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Released: Nov. 23, 2008

Rating: 3.470 (average of 14 ratings)

Genre: hard rock

Quotable: “Axl spent the decade-plus in the studio not reinventing but refining, obsessing over a handful of tracks, and spending an inordinate amount of time chasing the sound in his head…[The result is] a good album, no less and no more” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Album Tracks:

  1. Chinese Democracy
  2. Shackler’s Revenge
  3. Better
  4. Street of Dreams
  5. If the World
  6. There Was a Time
  7. Catcher in the Rye
  8. Scraped
  9. Riad N’ the Bedouins
  10. Sorry
  11. I.R.S.
  12. Madagascar
  13. This I Love
  14. Prostitute

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 0.32
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 2.15


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 3
peak on U.K. album chart 2

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Shackler’s Revenge (9/14/08) --
  • Chinese Democracy (10/22/08) #34 US, #27 UK, #5 AR, #24 MR
  • Better (11/17/08) #18 AR

Chinese Democracy
Guns N’ Roses
“To put Chinese Democracy in some perspective: it arrives 17 years after the twin Use Your Illusion [albums], the last set of original music by Guns N’ Roses…Generations have passed in these 17 years, but not for Axl. He cut himself off from the world…swapping every original GNR member in favor of contract players culled from his mid-‘90s musical obsessions – Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails, Buckethead from guitar magazines – as he turned into rock’s Charles Foster Kane, a genius in self-imposed exile spending millions to make his own Xanadu, Chinese Democracy.” STE

“Like Xanadu, Chinese Democracy is a monument to man’s might, but where Kane sought to bring the world underneath his roof, Axl labored to create an ideal version of his inner world, working endlessly on a set of songs about his heartbreak, persecution, and paranoia, topics well mined on the Illusions. Using the pompous ten-minute epics ‘Estranged’ and ‘November Rain’ as his foundation, Axl strips away all remnants of the old, snake-dancing GNR, shedding the black humor and blues, replacing any good times with vindictive spleen in the vein of ‘You Could Be Mine.’” STE “Axl’s intent is oddly simple: he sees GNR not as a gutter-rock band but as a pomp-rock vehicle for him to lash out against all those who don’t trust him, whether it’s failed friends, lapsed fans, ex-lovers, former managers, fired bandmates, or rock critics.” STE

“All this melodrama and malevolence feels familiar and, surprisingly, so does much of Chinese Democracy, even for those listeners who didn’t hear the portions of the record as leaked demos and live tracks.” STE “All-consuming artistic narcissism has become Rose’s defining trait, not letting him move forward, but only to relentlessly explore the same territory over and over again.” STE

“Compared to the chaotic Use Your Illusion, Chinese Democracy feels strangely modest.” STE “Axl isn’t trying to reinvent GNR, but just finishing what he started on the Illusions.” STE “This is an album unconcerned with the future of rock & roll;” STE it is “not a grand masterpiece – a record that pushes limits or digs deep – but merely a set of 14 songs.” STE “Despite a few surface flourishes – all the endless, evident hours spent on Pro Tools, a hip-hop loop here, a Spanish six-string there, absurd elastic guitar effects,” STE “these aren’t innovations.” STE “One listen and it’s abundantly clear that Axl spent the decade-plus in the studio not reinventing but refining, obsessing over a handful of tracks, and spending an inordinate amount of time chasing the sound in his head.” STE

“Axl spent so much time creating the music – constructing the structure and then filling out the frame – that there’s no easy way into the album.” STE “The production is so dense that it’s hard to warm to, but it fits the music.” STE “It’s hard not to marvel, either in respect or bewilderment, at the dense, immaculate wall of god knows how many guitars, synthesizers, vocals, and strings.” STE However, that also means that there’s “guitar that only guitarists appreciate (it’s telling that the only memorable phrases from Robin Finck, Buckethead, or Bumblefoot or whoever are ones that mimic Slash’s full-throated melodic growl).” STE “These aren’t songs that grab and hold; they’re songs that unfold, so much so that Chinese Democracy may seem a little underwhelming upon its first listen.” STE

However, since “Rose spent a decade-plus working on this – he deserves to not have it dismissed on a cursory listen. Give it time, listening like it was 1998 and not 2008, and the album does give up some terrific music – music that is overblown but not overdone.” STE

“True, those good moments are the songs that have kicked around the Internet for the entirety of the new millennium: the slinky, spiteful Better, slowly building into its fury; the quite gorgeous if heavy-handed Street of Dreams; There Was a Time, which overcomes its acronym and lack of chorus on its sheer drama; Catcher in the Rye, the lightest, brightest moment here; the slow, grinding I.R.S.; and Madagascar, a ludicrous rueful rumination that finds space for quotations from Martin Luther King amidst its trip-hop pulse.” STE

Chinese Democracy “won’t change music, it won’t change any lives…Or as Axl put it in an apology for canceled concerts in 2006, ‘In the end, it's just an album.’ And it’s a good album, no less and no more.” STE

Review Source(s):

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Last updated March 7, 2011.