Maybe it’s the fact that I’m listening to it on my computer and not, say, in a car, that makes it feel less than real. After all, we’ve been here before: (alleged) tracks from the mythic, Sasquatch-like Chinese Democracy leaked last year, and we downloaded them, tentatively, straining to hear some sort of genetic connection to the Guns N’ Roses we all remember and romanticize. It seemed as if this long story was going to come to an end with a whimper. And a shrug. And here we are again, only without the shady back-alley torrent-site-dealings or fear of RIAA reprisal.
“Chinese Democracy,” the first single from the actually-existing Guns N’ Roses album of the same name, was released today. Officially. Legally. (The album is available November 23, exclusively from Best Buy. Unless of course, it isn’t.)
Once that weird shock wears off, there’s the small matter of, you know, whether or not it’s any good. Which is to say: Is it as bad as we all assume it’s gonna be?
Answer: Kinda, but then again, not really!
Those fearing/expecting an overly synthesized, 1999-vintage techno-metal can rest easy-ish. Once the overture of muffled voices, ominous drums, and plinky Edge-ish guitar gives way to a thick, muscular four-chord riff and that Axl banshee wail, only the most stubbornly jaded will manage to suppress the goosebump reflex. The verses are double-tracked: half high-pitched Axl, half guttural, growly Axl. But then a funny thing happens before the song gets to the chorus: IT FUCKING ENDS.
Sure, there’s some suitably Slashy wankery from, oh, I don’t know, Bumblefuck, the guy who plays with a honey-coated beehive on his head, or whichever other guitarist is currently under contract, but it’s a bit confounding that the first (official, legal) taste of the Most Anticipated Album, Like, Ever — and from the human who wrote “Paradise City,” no less — is utterly and completely hook-free. I’ve listened to it 12 times in one sitting and cannot hum a bar.
Then again, I was able to listen to it 12 times in one sitting. Maybe we should take our victories small, and wherever we can get them.
Now (Finally) Hear This: Guns N’ Roses – “Chinese Democracy”