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Guns N' Roses
Chinese Democracy
Geffen Records
Page 3

On an ordinary day…
All at once the song I heard
No longer would it play…
And then the voices went away from me

With Rose being the only original returning member, another big question mark is how the current incarnation of Guns N' Roses sounds compared to classic GNR. At first, Chinese Democracy feels like a Guns N' Roses album in name only, but this gradually fades with repeated listens. Even without Slash and ex-bassist Duff McKagan, hired guns like Nine Inch Nails' Robin Finck, experimental shredder Buckethead, and The Replacements' Tommy Stinson fit the general GNR sound well. There's a lot to enjoy here, like the pre-bridge jam on "Better" or the soulful solo on "Street Of Dreams". But because almost every track has contributions from 3-5 different guitarists ("There Was A Time" has six), the ax work feels a bit schizophrenic with everything from blues-rock leanings, hyperactive arpeggio licks, and balls-to-the-wall nü-metal. As for Axl, his trademark piercing caterwaul is intact but showing its age. On songs like "I.R.S.", his throaty howl is worn and stretched to its already strained limits. But, like a beat-up Chevy that still runs, it's enough to get the music where it needs to go.

Sometimes I feel like
My life's a catastrophe
Can't understand why
It seems like it has to be

Lyrically, Rose continues to straddle between simple, insightful, and confounding, usually while following a formula in subtle subject redirection. Given his disturbed and abusive childhood, he's still dealing with anger and abandonment issues here, especially in the form of broken bonds, be it an old flame ("Better") or a former bandmate ("Sorry"). There's also a string of songs where Rose reflects on damaged, unsalvageable relationships ("What I thought was beautiful don't live inside of you anymore"). On more aggressive tracks like "Riad N' The Bedouins", his superiority complex is impossible to ignore: "Sometimes I feel like there's nothing stopping me / All things are possible / I am unstoppable." But because Rose is rarely in the wrong, his penchant for blame and stubborn self-righteousness feels trite and immature, and his involvement in Guns N' Roses seems to be equal parts rock star and therapeutic vengeance vehicle. However, he does show signs of growth here, particularly on "Madagascar", where he fights against injustice and forgives those who tear down his soul. Another positive moment comes on "Scraped", an anthem bent on empowerment and rebellion through defiance and belief.

Continued on Page 4

-Ken Devine

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