If it sounds like an Axl Rose solo album dressing up as a Guns’n’Roses album for Halloween… it’s cuz that’s pretty much what it is. It's not the first band to have one person keep the name and use it, but yea, this is an Axl & Friends album obviously. And honestly this album woulda been just as weak 15-16 years ago. So it’s not that I’m “disappointed after the long wait” cuz I was never waiting for it and never much of a Guns'n'Roses fan anyway.
The incomparable Chuck Klosterman started his review this way:
Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It's more like reviewing a unicorn. Should I primarily be blown away that it exists at all? Am I supposed to compare it to conventional horses? To a rhinoceros? Does its pre-existing mythology impact its actual value, or must it be examined inside a cultural vacuum, as if this creature is no more (or less) special than the remainder of the animal kingdom? I've been thinking about this record for 15 years; during that span, I've thought about this record more than I've thought about China, and maybe as much as I've thought about the principles of democracy.
If you read his whole review, he’s actually quite generous and seems to actually like the album. My review goes like this: Part boring, part horrendous.... mostly forgettable soulless schlock rock. Okay Axl, go away for another 15 years thanks.
But Klosterman sums it up better:
Sometimes it seems like Axl believes every single Guns N' Roses song needs to employ every single thing that Guns N' Roses has the capacity to do—there needs to be a soft part, a hard part, a falsetto stretch, some piano plinking, some R&B bullshit, a little Judas Priest, subhuman sound effects, a few Robert Plant yowls, dolphin squeaks, wind, overt sentimentality, and a caustic modernization of the blues.
Of course Rolling Stone magazine has it in the top 10 of their Best Albums of the Year list, which makes sense for a magazine that puts Britney Spears and the Jonas Brothers on the cover.
But really, in the end it’s just hard to respect a guy who wants to be treated like a genius but cant even bother to show up for work. From TheAge.com:
Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose has been missing for two months.
The eccentric rocker has infuriated bosses at record label Geffen after disappearing without promoting the band's long-awaited Chinese Democracy album, which was released last week 15 years after the last Guns N' Roses LP.
A source told Britain's The Sun newspaper: People have been trying to contact Axl for two months and he's completely AWOL. It is frustrating because the album would have had a much better chance of going to number one if he had only been prepared to show his face.
You would have thought after spending all those years on an album you might do a few weeks of promotion.
Chinese Democracy was beaten to the number one spot in the UK album charts by The Killers' Day and Age, which sold 200,000 copies nearly twice as many as Axl's record, which is rumoured to have cost $13 million, making it the most expensive ever album.