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FINALLY, A “JUSTIFY YOUR SH*TTY TASTE” I CAN GET BEHIND: CHINESE DEMOCRACY

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FINALLY, A “JUSTIFY YOUR SH*TTY TASTE” I CAN GET BEHIND: CHINESE DEMOCRACY

I know I’ve been kind of obsessed (here, here, here, here) with The Deciblog’s “Justify Your Shitty Taste” columns, but can you really blame me? What’s more fun than watching people get upset over nothing?

I think you could count the positive reviews for Guns N’ Roses’ (really Axl Rose’s) Chinese Democracy on one hand; I oughta know, ’cause I wrote one of ’em. I still take shit for that review, and I still stand by it. I completely, 100% understand why someone wouldn’t like Chinese Democracy, but I still completely, 100%, and without shame fucking love it.

And apparently, so does Decibel‘s Shawn Macomber because he has written absolutely EPIC defense (almost as epic as the album itself) of the record for this week’s “JYST.”

Macomber starts out by doing the same thing Lee Siegel did when defending Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (another unfairly maligned work of art, if you ask me) more than a decade ago: he points out that a lot of the critics seemed to be reacting to the hype and the mythos of the work, rather than the work itself. Then he admits that Axl Rose is crazy (correct), asserts that Rose’s craziness is what both his greatest artistic strength and weakness (also correct), and even goes so far as to posit that Chinese Democracy, and not the Use Your Illusion albums, is the true ensuant spiritual ancestor of Appetite for Destruction (I’m not sure but I see his point and I’m open to being persuaded). And he does it with such intelligence that it’s hard for me to imagine anyone reading the piece and not agreeing that, even if they still don’t appreciate the music itself, the record was never really given a fair shot by many fans and critics.

My only real complaint about Macomber’s piece is that he spends a lot of time defending Axl/discussing the way the album was received, and not enough time discussing the music itself. At the conclusion of the article, he calls Chinese Democracy “a great work of art,” but doesn’t say why, exactly, he believes that to be the case.  So to conclude this article-about-an-article, I’ll be an arrogant prick and quote my own review:

“Calling the album ‘busy’ is a valid criticism, but it’s also what makes Chinese Democracy worthwhile. Listen to this album with a really good set of earphones and try to pick apart exactly what each and every musician is doing – it’s a stupid amount of fun, precisely because there’s just so much fucking sound, so many different seemingly incompatible styles, all being made by so many cool people. It elevates Chinese Democracy above its own simple pop framework, and rewards multiple listens.”

It is Axl Rose’s outsized insanity that makes Chinese Democracy a good listen; Slash faded into the background of his own solo album, which sounds like a collection of b-sides for the various singers he recruited to appear on the recordings, but Chinese Democracy is an honest statement, a work of art which sincerely reflects the mind and personality of the artist. When it succeeds, it succeeds big, and when it fails, it fails big… but it’s never boring.

-AR

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