Grunge. Techno. Boy bands. Both President Bushes. These are just a few of the things Guns N’ Roses has improbably outlasted in the 17 (!) years since its last album of original music. Almost ever since, lone original member Axl Rose has been working on “Chinese Democracy,” which reached mythic status as the album many thought would never materialize. Lo and behold, here it is (as a Best Buy exclusive, no less).
Apparently to make up for lost time, the set is frontloaded with huge-sounding, heavily produced rockers coated in an ultra-modern sheen that contrasts starkly with the stripped-down, freewheeling material of GNR’s glory days. Tracks like “Riad N’ the Bedouins” have “Appetite for Destruction” bones but exoskeletons dipped in chrome. Rose eventually backs off and lets the songs breathe, with promising results. “Scraped” is a riffy monster in the vein of “Mr. Brownstone”; “Catcher in the Rye” is pure, major-key classic rock; and “This I Love” is a grandiose ballad you can picture Rose playing with a candelabra on the piano lid.
The artist is in fine, ever-changing voice throughout, and there’s certainly a ton of musical food for thought here, requiring several listens before the nuances are revealed. Worth the wait? Maybe. Worth a few hours of your time? Definitely. — Jonathan Cohen