Tag Archives: CHINESE DEMOCRACY

Lemmy is dead and GnR Lives?

It’s been a crazy week in the world of rock and more than one person has asked me if/when I was going to write a post. I wish I had a good excuse for posting so infrequently, but I don’t really have one. I’m just a lazy bastard. But there were two really big news items this week, so here I am.

First, the legendary lead singer of Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister, died this week. I wasn’t surprised by this as Motorhead had cancelled a couple of tour dates earlier this year due to Lemmy not feeling well. Like most Motorhead fans, when I heard the news I assumed Lemmy had succumbed to his addictions. Besides being a first rate hellraiser, Lemmy was what can only be described as a “power drinker.” The fact that the dude made it to 70 is really a miracle, if you ask me. When I learned it was cancer and not excess that claimed Lemmy, I was genuinely shocked. Now, did Lemmy’s boozing ways contribute to or even cause his cancer? Perhaps, but the fact remains he didn’t die of liver failure which was what I was expecting.

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Rest In Power, Lemmy.

I saw Motorhead once in the middle 2000’s in St. Louis. They played a killer show with Valient Thorr that to this day ranks in my top 10 concerts. Lemmy’s voice was gravelly and unmistakable; there was never any mistaking him for someone else. I’m not the biggest metal-head, but the metal bands I do like tend to have vocalists that sound unique. Lemmy sure was unique. He also looked like a rock ‘n roll warthog from hell. One of my favorite Lemmy memories was his cameo in 1990’s comedy AIRHEADS where he proclaims that he was “editor of the school magazine.”

His brief cameo is a fun moment made extra-meta because earlier in the movie Lemmy is mentioned by name in a pretty funny exchange with Harold Ramis:

I’ll also never forget the time in 2002 when it was reported that Lemmy was considering having his famous facial warts removed in order to sell them online. I’m not even sure how true that rumor was, but I distinctly remember it being in the news. Anyway, Motorhead is truly an excellent band and Lemmy was one of the last remaining metal gods, he will be missed.

Also this week, it was announced that the rumors were true: the original line-up of Guns N’ Roses were reuniting next year.  Although the only gig that’s been confirmed is a headlining gig at this year’s Coachella Festival in April, the word on the (proverbial) street is that GnR will be also be launching a massive 25 date stadium tour in 2016. This is a huge deal because as we all know, GnR has been steadily touring for the past 20 years but with only Axl Rose as the sole original member of the band.

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Coming to a town near you? 

Does it excite me that Axl and Slash have buried the hatchet and are going to tour? Of course it does! Now the big question: will I be interested in going to see the band play live? I saw Slash earlier this year open for Aerosmith and it was kinda…sad. Slash was perfectly fine, but it was obvious that he was yearning to return to the glory of Guns N’ Roses. The lead singer he’d recruited for his band was an obvious Axl-clone. And while it was an audience who’d shown up to see Steven Tyler and Company, the only reactions the band really got was from the GnR songs they played.

I liken a reunited Guns N’ Roses to the most recent STAR WARS movie. People are only excited about this because of the nostalgic feelings it creates inside them. Nobody really wants to see an older, bloated, graying rock band get up on stage and embarrass themselves. Well, maybe some people do, but I don’t. A reunited GnR would be a time warp to an earlier era in all GnR fans lives. An era that should probably be left in the past, if we were all being honest. I’m sure Slash and Axl could whip themselves into fine-ish form but the real question everyone should be asking is: to what end? Will this be a greatest hits cash-grab-mega-tour? I’d rather they get together and write new music and release an album than just travel across the country using Pro-Tools to mask the ravages of time and sell a couple thousand T-shirts. But that’s just me.

There a many reason I’m not going to Coachella–I’m about to be a father for the first time being just one of them–but I’d consider seeing them on tour if they came to my town. And the tickets were reasonable. And that’s the rub with reunions like this, isn’t it? These tickets are going to be insanely expensive so many long time fans are probably going to be shut out (another reason I’d prefer we just get another album).

Everyone seems to be lusting for the past everywhere I look (again, STAR WARS) and this GnR reunion just seems like another example of that trend. I’m really torn between stoked to potentially have the chance to see Guns N’ Roses live and a little disgusted that the only concerts people get excited about anymore are these Dinosaurs of Rock Reunion Showz. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% a classic rock fan, but I wish there was a new band grabbing headlines (and dollars) like a reformed GnR.

