Sunday, 7 December 2008

Chinese Democracy

As promised, this week I have been listening to Chinese Democracy. Now it’s tempting to garble on about how long this album has been in the pipeline and how much money has gone into it and… actually that is kinda tempting.

The album is GnR’s first album of new material for 17 years, has cost about $11 million and featured about a gazillion different guitarists. Woo for facts, now onto the album.

Yeah it’s pretty good.

Of course with all the time and money that has gone into this thing you would expect it to be pretty fucking awesome so ‘pretty good’ is not exactly ringing praise. The guitar playing is amazing in places, but to be honest, having no musical talent whatsoever, I am not qualified to talk about the actual music, which makes reviewing an album really hard! Nonetheless I will try; I think perhaps I should stick to what I can understand; words.

Some of the lyrics are pretty screwed up. The whole album just seems to be a mix of moral indignation at all the injustice in the world and mopey, self-justifying and clichéd love-song. Lets look in some more detail shall we?

Song 1, ‘Chinese Democracy’ (inevitably about how china has no democracy… no shit dude, maybe 10 years ago this was something to get worked up over, but I have a funny feeling we have more pressing concerns in this millennium, like two ruinous wars.)

I know that I'm a classic case
Watch my disenchanted face
Blame it on
the Falun Gong
They see the hand and you can't hold on now
Cause it
would take a lot more hate than you
To stop the fascination Even with an
iron fist
More than you got to rule the nation
When all I got is
precious time

Pretty good to be fair, got some actual meaning which is nice, did they need to follow it up with the second song about the very same thing?

I've got a funny feeling there's something wrong today
I've got a funny
feeling and it won't go away
I've got an itchy finger and there'll be hell
to pay
I'm gonna pull the trigger and blow them all away

Yeah, the world’s a messed up place, we got that from the first song. Not as bad as what is to come though.

The tone now changes, for the worse.
No one ever told me when I was alone
They just thought I'd know better… better...
No one ever told me when I
was alone
They just thought I'd know better… better...

Oh dear Axle, alone with all that money? How will you cope? It’s pretty hard to sympathise with this; the guy is in his forties for Christ sake, grow up! That is the kinda shit angsty teens and twenty-something’s write. I preferred the moral indignation; at least that had some dignity.
And he keeps raining the self-pity down on us with the next track, ‘Street of Dreams’.

All the love in the world couldn't save you
All the innocence inside
know I tried so hard to make you
Ooo I wanna make you change your mind
And it hurts too much to see you
And how you left yourself behind
You know I wouldn't want to be you
Now there's a hell I cant describe
Oh no, his girlfriend left him. Maybe she decided that all the money was not enough to make her put with this his massive ego.

And like hell does it stop. The next song is just as bad.

If the world would end today,
All the dreams we had would all just drift
You know there’s nothing more to say,
If the world would end would
our love slip away
Oh...I never knew the way that you looked at me,
Would ever mean so much to me,
In my heart I found the feelings that
I've never shown
Now they've got the best of me,
Blerg! Sounds like the sort of pretentious crap emos put in valentines cards to each other. Why not go slit your wrists and write it in blood to complete the romantic retardation.

The next song on the album is called ‘There was a Time’, which has the acronym ‘TWAT’. Rather fitting given that Axle wrote it. Anyway, this is actually quite a good song, made even better for the fact that it moves away from angsty love poetry.

This lyric made me smile though.

It was a long time for you,
It was a long time for me,
It’d be a long
time for anyone,
But looks like it's meant to be.
Hmm, I can possibly imagine what he’s getting at here. Full marks for subtlety Axle.

The next song is the best in the album, Catcher in the Rye. It is one of the few songs on the album, which is not a soppy love song; thank God! This is the peak of the album, but it stays pretty decent from now on.

The next one I called ‘Scraped’.

Don’t you try to stop us now
I just refuse
Don’t you try to stop us now
‘Cause I just won’t let youSometimes I feel like
The world is on top of
meBreaking me down with
An endless monotony
Sometimes I feel likeThere’s
nothing that’s stopping me
All things are possible
I am unstoppable
Well I suppose you have to excuse an element of pretension; it is poetry after all, the second most pretension art form behind art itself. It is a good song, not as good as Catcher in the Rye, but far better than most of the rest of them.

I can’t be bothered to comment on the lyrics of the next few songs. ‘Riyadh ‘n the Bedouins’ is a really good track with some actually pretty decent lyrics. ‘Sorry’ is a depressing dip back into the angsty bullshit of earlier in the album, but it at least retains a little more dignity than the others. ‘IRS’ is bizarre, but not in a particularly good way. Madagascar is very good, but one has to wonder whether the spoken bits in the solo are a little over the top, nonetheless a very worthwhile song. ‘This I love’ is a nice little Power Ballard. Ok the lyrics are pretty ansgty, but the song is done in a way that can actually carry it off, although the piano part does sounds a little too much like walking in the air for my liking. Finally ‘Prostitute’ is a really nice ending to the album.

So then, to sum up, not worth the wait or the $11 Million, but worth getting, even though some songs are pretty crap. They are all quite catchy, which means that the album has immediate appeal, but after a while it grows stale; the quality is only skin deep. While I think an entire album of moral indignation would have been very dull, it would have been better than half an album of angst fuelled self-loathing. Some more thematic variety would have been nice.

I suppose we should be glad it came out at all, at one point it seemed about as likely as…no I can’t bring myself to crack the ‘Chinese Democracy’ gag. That grew old about a year after the band announced the title of the album.

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