio trickery to a minimum.

Prostitute 6:12

And one last bombastic, even more richly orchestrated electro-rocker for the boys. "Why I would choose / To prostitute myself / To live with fortune and shame?" asks Axl. Translation: Don't hold your breath for the sequel.

Tell us what you think of the new album HERE!


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