Chinese Democracy – Guns N’ Roses

I love this album. Unfortunately, its reputation has been poisoned by fans expecting another Appetite for Destruction to bring glam rock back; that said, the music really is quite out there. Honestly, I can usually tell what kind of a place I’m in by what kind of music I’m listening to, and if I’m listening to the bombastic, often non-functional guitar carnage of Chinese Democracy, I’m likely stressed as all get out. Axl Rose (and the rest of that band) mastered harmony back in the 1980s and it shows in the straight-up nonfunctional G-F# move before the chorus key change on “Prostitute”, the excellent layered vocals on “Scraped”, and the beautifully executed shifts between scales on “Catcher in the Rye”, “Riad N’ The Bedouins”, and “Prostitute”. Seriously, I’ve tried to analyze the key changes on “Prostitute” and I’m not sure we’re even in a key for the post-chorus, but it does sound really good. I haven’t even mentioned the insane fretless guitar solo on “Shackler’s Revenge” which uses intervals that no one else plays and makes the guitar sound like a percussion instrument; eat your heart out, King Gizzard. Buckethead, Bumblefoot, and Robin Finck are incredible and the moments where they suddenly show up with heavy chords are the best part of songs like “Sorry”. There are a lot of wonderful little touches in the production, like the guitar riff at 2:38 on “I.R.S.”, and if you pick apart this album you’ll find a slew of rewards. Sure, there are disappointing moments, like the choruses to “Better” and “There Was A Time”, but these songs focus on the buildup to the chorus instead, and I love them for what they are. Axl Rose’s vocals have some weird bits, but they still astound in “I.R.S.”, “Prostitute”, and whenever else they really need to shine. tl;dr: Pretty much every track on this album has a heavenly guitar solo and excellent harmony. Give it a listen!

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