Reports have surfaced that Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited album by former rock gods Guns N’ Roses, has been completed and delivered to Geffen. After years of missed release windows, it seems likely that the record will finally see the light of day. This ought to be one of the biggest music events of the year: a true comeback album, more than a decade in the making, from one of the biggest rock bands in history. Unfortunately, all the years of hype can’t stand up to the massive erosion of the band’s relevance. To spoil your fun well in advance, I’m offering this list of reasons why you shouldn’t give a shit.
Guns N’ Roses have always had a turnover problem. By the time they entered the public eye, they’d already undergone an extensive line-up shuffle. Even Tracii Guns, who gave the band the first half of their name, was gone before they released any material. Since then, Izzy, Slash, Duff, and Steven Adler have all left and been replaced (in Duff’s case replaced with a Replacement). You may cling to the hope that Axl is the one who matters, but keep in mind that nearly all of GNR’s classic singles had significant songwriting input from Izzy and/or Slash, and that, left to his own devices, Axl had a tendency toward overblown symphonic ego ballads like “November Rain.” In the end, we’re left with an Axl Rose solo project backed by a sad posse of B-listers, studio musicians, and Love Spit Love alums ( . . . and Tommy Stinson).
. . . and even Buckethead’s gone
If there’s anything more aggressively destructive to rock than an overcooked gimmick, it’s gotta be idiot-savant guitar virtuosity. Buckethead (Slash’s replacement from 2000 to 2004) has plenty of both to spare, what with his KFC hat and his nerdy shredding. He may not be the best fit for a mainstream rock band — better to stick him in some weirdy-beardy avant-metal outfit where he won’t annoy the populace — but as a colorful oddball, at least he added a flamboyant non-Axl personality to the line-up. Buckethead’s musical contributions may have been all wrong, but the ridiculous masked dude worked as a last-ditch effort to keep GNR amusing on some level.
Dr. Pepper is wicked gross
Last month, Dr. Pepper announced a bold, bizarre, and potentially expensive marketing stunt: if Chinese Democracy is released this year, the company will give everyone in America a free Dr. Pepper. Although the marketing folks probably never thought they’d have to make good on that promise, it now appears we might all have a free drink coming our way. (Unfortunately, Dr. Pepper tastes like children’s cough syrup, so I’ll have to scratch that off the list of reasons to care.)
Godawful post-heyday studio output
A lot of us tend (or try) to forget that GNR have released some studio tracks since The Spaghetti Incident, their last major album. In 1994, we were subjected to “Sympathy for the Devil” on the Interview with the Vampire soundtrack, a mostly literal cover distinguished only by Axl’s misguided, hammy vocal performance. Even less memorable: in 1999, they released “Oh My God,” a track featured in the apocalyptic Schwarzenegger vehicle End of Days. That film’s entire soundtrack was mired in the dregs of rock’s most deplorable era, with contributions from Creed, Korn, and Limp Bizkit. “Oh My God” fits right in, a ridiculous flurry of new-metal/industrial bilge without the merest hint of a tune. Absent Axl’s screeching, you might easily mistake it for Powerman 5000 or Rob Zombie, and it somehow manages to sound decades more outdated than any late-’80s GNR material. Given that, I’m not sure why we should care about Chinese Democracy any more than we’d care about an upcoming Mudvayne album.
The horrifying leaked songs
Over the years, several tracks from the Chinese Democracy sessions have surfaced on the Internet — and they sound like a direct continuation of the nauseating new-metal direction of “Oh My God,” filled with electronic flourishes, processed guitars, industrial beats, and non-existent melodies. “Better” crosses the line into humiliating, dad-thinks-he’s-cool mega-squareness — what we’re dealing with here is the sonic equivalent of Axl’s pathetic “I’m not bald!” cornrows. Worse yet, Buckethead’s unwieldy, inappropriate technical leads are shoehorned into most of the tracks; he’s funny as a concept, but God help us if we have to listen to him play. Maybe the saddest part is that the tracks aren’t even funny-bad: they’re just stupid, forgettable, and outmoded. If I were you, I’d cross “desire to hear the album” off your give-a-shit list.
When it’s released, the fun’s over
What’s more amusing: a colossal dud of an album by a long-irrelevant artist or a never-ending saga of wasted money, acrimonious firings, disastrous tours, awful Internet leaks, and unchecked egos? Now that all hope of a decent record has long since faded, I think most of us would gladly give up our Dr. Peppers for 10 more years of this incredible soap opera.