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Guns N' Roses Leaks Review
by dolemint

dolemint kicks off our special look at what we might expect when Chinese Democracy is finally released. In case you have been living under a rock, a few demos of new GNR songs have leaked over the past few weeks and while we don't have the full album yet, we do have a small sneak peak at what Axl has been up to over the past decade or so. Here is dolemint with his take on the leaked demos and what the future holds for GNR

Axl Rose has unwittingly earned the reputation of being the Howard Hughes of the music world: One of the most envied, successful people of his trade, who left the public eye in the prime of his career. Sure, he poked his head out a couple times -- Once for "Oh My God," a 1998 movie soundtrack contribution that disappointed. And again in 2002 for a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, which also disappointed. And for a handful of concerts in the same timeframe that ended in riots. That... also disappointed. 

However, Axl's strange behavior seems to have worked to his advantage. Not being able to produce an album at the height of the grunge period prevented him from facing a possible overlooked release, which was a situation that hurt almost every other rock band's reputation. Canceling concerts, instead of truly angering the public, seems to have only given him notoriety. Losing every core Guns N' Roses member surely affected the hardcore fanbase, but Velvet Revolver's limited appeal -- comprised primarily of GN'R's rhythm's section with a new frontman -- failed to create Appetite For Destruction Part II, let alone even an adequate substitute. 

Getting to the point, there's tons of people who are intrigued to hear what Axl, who has reportedly spent up to $13 million in the studio for his Chinese Democracy project, is actually up to. 

I figured Axl had been so quiet because he had nothing to write about. When I first caught wind that studio demos had started to leak, I wasn't expecting much. But leak, they did. And impress, they did. 

I, like most scavengers who hunted before the lawyers put the axe down, have heard 4 demos of varying sound quality. The new material so far sounds like a logical extension to the Use Your Illusion recordings. Honestly, and surprisingly, the songs I've heard are something I would suspect Slash and co. would have been happily on board for if this was Axl's initial direction. 

To the songs: 

The first track that was leaked, I.R.S., isn't Shakespeare lyrically, but it isn't offensive to the senses, either. Honestly, it isn't anything to write home about, it's sort of a "meh" track, it's somewhat forgettable but not at all poor. Overall I was stoked to hear it, but not because it is a kickass track. I was mainly surprised to hear Axl's voice for the first time in forever, and delighted that the song was actually pretty decent. 

There Was A Time (T.W.A.T.) 
This second leak (although a partial leak may have preceded it) has the make-up to be a very decent song. It has a memorable hook, along with a very Use Your Illusion, off tempo/ballady Axl Rose style. It also features some tasty licks from who I assume is Buckethead, a prior (?) member of the band who helps give the song an emotional, poignant vibe. "November Rain" it is not, but it's a definite sign that Axl can still pen a worthy tune. 

This is the third leak, and this song simply puts a smile on my face. It has chart-topper written all over it, but without selling out to today's scene. There's very few songs that I thoroughly enjoy on my first listen, but "Better" can be added to that short list. I still consider Chinese Democracy the "Axl Rose" project as opposed to "Guns N' Roses," but this song easily does either name justice. It is instantly catchy and is still great on repeated listens. It's a definite hard rocker that includes a head-bangable bridge with a slight industrial edge, but without Axl sounding like a poseur. With "Better," Axl's shaping a style of current music instead of copying it. Hooks, melody, and the GN'R vibe. Thumbs way the hell up on this demo. 

Catcher In The Rye
Fans familiar with the Illusion albums will know that Axl tends to enjoy writing the off-tempo epics, and this track definitely continues that tradition. Many listeners who previewed this song had recognized a Queen vibe right off the bat, and rightly so. It seems that even Axl did, as it was later confirmed by Queen guitarist Brian May that he was asked to guest on this track (he accepted the invite). Apparently inspired by John Lennon's shooting death by Mark David Chapman, this song has a slightly eerie, somber feel, but is at the same time intensely melodic and beautiful. This song, like "Better," has the makings of being A+ material. 

From the four tracks I've previewed, there are two highlights that hit both ends of the spectrum - a great rocker and a strong epic ballad. Judging by the leaked songs, there's no doubt there's some great material in-between. The pessimist in me feels that Chinese Democracy is never coming out. However, the leaks leave me optimistic that if it does, it will be something great.

We'll be back in a week or two with another take on the GNR leaks. Maybe there will be even more to review by then… or perhaps a release date for the real thing?


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