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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
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I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Women’s spring soccer comes to an end this weekend
Lily GouinApril 19, 2024

‘Chinese Democracy’ not worth the wait

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For more than a decade, “Chinese Democracy” has been nothing but a punch line. No album in history has had such a well-documented and laughable path to release. With a seemingly never-ending carousel of musicians and studios involved, only one element of Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” has held constant: mastermind Axl Rose. He’s the only remaining member from the lineup that tore through the late ’80s and early ’90s, and has finally wrangled all of the work onto one not-so-cohesive unit.

“Democracy” has its shining moments, but the final product surely doesn’t live up to the hype. The 14 tracks are quite schizophrenic — a mix-and-match hodgepodge of sounds. Many tracks wind up overproduced, which may be inevitable after 11-plus years of work. The song structures are more reminiscent of the “Use Your Illusion” albums, with sprawling solos, breakdowns and overall complex arrangements.

A large cast of characters contributed to the album’s massive sound, from Nine Inch Nails alums Robin Finck (guitar) and Josh Freese (drums), to shredders Buckethead and Bumblefoot. Rose attempts to tie all the madness together with his incredibly far-ranging vocals, amidst hip-hop beats, piano, keyboards and constant orchestral and choral inclusion.

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At times, there are bits of the raw, energetic sound that made “Appetite for Destruction” a phenomenal success. There are other moments where the gigantic sounds of strings and choir all fit together perfectly, as they so often did in the “Illusion” albums. All too often, though, other than Rose’s voice, this contemporary version of GN’R has little resemblance to the one we know and love.

The title-track, which serves as the album’s opener, begins with Rose’s long-lost screech, and builds to a satisfying stop-and-go riff. Rose immediately shakes off the history and addresses listeners, in the context of the song of course, opening the album with the lines “It don’t really matter / You’re gonna find out for yourself.” After the first minute, though, the nostalgia wears thin. The song is ultimately forgettable and sure to get lost in the mix of today’s repetitive radio rock.

“Shackler’s Revenge” brings a taste of the GN’R of old, with heavy guitars and Rose’s deepest growl and his high shrieks overlapping.

“Better” may be the album’s catchiest track, which is oddly enough built around a hip-hop hook carried wonderfully by Rose’s voice at its highest of highs. It later erupts into a rocker worthy of the GN’R name.

Rose’s vocal highs are showcased again on the poppy “If The World,” where Rose wails alongside drum-machine snares and Buckethead’s Spanish guitar plucking. It’s another catchy tune, although too busy and overproduced.

This gaudiness reaches its climax in “Madagascar,” where Rose uses French Horns, more digital drums, an orchestra and layers of guitars over his crooning. As if all that wasn’t enough, Rose tops it off with clips of Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches and, pulling from his bag of “Civil War” tricks, includes more lines from “Cool Hand Luke.” Failure to communicate? Unfortunately.

“Chinese Democracy” will always be the album known more for the years leading up to its release than the finished product. Had the music been superb, it still may have not been able to shake its history. Nonetheless, what we’re left with is an overly decorated album with few bits of glory. Despite the build-up, the album won’t even be claiming the top spot on this week’s Billboard chart — surely a letdown to Rose, much as “Chinese Democracy” is a letdown to fans expecting the excellence the name Guns N’ Roses once represented.

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