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Monday, May 15, 2006

You Could Be Mine

I fondly remember Guns N' Roses back in the day. (When I mean "the day," I mean elementary school and middle school for me.) Compared to the average big rock band with big hair, they were the real deal. They weren't pretty or nice. They lived the debauchery of rock stardom to a T in their videos, image and in their songs. They had a number of great tunes that were dangerous and poppy at the same time. But this was a good 15-20 years ago. Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion are still fantastic, but I'd love to see them be remastered on CD. That's just me, but there's a big event on the horizon for a lot of longtime fans: a new album and tour. Now I'm wondering with the upcoming release of Chinese Democracy, why are people looking forward to this?

Make no mistake, Axl Rose is the definition of untouchable rock star. Always hours late to promotional appearances, easily angered and very uneasy to please, this is not the kind of person I'd like to be. However, people love the fantasy of a guy who takes zero crap and makes people revolve around him. Maybe Rose's persona is what people are looking forward to because I sincerely doubt Chinese Democracy is going to be the album longtime fans have been waiting for.

After the all-covers album, The Spaghetti Incident? in 1993, the "classic" GNR line-up slowly fell apart. Gilby left, Matt left, Slash left and then Duff left, thus leaving Axl as the man behind everyone. Izzy and Steven had long since left, but Gilby and Matt were as good if not better than them. So who's in the band now? A bunch of guys you might of heard of but none of them are Slash, Duff or Izzy clones. Brian "Brain" Mantia (formerly of Primus) on drums, Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails) on guitar, Ron Thal (from Bumblefoot) on guitar, Tommy Stinson (from the Replacements and Soul Asylum) on bass, Dizzy Reed from the Use Your Illusion days on keyboards and Rich Fortus on guitar. Sure, they can play the parts, but is this revamp under the GNR name necessarily a good thing? Don't tell me that Axl was the guy and everybody was replaceable. The band wouldn't be the band if it weren't for Slash or Duff at least.

A couple of tracks from Chinese Democracy leaked onto the Internet a few months ago, but I have yet to hear them. I'll make my decision if I think they're any good when I hear them, but I'm not really inclined to hear them. I haven't heard the most positive things about this new stuff. "Most of the new songs are dystopian, tense, portentous, finally a bit inconclusive; they dabble in electronic rhythms, big keyboard sounds and droning repetition," wrote Ben Ratliff for the New York Times of a recent show. "They didn't produce much catharsis, on stage or in the audience." Proving my theory that bands get bigger write-ups in the media when they have a product to sell, Chinese Democracy is just that: something new with a recognizable name on it.

Swirly Girl recently posted this about bands that reunite: "I respect bands with members that decide they can work together again and not be what they once were, you know?" I totally agree. However, a lot of people want to see an encore for almost everything even if it's not going to be the same. I would not pay money to see this version of GNR no matter how great the current band members are.

I'm getting the feeling that this is more of like seeing the Brian Jonestown Massacre only with a number of familiar songs in the set. People want to see trainwrecks (what Rose is going to wear, how tacky he looks, him not showing up on time, him leaving the stage a few songs in, riots ensuing, etc.) because it's entertainment. I'll take a malfunctioning equipment, beer-spilling Tah-Dahs set over this any day.

Finally, there is a desire for Axl Rose to show how rock should be done. Currently, we have these hardcore metal clowns dressing the part but not delivering the real deal. The persona that Rose exudes is something you can't imitate by just throwing some attitude around in the media. He's definitely a rarity.

So this is the evidence I've gathered as to why this reloaded version of GN'F'R is being looked at. Sorry, but the danger of being eight years old and seeing the "Welcome for the Jungle" video on MTV has long since passed. However, I definitely look forward to hearing the original versions of songs like "Paradise City," "You Could Be Mind" and "Estranged" on a stereo (whether it's a multi-disc changer in a den, a boombox, car stereo or a computer).

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