The cover of Chinese Democracy.
The reclusive Axl Rose took 14 years and $14 million to make Chinese Democracy.
Rock 'n' rollers, oil up your walkers and aim them at your nearest Best Buy come Nov. 23. That big-barn retailer will be the exclusive distributor of the new Guns N' Roses CD, Chinese Democracy. It's a collection of songs some 14 tortuous years in the making, at a reported cost of nearly $14 million. That's a million a year for bandleader Axl Rose, who's been living the reclusive life in lovely Malibu, Calif. Welcome to the jungle, indeed.
It is perhaps no mistake that one of the tracks on the new album is titled "Catcher in the Rye." Rose is arguably hard rock's answer to J.D Salinger, who hasn't published a word since 1965, and whose distaste for the ever-curious media is shared by the singer. As Rose said in the distant '90s, "You end up with people looking at your life not through a telescope, but a kaleidoscope. Everything's in pieces and distorted." Can't argue with him there, except I think he meant microscope.
Speaking of distorted, one glance at the lyrics of Chinese Democracy's title track leaves one wondering whether there's been too much MSG — or even mercury — in Rose's reportedly all-sushi diet. Is it an angry ode to a spurned lover, or an oblique and overdue commentary on Tiananmen Square-era politics in Beijing? "Sitting in a Chinese stew," he sings in one verse, and "Blame it on the Falun Gong" in another. Even Charlie Chan couldn't solve this mystery.
Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash may have shed some light on Rose's artistic hyper-sensitivity during an interview with David Letterman last year. Apparently, young Rose had been crashing at Slash's mom's house in the early going. She found him passed out on Granny's couch — the poor old lady had nowhere to sit. On the way to a rehearsal, Slash says he confronted Rose.
"And we got in the car, and I very delicately told him, 'That was sort of rude,' " Slash said. "His reaction was to jump out of the car. It was going about 35 or 40 miles per hour."
"There came a point," Slash told another interviewer while speaking of Guns N' Roses, "that it just stopped being fun."
If you want fun, get yourself a free 20-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper when Chinese Democracy finally comes out. The soft-drink bottler had challenged GNR to release the album before 2009 rolled around, and now intends to make good on its offer to give fans free soda if it did. If that's not enough syrupy corporate synergy for you, Microsoft's X-Box platform is featuring another new track by the band, "Sheckler's Revenge," on the just-released Rock Band 2 game.
"I've got an itchy finger," Rose sings in a distorted whine. "I'm going to pull the trigger and blow them all away."
Nice to know the anger-management classes finally kicked in.