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UPDATE: CHINESE DEMOCRACY (Possibly) Worth More Than In 2013 & 2012

Back in December of 2013 I noticed that the price of Guns ‘n Roses latest album CHINESE DEMOCRACY had gone up. Comparing the list price against a (super depressing) tweet from 2012, I saw that the album has increased in price by $1.22. The price rose, like a phoenix from the flames, from a paltry $3.66 to a robust $4.88. This was terrible-ish news for people who had not yet purchased the CD (and have very limited budgets). I, on the other hand, saw this as great news because the thought of CHINESE DEMOCRACY costing less than $4.00 feels just wrong.

Go ahead and check-out that first album-price post, it’s much better written. In that post I point out that prices on Amazon are always in flux so this might not actually mean anything. I also noticed (when I was halfway through writing that post) that I wasn’t comparing the price of the album at the same time of the year (October 2012 vs. December 2013). I even think I suggested that I check on the price of the CD in December 2014 to try and be more scientific about studying this trend. Of course I forgot.

I was checking on the status of a separate non-GNR related order this morning and decided to check-in and see what the price of CHINESE DEMOCRACY was currently. To my utter chagrin, the price has skyrocketed from $4.88 to $4.92. That’s an increase of $0.04! If you’d have taken my advice and purchased 100,000 copies of CHINESE DEMOCRACY back in December of 2013 you’d have made a profit of $4,000! Holy cow, I feel like the next Warren Buffet.

So for reasons that are absolutely beyond me, the price of CHINESE DEMOCRACY has continued to slowly climb. Perhaps this current jump in price is related to the “Only 8 left in stock-order soon” note, which was absent from the listing the last time I checked on the price of this album. Could it be a low supply that is driving the price up? I guess. Maybe. Sure.

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$$$

If you don’t own a copy of this masterpiece now is the time to hop to it and buy this sucker. You don’t want to have to pay $5.00 for this thing, do you?

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DEFENDING AXL ROSE: Part 2 “Shackler’s Revenge”

Welcome to part two of a fourteen part series in which I go track-by-track through CHINESE DEMOCRACY. It’s been over two years since I did the first installment on the first song…but I’m back defending Axl Rose!

I’d heard several songs off CHINESE DEMOCRACY prior to the album’s official November 2008 release, but “Shackler’s Revenge” was the first officially-Axl-sanctioned track I heard. The song was previewed in the Harmonix rhythm game Rock Band 2, which came out a month before CHINESE DEMOCRACY was released. I remember playing the game for hours the day it came out trying to unlock the song. When I finally got a chance to play “Shackler’s Revenge” I was pretty disappointed. Unlike the rough leaked tracks I’d heard, “Shackler’s Revenge” had a gritty industrial feel. I was also taken aback by the song’s production, which was busier than most hard rock songs. This negative reaction was repeated when I bought the album a month later.

For the record: not my score, not my Xbox ID, and not screen cap.

For the record: not my score, not my Xbox ID, and not screen cap.

Five years and many listens later, I like “Shackler’s Revenge” much more than I did when I first heard it in Rock Band. That said, this track is probably the most over-stuffed/produced track on the album. Everything about “Shackler’s Revenge” is big. The song has the most credited writers of any song on the album (five in case you were wondering). The song has multiple guitar solos and multiple guitarists. And despite this largeness, the song is the second shortest track on the record, clocking in at three and a half-minutes in length.

The track is an epic, aggressive romp through burning fields of an apocalyptic hard rock landscape. The song might not have struck me as very Guns N’ Roses-like the first time I heard it, but “Shackler’s Revenge” actually has all the main ingredients of a great GNR song. The song features lead and backing vocals from Axl, where are layered on multiple tracks creating a creepy Axl-choir. “Shackler’s Revenge” is angry and defiant with an absolute killer chorus that seems to wag a finger at all of Axl’s doubters.

GNR’s songs are also known for their guitar and “Shackler’s Revenge” does not disappoint on this end. The song features interesting guitar work from the avant-garde guitarist Buckethead and the band’s other guitarist Bumblefoot. I’m not 100% sure which one of these guitarists did the solos, but they’re fantastically explosive. I also really like the dying Galaga machine-like quality of the guitar tone.

