Monday, November 24, 2008

Coming Soon: Part 2, American Communism

So Guns N' Roses finally got around to releasing Chinese Democracy.  What's it been?  17 years in the making?  Millions of dollars to make (I heard $13 mil ca. 2005).  Is it any good?  Will it sell?  Does anyone care?

In order: Probably not, maybe, yes-but-not-for-long.

Let's run this down:  First, is it good?

Well, so far I'm not impressed with what I've heard--one listening apiece of two songs, neither of which inspired any confidence in me at the time.  Which is not to say that the rest of the album isn't good, it's possible that they decided to launch a legendary comeback with sub-standard material and are holding out the big guns for the die-hards who actually buy the record.

Oh, who am I kidding?

I checked Metacritic, and the record has a meta-score of 64, which is falls barely into the category of "good" by Metacritic's standards, but that apparently doesn't mean anything because no one writes bad reviews of new music.  Of the 100-odd albums listed on the sidebar, there's not a single one listed as "bad", and only a handful listed as "okay".  For perspective, Mariah Carey's "E=MC2" is at 63 and Madonna's "Hard Candy" is at 65.  Neither is selling.

Okay, since I started writing this, the score has jumped to 69, putting it on par with AC/DC's latest disappointment.

The biggest problem is that everything about it is stamped "early 90's"; even the title feels dated.  And by "dated" I of course mean "stupid".  What was mildly clever 20 years ago is a bit silly now--especially since we've all heard the joke many many times over.  Christ, I mean, they just hosted the Olympics.  The world moved on--didn't you get the memo, Axl?

Also, the band doesn't really exist--everyone else has moved on to other projects; apparenly Axl didn't get that memo either.  And the philosophy behind the album reflects a 90's music-industry mindset.  The last new material we got from GN'R was the dually released set of Use Your Illusion records.  Those sold very well: they debuted at #1 and #2 (pretty good, since they were released on the same day), and a band that is thoroughly on top of its game could maybe follow that up with a "triple-album", which is how Chinese Democracy was conceived.  Now, Democracy is the first disc in a "trilogy" (equally pretentious in my eyes) to be released by 2012.  Well, it only took 17 years for the first disc, so I think 3-4 years for the other 2/3 is totally reasonable.  I jest.  I think we can safely expect delays.  Or who knows, maybe they'll hit a groove.

It's also worth noting that, as with every other 90's band that has regrouped for the 21st century, modern production values kind of undermine the sound.  Glam rock was about putting 5 awesome musicians in a room and capturing the magic.  The new album sounds a bit too... well, polished, a little less real.  Smashing Pumpkins new material suffers from this.  A post-boy-band gloss over 90's-rock composition?  It's ever-so-slightly jarring.

But will it sell?

Hard to say, there are an awful lot of variables at play.  First off, it's available exclusively through Best Buy (seriously, Axl, if you're not going to read the memos, I'm just going to stop sending them).  That said, GN'R's retrospective sold extremely well, proving that they still have at least some kind of fan base.  And it's got the whole "train-wreck" going for it.  So it might.  It easily could.  Nothing's really selling these days, but maybe this will.

I don't expect parts 2 and 3 to sell, though.  Because I think people will be thoroughly over Axl by 2012 or 2016, or whenever he actually delivers them (he's on pace for 2042)--just send us a memo, k?  K.

Seriously, though, unless the whole act gets back together (or at least 3/4 of it... okay, Slash at a minimum), maybe for a Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame induction, I can't see the public keeping up interest.  Frankly, I'm a little surprised anyone has held on this long.  Axl has dicked around the public for too long, reneging on his promises to fans, cancelling shows, et al.

We'll see.

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