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Guns'n'Roses: Chinese Democracy (sort of)
Bob Mulhouse , June 25th, 2008 00:00

Rough mixes of Guns N’Roses Chinese Democracy have surfaced online. Bob Mulhouse pulls on his leather strides|

Axl Rose

The internet could have been invented solely to kick lazy musicians up the arse. Pointlessly overdue records like Guns N’Roses’ third full-length, non-live, non-covers album, Chinese Democracy (so named because it was conceived back in 1948, when China last had a democratic process), would take even longer to appear if it weren’t for the ol’ filesharing technology.

Now, distributing music that doesn’t belong to you is often illegal, and The Quietus doesn’t condone such activity, but when we were informed that four rough mixes from the new GNR album were being streamed from a website in pristine audio quality, we went and had a listen. There are more new songs flying between servers, we’re told, but we’re not sure if they’re the real deal " so we’ll leave them alone for the moment and review the four we’ve heard.

’I.R.S.’ is the first song, and it’s great American rock music like they used to make before we all got too ironic and cynical to enjoy it any more. It alternates between mellow clean guitar and apocalyptic riffage, with proficient bluesy shredding from one of many possible guitarists. Singer W. Axl Rose sounds just like he always did: in fact, the whole band sound just like they always did, even though the only remaining player from the Use Your Illusion era is keyboardist Dizzy Reed. The bass guitar tone is scooped, just like Duff McKagan’s was; the drums are big, splashy and a bit early-90s; and the lead guitar is just that little bit more technical than Slash’s used to be, perhaps to prove some sort of point. There’s an enormously long squeal from Axl at the end, too, just so we know that he’s still got it|

As you’ll recall from ’November Rain’ (and if you don’t, why, visit Youtube immediately), Axl often played Elton John-style piano parts when left to his own songwriting devices. The intro of ’The Blues’ is instantly familiar as a result, all rattling ivories and Rose singing in his two voices " both the drawling bass (as in “I get up around seven|” from ’Mr Brownstone’) and the whinged shriek (as in “Youuuuu| could| be mi-ee-ine”). It’s basically a power ballad, laced with treacly strings and orchestral flourishes which must have cost Geffen millions, and it’s rather brilliant, the kind of uplifting stuff that will make you want to punch the air and shout “Gwan Waxl my son!” when you see them play it live in 2018.

The next song is either called ’Chinese Democracy’ or ’[Untitled]’, or it may actually be untitled, depending on where you read it. It begins with a throbbing bass note and some chippy, picked chords before a mighty shriek from the boy Axl and an odd, slightly futuristic-sounding guitar riff. The industrial tone of the riff reminds you of the late-90s guff about how Chinese Democracy was going to be all NIN-style industrial rock, but fortunately the song evolves into a standard rock anthem soon enough. Aerosmith-style shreds are all over the song, to the point where you wonder if this rough mix simply has all the track faders set to maximum, with half of what was recorded waiting to be edited out for the final version.

Finally, we’ve got ’There Was A Time’, a big ballsy rock tune with strings. It’s heartfelt, anthemic stuff with all the emotional boxes ticked. The vocals sound a little stretched, but then this is a rough mix, after all. It lasts six minutes and ends quite effectively on an ethereal female chorale. You can’t help but be impressed.

Blimey. This is, despite all the hype, good music. We’re eager to hear the rest, legally if possible. Put the damn record out, Axl|

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