Saturday, January 03, 2009

Chinese Democracy

During the summers of my youth, my mother had the habit of playing music incredibly loudly to rouse us out of bed. It met with varying degrees of success. But the morning she played "Welcome to the Jungle" was an epochal moment. It was (at the time) the most rocking thing I'd ever heard1. Loud, decadent and intense. It was perhaps the finest example of rock and roll that I had heard. And Appetite for Destruction remains high in my esteem to this day.
Now, after 17 years, Guns and Roses
2 have finally released the much anticipated Chinese Democracy, a record that bears more resemblance to the Use Your Illusion records that came out in 19913. It is lengthy, overwrought and lacks the lean, punchy songwriting of Appetite4. This isn't to say that it is a bad album. The first three songs in particular are excellent hard rock, with Better being the standout. Sadly the record descends into a tedium of lackluster ballads. Chinese Democracy lacks the swagger5 of the best of Guns and Roses songs, choosing instead to focus on hamfisted introspection.
But perhaps the biggest detriment is the fact that Chinese Democracy must not only live up to an album that has bloated into legendary status6, but the fact that Chinese Democracy itself has attained a kind of legendary stature for not existing and being frequently delayed. The album we have today can't possibly live up to its long gestating expectations. This creates an interesting contradiction, the artist can't match the expectations for his previous work and can't match the expectations for something that doesn't yet exist. The completion of the long delayed project then becomes bittersweet; no matter how good it may be, it can never equal it's imagined greatness.

1. Ironically, the record was soon banned in our house owing to my mother's disapproval of the record's lyrical content
2. As presently constituted by Axl Rose and whomever he finds to play with.
3. I have not heard these records in their entirety, though this is not an attempt to form a hierarchy.

4. This is probably attributable to the fact that Axl Rose is the principal songwriter and creative force. Whereas the old Guns and Roses was a band in the truest sense, today's is one in name only.
5. This can be said of a lot of contemporary rock music (I don't particularly mean this in a pejorative "all new music sucks", rather as an observation). In fact this may be why Fall Out Boy is successful.
6. The frequently aforementioned Appetite for Destruction.


Blogger Volker The Fiddler said...

Wubble, wubble, Eli. Of course, once expectations become inflated, even the best creations pale in comparison to the fantasy--vague though it may be.

9:49 AM  

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