Reviewing Chinese Democracy is like boxing Muhammad Ali. It might have meant something years ago, but now you’d just feel bad about the inevitable kicking. You probably know what it sounds like without even hearing it: tracks have been circulating for years; more column inches have been written about it than any other follow-up album; it cost a reputed $13 million to make. And you can hear every cent - it’s overblown, over-produced and finally over here. 23 November sees the release of Axl Rose’s opus, the product of an already legendary 17 year dictatorship.
All the elements are there – the bombastic riffs, the show-off solos, that still-astonishing primal voice. It’s definitely, defiantly a Guns N’ Roses album, and one fans might have been at least placated with - if not quite blown away by - 10 years ago. The problem is, rock music has changed since the band’s classic line-up faded out in the 90s. Nu-metal was derided as so much macho posturing, the faux tears of emo turned the genre into a stadium-conquering cry-wank, and containing elements of both, the hard rocking Chinese Democracy often sounds dated and irrelevant.
But on reflection, how could a new Guns N’ Roses album in 2008 ever be anything else? Sure, there are glimmers of glory - Axl's always known how to pen a tune (if not how to let go of it) - though irony and good taste in the intervening years since Use Your Illusion have ultimately rendered his long-incubating progeny stillborn. Whether that’s a good thing or not, who knows. Watch something like this instead, and remember them for what they once were.