A four part dispatch from guest contributor CT Terry.
Part Three: Classic G’n’R Tropes
Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” took the better part of two decades to record and release. It’s a dense, bewildering album that can’t be judged as a whole because there is so much going on, a lot of which is brilliant, but plenty of which is schlock. In an effort to figure out what is going on in this record, and to decide if I like it, I went through it, cataloging and responding to every part of every song. –CT Terry
Track 8: Scraped
0:01 – A chorus of what sounds to be about nine Axl Roses, harmonizing and wailing. I suspect this is what Stephanie Seymour hears in her head moments before waking in a cold sweat.
0:16 – Some of the choral stuff stays while Axl starts to sing and a chugging guitar riff comes in. On the original G’n’R stuff, these guitar lines, like the one in the verse of “Welcome to the Jungle,” were awesome because they sounded like boogie rock on PCP. The similar riffs on this album don’t have the same affect. They’re too tightbutt to boogie, and that makes them sound like nu metal. When they try to recreate classic G’n’R tropes, it doesn’t work out very well.
0:35 – Hmm. This is better. Just a low-end riff and vocals. The guitar tone may be to blame for a lot of the problems discussed above.
0:44 – A deft key change. Axl goes into a shriek. This is getting good.
0:59 – The refrain that kicked off the song.
1:15 – A moment of flanged shredding, furthering my theory that Buckethead just soloed over the album and they turned up his track whenever they felt like it while mixing.
1:17 – The same verse with the key change. Cool.
1:43 – Refrain, but with extra layers of Axl singing.
1:59 – Moshy riff with a solo. Kinda Pantera-ish. Could be worse. It could actually be Pantera. One of my old bosses was a huge Pantera fan. He even bought the Dimebag Daryl signature guitar. Our office had some interns who were from the Texas backwater that spawned Pantera, and the company threw a welcome party for the interns. The irony was that the party was open bar, but none of the interns were old enough to drink, so they watched us all get hammered. A few drinks in, my boss cornered the interns to discuss Pantera. They’d never heard of them. He was aghast and referred to Pantera as “the greatest band ever.” Then one of the interns said “We’ve gotta go over there now,” grabbed her friend by the shoulder, and they both walked away.
2:32 – Some part they played before.
2:46 – The refrain, repeated until they decide to spice it up a tad with face-melting guitar.
3:14 – The guitar part from the refrain. It has an annoying slide up the fretboard part that reminds me of “The Humpty Dance.” Why does that song keep coming up?
3:21 – The song ends with roughly five seconds of a new riff, which is the best one yet.
Summary: Easily the best hard track so far. This is probably the natural progression that G’n’R would have followed if they had kept making albums…into the late ‘90s.
Potential video scenario: This isn’t a very cinematic song, so we’ll just go with Stephanie Seymour tossing and turning in her sleep, looking like she big-dogged a bowl of gumbo mere minutes before bed.
Track 9: Riad N’ The Bedouins
0:01 – Whooshing ambient synths and headphones-unplugging noises. David Attenborough should be narrating over this, saying something like “No civilian has been able to unlock the secrets of Roswell.” I have no idea what this song title means. Is it a play on words, like “D’yer Maker?”
0:36 – Choppy electric guitars.
0:48 – Oh, hey, they’re actually pulling off one of their trademark Aerosmith-derived boogie rock riffs, with a bunch of toms on the drums. Axl’s in fine form over it.
1:09 – The music goes to half-time and there’s a triumphant key change, like in “Thong Song.”
1:26 – Vaguely funky guitar break. All good things must come to an end.
1:28 – Weird midi bomb-dropping noise, like used to be on those sound affect keychains in the early ‘90s. Anyone else feeling a little testy about a song with “Bedouins” in the title and a bomb dropping noise? The lyrics are too abstract to gather any specifics.
1:30 – The song basically starts over. I am willing to forget the last five seconds because this rocks about as hard as the “G” side of “Appetite.”
2:23 – Guitar break, racially motivated bomb noise.
2:29 – The first part again. Yadda yadda yadda.
2:43 – Half-time part, but with strings instead of vocals. Nice.
2:52 – Music from the verse, with inevitable shredding.