The song’s dark, apocalyptic nature recalls the band’s previous “Oh My God.” That track, which came out on the END OF DAYS soundtrack in 1999, almost seems like a proto-“Shackler’s Revenge.” Axl has publically stated that “Oh My God” was released unfinished due to time constraints relating to the release of the film End of Days. A comparison of the two tracks is a fascinating: both have an aggressive, industrial metal feel but whereas “Oh My God” seems to be an endless gushing rant, “Shackler’s Revenge” has a methodical, demonic groove. The more refined “Shackler’s Revenge” is a testament to Axl’s tireless perfectionism. I’m not a big fan of sub-genre that the song mines, but the song has grown on me over the years. That said, releasing “Shackler’s Revenge” as the album’s first single was probably a mistake. From a business perspective, it makes sense to release the shorter more dynamic track but for my money the album’s third track “Better” would have made a better single (pun intended.

But I’ll write more about that when in the next installment of my track-by-track review of CHINESE DEMOCRACY.

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CHINESE DEMOCRACY (Possibly) Worth More Than In 2012

Last night, while mining the depths of Amazon.com’s music section, I decided to check-in and see how much a brand-new copy of CHINESE DEMOCRACY was going for these days.  The last time I did this two years ago, I was horrified to see that the album was going for less than $4.00 a copy.  That was back on October 25 2012, would the album be selling for less than $2.00?

As you can see, the value of CHINESE DEMOCRACY was low in October of 2012.  This would have been the prime opportunity to "buy low"

As you can see, the value of CHINESE DEMOCRACY was low in October of 2012. This would have been the prime opportunity to “buy low”

Thankfully for Axl, the album’s value has…increased!?

$1.22 increase! A thousand shares of CHINESE DEMOCRACY could have netted you $1220 profit! That's simple rock 'n roll investing, folks

$1.22 increase! A thousand shares of CHINESE DEMOCRACY could have netted you $1220 profit! That’s simple rock ‘n roll investing, folks

I’m kicking myself for not checking the price last year and this year on October 25–not that doing that would provide a reliable barometer of the album’s value.  As most of you serious online shoppers know, the prices on Amazon.com are in a constant state of flux.

And even taking Amazon’s pricing system out of the equation, CHINESE DEMOCRACY has a couple of things working against it in terms of it’s price/value.  Firstly, the album was sadly panned by many critics and ignored by the public.  But bad reviews and a lack of singles doesn’t necessarily make a cut-out-bin record.  Even after all these years the name Guns N’ Roses as a brand still has remarkable value.

Secondly, and the biggest reason CHINESE DEMOCRACY’s value is so low is the fact that Axl twisted Best Buy’s arm and made them buy a bajillion copies in advance so they would have exclusive rights to the infamous album’s initial release.  It’s a smart move on his part, because the albums Best Buy bought to sell were counted as “sold” albums, thus making the album appear to be a bigger hit than it was.  AC/DC did a similar deal with Wal-Mart when they released BLACK ICE back in 2008.  But there’s a downside, much the same way a Chevy Impala don’t have much re-sale value because they’re used so much as fleet cars–Axl prematurely saturated the market with albums. Thus, an abundance of unsold albums means the price is gonna drop.  I can understand why bands do these store-exclusive releases, but I really dislike them.  CHINESE DEMOCRACY was probably one of the last new CD’s I bought at Best Buy because I dislike the store so much.

The album’s going for just under $5.00, which isn’t great but it is higher.  Of course, beyond the Amazon price-fluxing, this higher price could be due to inflation or some other over-reaching economic force I’m too stupid to understand.  I’m going to definitely try to keep an eye on the album’s price for future music-geek research.

That said, at less than $5.00 there’s no excuse for you to not own this album.  I’m going to pick-up where I left off on my track-by-track review of CHINESE DEMOCRACY soon-ish because I really do feel like it’s an amazing, underrated album. The merger of Industrial rock and tender piano ballads is just too incredible.

