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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now let's talk about a band which maybe could have used a nanny over the years. The hard-rocking group Guns N' Roses was one of the biggest bands of the '80s. By some estimates, it sold close to 100 million records worldwide. But it's been 17 years since the band released an album of new material. Every few years, there was a rumor that an album was imminent, but it never came out until yesterday. It's called "Chinese Democracy." And NPR's Stephen Thompson has a review.

STEPHEN THOMPSON: "Chinese Democracy" is real. You can walk into a store - for now just Best Buy - and walk out with a Guns 'N Roses album many thought would never exist.

(Soundbite of song "Better")

GUNS N' ROSES: (Singing) No one ever told me when I was alone, They just thought I'd know better, better.

THOMPSON: It's been a myth and a punch line. Singer Axl Rose blew through more than $10 million and all of his original collaborators in a decade of tinkering. So how does it sound?

(Soundbite of song "Better")

GUNS N' ROSES: (Singing) The hardest part, this troubled heart has never yet been through now. To heal the scars that got their start inside someone like you now.

THOMPSON: Believe it or not, it sounds like a new Guns N' Roses record with muscular guitars and vocals that squeal and seethe. "Chinese Democracy" can't live up to expectations, nor can it live down the delays that made it legendary.

(Soundbite of music)

THOMPSON: What you get if you crack open the fevered brain of Axl Rose today is more of the testiness and paranoia he's been peddling since the beginning.

(Soundbite of song "Shackler's Revenge")

GUNS N' ROSES: (Singing) I've got a funny feeling there's something wrong today, I've got a funny feeling, and it won't go away.

THOMPSON: After three bombastic ringers, "Chinese Democracy" gets flabby. A ballad called "Street of Dreams" shows why the phrase "street of dreams" should be banned from rock music. "Madagascar" didn't need a string section or a sample from the "I Have a Dream" speech. And GNR's big guitars sound overproduced and indistinct. They're too often used as blunt instruments.

(Soundbite of song "Chinese Democracy")

GUNS N' ROSES: (Singing) It don't really matter. You're gonna find out for yourself. No it don't really matter, You're gonna leave this thing to somebody else.

THOMPSON: Still, "Chinese Democracy" wins points just for entering the world. After all these years, hearing it is like finally seeing the monster at the end of a horror movie. It's no longer a mystery, but at least now the real action begins.

(Soundbite of song "Chinese Democracy")

GUNS N' ROSES: (Singing) Our baby got to rule the nation, But all I got is precious time.

INSKEEP: The review of the new album from Guns N' Roses comes from NPR's Stephen Thompson, and you heard it on Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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