3:14 – The refrainy part, with cool vocal harmonies.
3:31 – A new riff with shredding through a phazer and schizophrenic, chopped-up guitars.
4:02 – Song ends with the alien noises.
Summary: The music and vocals on this are on par with their best fast songs. If only the lyrics were about something specific, like taking the credit card to the liquor store, or hell, even burying your ex in the backyard (pause). People have been fast to bag on this album for a lot of production-related things, but aren’t mentioning how subpar the lyrics are.
Track 10: Sorry
0:10 – Slow, spacy groove with high-pitched synth and Axl bringing back bits of the vampire voice from “Street of Dreams.”
0:18 – A little acoustic guitar. This sounds spacy and ominous like ‘70s Pink Floyd.
0:22 – Axl sings in a higher register and doesn’t sound nearly as silly.
0:26 – Muttering.
0:34 – The vampire voice blends with the higher voice and what sounds like a Latino accent. Hmm. I’m beginning to resent being forced to describe these numerous vocal nuances. Damn my nerdy resolve!
0:58 – “Black Hole Sun” guitars.
1:01 – Building to something…
1:07 – Song cuts out. Blueballs.
1:09 – Starts over. Lots of “yous” in these lyrics. More than usual, or should I say “you-sual,” yuk yuk yuk.
1:38 – That trademark Axl wail. Surely we are building to something here.
1:56 – Whoah. The chorus. The best use of the fuzzed out guitar chorus yet. This has a creepy drone to it, like some of the better ballads by smacked-out less-punk grunge acts like Alice in Chains or even Stone Temple Pilots.
2:42 – Huge guitars, plus shredding.
2:54 – Song cuts out, then starts again with bluesy soloing.
3:35 – Another verse. Axl cops to kicking someone’s ass.
4:15 – Wailing voice, pre-chorus.
4:32 – Music cuts into phazer noises for a few seconds before…
4:42 – THE CHORUS GETS ALL UP IN THEM GUTS AGAIN. If this song was played at Lollapalooza in the mid-‘90s, bro-dawgs with frat letter tattoos on their shoulders would tuck their Big Johnson t-shirts into the waistbands of their shorts and start headbanging while the people there to see The Pixies would get bummed on the classic rockness of it all.
5:37 – The drums speed up and the song reaches a crescendo.
5:58 – Cut to whale noises.
Summary: This is a prime, melancholy mid-‘90s power ballad and one of the most well-arranged songs on the album so far.
Potential video scenario: Axl floating in space, pointing an accusing finger at Earth.
Track 11: I.R.S.
0:01 – Acoustic guitars and an electric lead.
0:07 – My kingdom to never again hear another canned drumbeat.
0:09 – Axl in a falsetto.
0:27 – Badass, bluesy midtempo rock chorus.
0:37 – Will “you” stop hurting Axl’s feelings please?
0:48 – Another part that sounds like a refrain. Works for me.
0:59 – These verses keep going back and forth between acoustic guitars and electric guitars. It’s a little schizophrenic, but not as disconcerting as, say, stopping the song all the way and adding in four seconds of shredding, or something.
1:04 – Electric again, for more than four bars. Maybe a little wah-wah in there, which gives this a spacey feel, creating continuity between this and the last track.
1:08 – Killer shredding, yo.
1:47 – Back to acoustic with hints of the canned drums.
1:58 – The chorus.
2:20 – Canned drums, acoustic guitars, like the intro.
2:30 – Axl doing oohs and ahhs over the intro part.
2:41 – Electric guitars are back in the game, baby.
2:58 – More back and forth between electric and acoustic parts.
3:35 – The shredding begins in earnest.
3:56 – The chorus again, lest Axl get off his ass and write another verse.
4:23 – Song ends on an acoustic note.
Summary: If they let the song build naturally, and cut out two repetitions of the chorus, they’d have a fucking freight train on their hands here. Instead, they let what must have been a caffeine-addled eight year old arrange the song and it’s hard to tell when it’s coming or going.
CT Terry was born in 1979. He lives in Chicago, Illinois, where he is getting an MFA in Fiction Writing at Columbia College. For more of his writing, go to gulliblezine.blogspot.com.