gnr going nowhere really

As I write this, Guns N’ Roses (well, really Axl Rose and his hired guns) are filling my headphones with music from the album, Chinese…

As I write this, Guns N’ Roses (well, really Axl Rose and his hired guns) are filling my headphones with music from the album, Chinese Democracy.

And, no, folks, I am not rocking out.

I was 40 — so already too old to rock out — when the first tracks for this 14-year-in-the making album were laid down.

And, frankly, even if I was young enough to be of the GNR generation, there is precious little on this monomaniacal, overstuffed, outdated album that would rock me out.

That said, I should also make it clear that it is not my purpose to be a music critic in this space.

For me, what is interesting is not so much the Chinese Democracy CD itself as what it reveals about how much the technology and business of music-making has changed since Guns and Roses were last heard from in 1993.

This is a band that began in the vinyl record and cassette tape era, and has ended up in the era of the MP3.

This is a band that marked the apotheosis of the super-group, and the of the big, powerful record label, and has ended up as a kind of super-anachronism in the era of failing record companies.

When they were at their height, with the simultaneous release of Use Your Illusion and Use Your Illusion II in 1991, they were the new, young hotshots of the rock ‘n’ roll world.

In typical rocker fashion, though, they quickly followed the road of excess and egotistical squabbling to collapse and obscurity.

That collapse began in the early stages of the recording of Chinese Democracy, a project that, for the same reasons of excess and egotism, would be completed only 14 years later, with only Axl Rose still a member of the group.

That the CD is selling as well as it is (it is currently the top selling CD in Canada) is in itself remarkable.

It is like Doris Day releasing her 1953 By the Light of the Silvery Moon album in 1967 and still managing to chart with it.

As well as it is doing, though, there is a noticeable “out of touch” feel to the music, and to the packaging and the promotion.

This is old-style rock ‘n’ roll, presented in the old-style way, and promoted with old-style methods.

Even the album title is symptomatic of this “out of touchness.”

In the early ‘90s, China was still very much a monolithic, communist state at the periphery of the Western world’s attention.

A title like Chinese Democracy had a whimsical tone to it then that it does not have today.

In fact, the Chinese government has banned the album, professing to be surprised and hurt by the title.

(This perhaps tells us something about the Chinese government’s espionage capability, since both the album and its title have been notorious non-secrets for 17 years or more.)

The CD packaging also speaks volumes about how badly Axl Rose’s enormous ego and manic ambitions scale to the modest size and capabilities of the CD box.

The 24-page booklet that comes as the CD box cover is crowded with gaudy graphic designs, and tiny-print, almost unreadable lyrics (which are actually not really interesting enough to be worth the effort of printing, anyway).

Two pages give the full player-list for each of the 14 songs — probably more than a hundred names, and, again, pretty much unreadable.

There are three pages dedicated to album credits and thank you’s, once again running into the many hundreds of names, and all once again almost unreadable.

(There are so many thank you’s, you start to wonder if anyone has so much as made Axl a chicken sandwich without earning a place in this list.)

The ambition is to be like one of those all-dressed, double-fold vinyl record covers of the ‘70s and ‘80s; the effect is like that of the music — overstuffed, ugly and confused.

Similarly, the marketing method for Chinese Democracy, at least in the US, hearkens back to Geffen Record’s glory days with the Use Your Illusion twosome.

Though it is selling in the normal markets in the normal ways in Canada, the US album was released through and exclusive arrangement with the Best Buy store, to go on sale at Midnight on Sunday, November 23.

The idea, I suppose, was to generate some of the consumer feeding frenzy that happened with the Use Your Illusion albums, when fans camped out over night at record stores to get a chance to buy them.

A cruise of the news sites would indicate, though, that no such consumer frenzy occurred this time, which is hardly surprising.

The people who were in their early 20s in 1991 — the kind of people who are likely to be at all interested in what this long-defunct band might be up to — are now in their late ‘30s.

They not likely to spend the night away from the house and kids for a chance to buy an album they can probably download from iTunes later.

This is not a record that is going to change the fortunes of the big record companies or their ludicrous old distribution practices.

Word has it that Axl Rose is planning to make Chinese Democracy the first installment of a trilogy of albums — which should keep him busy for another 28 years or so.

If I could make bold to offer him a little advice, it would be two things.

First, a man in his late 40s wailing and howling about his passionate and defiant heart tends to look more foolish than cool. Learn how to age gracefully.

Second, if you are going to make music that anybody wants to listen to, take a page from an artist like Bob Dylan and re-invent yourself. Pimped-up ‘90s metal rock is not going to do it for you.

Like, get with the times, man.

Rick Steele is a technology junkie who lives in Whitehorse.

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read