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Defending Axl Rose: PART #1 “Chinese Democracy”

Well it’s been a week, I guess it’s time I start defending Axl Rose.  Welcome to the first in a series of posts that will examine CHINESE DEMOCRACY, track-by-track.:

I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that CHINESE DEMOCRACY is a perfect album or that it’s better than APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION.  It is my belief, however, that people dismissed CHINESE DEMOCRACY too quickly.  For one thing, the long delay in it’s release did nothing but raise expectations to a ridiculously high, completely unattainable level.  Time was also an enemy for the album in that 15 years passed between GNR albums. That’s a long time and in the music industry that’s practically a lifetime.  Styles change.  Trends come and go.  When Axl Rose released “THE SPAGETTI INCIDENT?” in 1993 people were still listening to music on the radio and watching music videos on MTV.  I guess what I’m saying is: the world moved on.

I feel like a lot of the negative reaction to the album had to do with people expecting Axl to pick up right where GNR left off all those years ago.  But why did fans expect or want Axl to stay locked in 1993?  Anyway, I can’t really explain why it took 15 years to make CHINESE DEMOCRACY, and I certainly don’t think it “sounds” like it took 15 years to make. What did does sound like is an older, more mature rockers attempt at a comeback album.  It incorporates what was great about his old work and adds to it some modern touches.  I think it was those modern touches that turned off most listeners, especially the old GNR fans. People who expected or wanted the record to sound like “Welcome to the Jungle” are missing the point of art and artists. Wanna hear “Welcome to the Jungle”? Go put on APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION.

The first track on CHINESE DEMOCRACY is, fittingly enough, “Chinese Democracy.”  Axl has stated publicly that the song is about the Chinese government and their poor treatment of the Dalai Lama.  It opens with a faint and ominous siren-like noise.  A chorus of quiet voices bleed over the sound of a guitar for a few seconds before we hear a louder, more highly processed guitar.  That was the first thing that suck out about both “Chinese Democracy” the song and the album-there are so many different guitar tones on this record it’s not even funny.  At first these crashing/clashing tones are pretty jaring. It sounds initially that these guitar sounds are just tossed around haphazardly, like Rose just threw the kitchen sink at CHINESE DEMOCRACY, but really what Axl does throughout the record is to create a lush, pulsing wall of sound.  It’s not out of control or random, the entire record is highly organized.  It reminds me of the symphonic work Brian Wilson did on PET SOUNDS.

I guess the Brian Wilson comparisons are easy, after all Wilson’s magnum opus SMILE (in it’s original form) was only just this past year  made available to the listening public. Both albums are the singular vision of musical geniuses, the only difference is that Rose seems to have lost the war with a lot of critics.  That said, I think that in 20 years it’ll be as highly regarded as SMILE.  Why do I think this? Well genius is very rarely recognized, at least initially.  And Axl doesn’t bend over backwards to make CHINESE DEMOCRACY likable or “easy.”

Axl lets us know right off the bat, ending his 15 year silence with this pronouncement:

“It don’t really matter/You’re gonna find out for yourself/No it don’t really matter/You’re gonna leave this thing somebody else.”

The song goes on to point a finger a China’s government and it’s use of an “iron fist” to subdue it’s people.  It’s accusatory and at the same time resigned in the fact that ultimately totalitarianism fails.  I find it ironic that Rose’s first album in 15 years is called CHINESE DEMOCRACY and seems to stab brutish dictators…the irony being that Rose is something of a brutish dictator himself.  A quick look at the personal of the album reads like a who’s-who of rock musicians (studio hands or otherwise).  So many people have credits on the damn thing it’s unreal.  And you know that for every person given proper credit there must be two people who aren’t.  Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it would seem that 15 years is an awful long time to remember whom to thank.  “Chinese Democracy” alone is credited as having five different guitarists (not counting two different bass players).   And then there are the people who started on the project and pissed Rose off and were booted off…

Regardless, “Chinese Democracy” is a fucking great rock song.  It’s rebellious, scary, and when you finish hearing it you are left with no doubts that Axl Rose has come screaming back like he’d never gone away.  Ignoring the fact that the song bookends a 15 year period of silence, I think “Chinese Democracy” is a great opener and a worthy addition to the GNR catalogue.

Next week I’ll continue my strange, track-by-track odyssee through CHINESE DEMOCRACY by looking at the second track “Shackler’s Revenge.” 

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