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Axl Rose Tag

As we gather once more at the Popdose dinner table to crack open some beer, bubbly, and/or bourbon (or, in Jason’s case, an orange Nehi) and chow down on the delicacies that have been emerging from the kitchen for the last ten minutes, I must admit to a moment of misty humility. I consider myself fortunate to know and work with my ‘Dose friends, to write for and correspond with our readership, and to bask in the sickly glow of my computer monitor for hours upon hours every week in order to partake of their virtual presence.

It hasn’t been easy, particularly lately. Time, time, time has not been on my side (no, it hasn’t)—job and family responsibilities, as well as a frustrating and ill-timed relapse or two into procrastination (not to mention an honest-to-God flood this fall), have conspired against me, rendering my schedule a miserable mess, and my ‘Dose output has suffered in frequency, if not quality. An unpredictable and unfocused malaise has also settled upon me at various times this fall, rendering me not merely unable to devote the time to write, but also bereft of both inspiration and of words to describe my lack.

“The only place I get hurt is out there. The world don’t give a shit about me.”

I. Well, I’m Frustrated and Outdated

The first voice you hear is a dead man’s scream. It’s one of those full-throated primal belts, like Roger Daltrey’s in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Here it’s Kevin DuBrow, his scalded screech busting the floodgates for “Bang Your Head (Metal Health),” the second single from Quiet Riot’s landmark Metal Health (1983), the first slab of fuzz ’n’ meedley to ever reach #1 on the Billboard Albums chart.

The band was at its mainstream zenith then. Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was probably just getting started, years of toil finally paying off as professional wrestling graduated from the sweathouse din of high school gyms to respectable arenas in metropolitan cities. It came with a price, of course. Regional territories were swallowed by ambitious, growing monoliths. But that wouldn’t matter for a while, not even to the Ram. Luckily, he was in his prime, synchronous with the era. He was the ’80s.

Someday that would come back to haunt him, but someday was just a harmless, nebulous future. For now we’re in his past. Wisely, director Darren Aronofsky (on a Robert D. Siegel script) never shows us this past except as a collage of scattered magazines and handbills against the ghostly chatter of ringside patter and a raucous anthem that rocked a long-gone summer, growled by a man who in 2007 was silenced forever.

But Ram still struts to this hoary buzzsaw, having plucked it during its popularity and transformed it into his ring-entrance music. When the riffs kick in to summon his fist-pumping form, the crowds respond as they would at a concert. They know what’s coming: a classic blast from their childhoods, riding into town with a near-suicidal need to entertain. And the outcome is always predetermined. Once their faded hero climbs the ropes and drops that old-school Ram Jam finisher — his greatest hit — it’s over, brother.

All over.

It’s the curse of the debut album: the artist, unsure of who he/she is or what he/she ought to sound like strikes out in all directions — a power ballad here, a blues grinder there, a piano pop-tune way over yonder. The artist can be forgiven for their somewhat schizoid aim since the label has put all the weight of the company, as well as one’s own career path, down on their freshman shoulders. With that in mind, W. Axl Rose is the oldest freshman in the history of music, as his magnum opus Chinese Democracy has finally seen the light of day. The good news is that it isn’t the unmitigated failure we expected, yet it is far from the triumphant return from exodus his handlers would like you to believe.

It is the equivalent of time travel wrapped in aluminum, or vinyl if you so desire, as songs that gestated through the 15-year span in between it and the previous covers album The Spaghetti Incident? (1993) have not been updated to any semblance of modernity. Rose’s flirtation with industrial rock in the early nineties, plainly NIN-fluenced, are left intact and instantly dated as are the tracks that are NU-fluenced. Korn should be proud to hear the presence of down-tuning, hip-hop loop beats and scream chants on a GNR album, but even Linkin Park jumped that train and caught a taxi to emo-town. I suppose we dodged a Rose-colored, mascaraed bullet on that.

But there are a couple songs that I didn’t mind listening to. In fact, if “Better” came on the radio, I might not turn the dial. It has a semblance of the old attitude the band once had, and not too much of the stylistic shout-outs that bog down the rest of the album. “Shackler’s Revenge” survives a disheartening opening to reveal itself as one of the stronger tracks, and because I do have a soft spot for proggish bombast and consider “November Rain” my favorite GNR tune, “There Was A Time” survives the time trials. But where I finished Metallica’s Death Magnetic and thought, “I’ll still listen to Justice and the black album more, but I’ll revisit this occasionally too,” I can only bring myself to clicking off my favorites in Chinese Democracy‘s jumble and dumping them into a hard-rock mixtape. The rest of the album is skip-fodder and, considering the majority of my music listening happens in my car, I’d rather play a different CD and keep my eyes on the road.