For the last week or two, some news outlets have been reporting that the long-awaited and mythical album Chinese Democracy by Guns N’ Roses will finally be released on November 25. Right. I’ve heard that one before. What seems to provide these reports with the air of legitimacy is that fact that the news comes directly from the mouth of the band’s manager to Best Buy employees at a convention, the company through which the “band” will reportedly release the album exclusively. Could it even be possible that, after over a decade of waiting, one of the most famous unfinished records in history will finally be released to the public? Will it be any good? Will anyone even care?
Probably not. On all three counts. First, for the past few years, we have heard tons of stories like these, coming from some in an even better position to talk about the release date than the Best Buy rep mentioned above, such as Axl Rose himself. He’s written several posts on the official GN’R website mentioning official release dates over and over again, and each time, the date passes by with no album. It must be a testament to the band’s early work (okay, just Appetite for Destruction, really) that people even still have the patience to discuss this subject.
Second, I think people are probably deluding themselves if they think that this record will measure up to any standard besides mediocre. Axl Rose is pretty much the only remaining member of the original lineup, and without the others, especially Izzy Stradlin and Slash, what does Axl really bring to the table? If the leaked tracks from the album are any indicator, I would say not much. Like other bands who have recently emerged to release new albums after a long hiatus, the songs sound like a pale imitation of what the band used to be, with several key elements conspicuously missing. We saw it with the relatively recent release of a new Smashing Pumpkins record, on which Billy Corgan demonstrated a painful misunderstanding of what made that band formerly so great. Siamese Dream was packed full of quiet songs played loud, their dreamy melodies nearly buried in heavy distortion. Corgan seemed to forget every element of those tunes except for the loud part, as if “Zero” was the only song Smashing Pumpkins ever wrote, and the new album was a failure. At this point, I don’t see how any new GN’R material could come out sounding like anything more than a pale shadow or sad parody of the original band’s fire.
Third, will anyone care? I think that there will be a high level of curiosity at first, but, if my other expectations come true, then the album will ultimately end up as a forgettable career closer for a band that should have been allowed to die years ago. Instead, it has been allowed to continue, with Rose as the gnashing skeletal remains of a once powerful band, too scared to just lay down and be buried with its legacy intact. Instead, we’ll most likely get an embarrassing footnote to Rose’s career, a last grab at relevance that will likely end in the same way as the last three Star Wars releases: a pathetic effort that stains the legacy of a once legendary force in entertainment.