Guns n' Roses was poised to be my generation's Rolling Stones. Axl and Slash could have fed off each others' egos just like Mick and Keef have done for decades. The Gunners could have cranked out tasty blooze rockers and bad-love ballads album after album. We could be comparing Chinese Democracy to a handful of legitimate classics, just like Some Girls had to hold up against Aftermath, Beggars Banquet, Exile on Main Street, etc.
Instead, Axl turned out to be an insufferable asshole â even by rock star standards â incapable of keeping the Gunners together for more than one truly great album (Appetite for Destruction) and two that would have made one great album if unified and trimmed (Use Your Illusion I & II).
As I'm writing this half-hearted rant (half-hearted because my faith in Axl and Slash to do the right thing died more than a decade ago), a bootleg of Chinese Democracy is playing on my headphones. I'm listening to it again, probably for the 10th time, hoping I missed something the first nine times around, hoping this isn't the shit I knew it would be. But, by and large, it is.
A couple of the tracks are clearly concert recordings ("Madagascar," "Silkworms") and one is clearly unfinished ("Rhiad and the Bedouins"); however, the remaining seven cuts sound like they're ready for release, ready to make another Gunner fan shake his or head in frustration.
Chinese Democracy starts with a rocker called "Better" that finds Axl's now-mediocre vocals buried in maelstrom of processed guitar sounds. The title-track follows the same formula and includes the lyric "I know I'm a basket case" â perhaps the only line on the album that rings true. "Catcher in the Rye" and "The Blues" are "November Rain"-style piano ballads with nothing to say. "IRS" mixes acoustic guitar with synthetic disco beats and thoughtless caterwauls.
I could go on, but I won't. It hurts me too much.
Here's to hoping what was presented to me was a hoax. Here's to hoping Chinese Democracy will kick ass.
But I doubt it.