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Review: Mixing 'Chinese Democracy' With Dr Pepper

MatthewJ Swanson MatthewJ Swanson
December 5th, 2008 11:44am EST
Guns N RosesWe've waited 17 years for a full length album of new Guns N' Roses material, and this stretch of time was made all the more ridiculous after all the delays, firings, and apparent breakdowns by Axl Rose, the band's only remaining original member, and his ill-fated project: Chinese Democracy. As more and more time elapsed, as release dates were pushed back further-and-further, the expectations for this album became higher or lower, depending on how you look at it. Some might say that it couldn't possibly be good because Axl is totally off his rocker and has made simply putting out a rock n' roll record into something far more difficult than it needed to be. If you're a rock optimist praying that G n' R will shock everyone by jumping right back into the forefront of hard rock after a decade and a half in the dark, then you may be excited to break the seal on this disc and dive right in.

In case you haven't heard, G n' R's are cross-promoting by making their latest release only available at Best Buy. Dr Pepper also chimed in with a promotion as well, where they promised a free soda to everyone in America on the condition that Axl Rose releases 'Chinese Democracy,' in 2008." According to Axl, Dr Pepper did not follow through and the whole deal may turn into lawsuit. The bottom line is a lot of people will not be getting their can of soda.

I, for one, did not want to miss out on the winning combination of Chinese Democracy and Dr. Pepper, so I bought the record at Best Buy the other night and bought a bottle of Dr. P. at a gas station just now. Today, I'm breaking that seal on my Chinese Democracy disc, but I'm also breaking the seal on a bottle of Dr. Pepper. But, which experience is more enjoyable/worth the wait: the soda or the record. As not only a fan of Guns N' Roses, but a firm believer that they were not only one of the greatest American rock bands of all time in terms of embodying rock n' roll by eating, sleeping, and breathing the rock seemingly instinctually, I feel real bad about comparing their latest effort to a carbonated beverage. However, by waiting 17 years and basically squandering the band, they (he) opened the door for such a review.

Upon hitting play, the ambient sounds are reminiscent of a post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd record (also that band's past their prime version), but when the actual song kicks in, it sounds like a Zack Wylde era Ozzy Osbourne song, which is pretty much the vibe of the record through out, with a little more of a progressive rock feel. Overall, the music is experimental, obviously the most divergent of all the G n' R music to date, but it remains essentially hard rock, which is good news. The guitar playing is stellar, but it's hard to tell who played what, whether it's Buckethead (the guy who wears a KFC bucket on his head who suffered an aneurism somewhere in the middle of the project) or any of the other countless axmen who were hired and fired by Axl. The production is good, but most anyone will tell you that Axl has lost sight of the raw power he and the band had when he was a hungry, scared/scarred kid from Lafayette, Indiana trying to find his way in Los Angeles. What most everyone who cares about the band would like to hear is the original five members (provided Steven was done with his tenure on VH1's celebrity rehab) sitting down with a bottle of jack (whether it were a good idea or not) and some guitars, just writing straight-forward, dirty, grimy rock like they were put on this earth to do. This record sounds nothing like that.

I haven't had Dr. Pepper in over a year, I think. Now, had I truly sent away for it, opening it would be way more exciting, but still, it's a damn tasty drink. Unfortunately, I'm now reminded of how it makes my breath stink, and I will say, although I'm disappointed in Chinese Democracy, there are no actual physical side effects. Another thing on the plus side of the record is that one can enjoy it more than once, while once this soda is done, it's done. However, had this not been Guns N' Roses, had I not waited seventeen (yes, I'm mentioning that number multiple times for effect), I'm not sure I would even give this thing a second listen, which is a sad realization.

Maybe years and years from now people won't even count this thing as a G n' R record, and maybe others will even forget it existed, kind of like the Doors record (Other Voices) without Jim Morrison. Well, it will certainly be more significant than this very bottle of soda, but bigger than Dr. Pepper itself? I don't think so. How about Guns N' Roses' career VS the career of Dr. Pepper? I think if you're a Guns fan, you have to go with the band over the soda, but if I asked someone above 50-years-old or younger than 17-years-od (there's that number again), they might lean towards the beverage.

To me, Appetite for Destruction is like an instant time warp to the sixth grade, and it's a trip I'm glad I took each and every time. There, I can get up around seven, get out of bed around nine, the grass is green, the girls are pretty, and I'm reminded of childhood memories where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky. There's some good musicianship on this new one, but I don't think kids or adults of today will be harking back to the fall of 2008 when they first heard it. This soda is way too sweet after drinking diet soda so much (jeez, that sounds old), but while my breath may stink, at least I'm not mad and disappointed having finished the soda, like I am feeling after forging through all fourteen tracks of Chinese Democracy.

Have you heard Chinese Democracy yet? Give us your thoughts.

Matthew Swanson
Story by Matthew J. Swanson
Starpulse contributing writer