By Jason Menard
Which will come first the Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy or the actual advent of true Chinese Democracy in the communist nation? But perhaps the better question is while we all care about the latter, does anyone care about the former.
I mean, really, Guns N’ Roses? I’m 33 and my memory of them is fading, so how can they compete in a market that’s already focusing on finding the next thing – not resurrecting the ghosts of fading rockers. Or should we say fading rocker? Because, in truth, the new Guns N’ Roses is nothing more than an Axl Rose vanity project. Slash is long gone… the other guys that you also don’t remember are gone, and in their place are a couple of guys who seemingly have no shame – or at least don’t mind appropriating the name that someone else built.
Yes, to no one’s surprise, the album Chinese Democracy, which was scheduled to be released in March is, once again, off the schedule. At this point, it’s probably safer for all involved just to flush the recordings down the toilet and call it a night, because nothing’s going to live up to 10 years of expectations.
Well, maybe we should qualify the term expectations. After all, is there anyone out there who thinks this album is going to be any good? Most memorable records – and I know I’m dating myself with this terminology – are reflective of a certain era or moment in time. They capture the cultural zeitgeist and translate it into an aural experience that transcends cultures, beliefs, and styles. Memorable music is such that it allows individuals to feel that they’re sharing a common experience, in the here and now, which allows them to find something to which they can relate in the music.
So when an album takes over a decade to record, can there truly be any cohesiveness? Will tracks on this new album already be dated due to the fact that, perhaps, they were penned three or four boy-band cycles ago?
Oh, by the way, did I mention 21 members? A quick search of the Wikipedia – admittedly, not the most reliable source of information, but certainly au courant when it comes to pop culture – shows that there are and have been 21 current and former members of the band. When that many parts have been interchanged, can it even be considered the same entity anymore? Or is Guns N’ Roses nothing more than Lee Majors’ Steve Austin with an amp?
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest G N’ R fan. I enjoyed Appetite for Destruction as a high schooler and will still sing along to some of the standards from that album like Sweet Child O’ Mine. And I liked the next couple of albums. But that was then, this is now. I don’t feel the need to find out what Axl thinks right now – I didn’t even care much then.
Over a decade’s worth of expectations have been built up. Even if Chinese Democracy was a modern-day White Album, there’s no possible way that it could live up to the amount of time it took to bring it to masses.
So what’s the alternative? In this case, perhaps the music not heard could grow in stature until it reaches the status of urban legend. If the band burned the masters now, then stories could start circulating from those privy to the studio sessions who could say that the music was unlike anything ever heard. Axl Rose could become the musical equivalent of J.D. Salinger! After all, many myths exist about the one great book that Salinger is sitting on in his self-exile – one that will never see the light of day after his death. Really, even if gold drips off the pages while you read it, no printed word could leave a more indelible imprint on one’s mind than what your own imagination has crafted to fill the void.
So too should it be for Chinese Democracy. Instead of releasing what’s sure to be a disappointment and staining the band’s legacy (kind of like what’s happened to Paul McCartney with his recent string of less-than-memorable releases) Axl and the boys should take solace that they were big once and not tamper with those memories.
And if absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, then the band – and its never-to-be-released album – could reach icon status just by doing what everyone else in the world has done – give up on the album ever seeing the light of day.
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