Sunday, November 23, 2008

Appetite For Illusions

It's been a long time since I've written here--the whole "grown-up job" thing is slowly killing me (or at least leeching my creative energy). But it's been even longer since Guns N' Roses released an album. Ignoring The Spaghetti Incident? (which was all covers and mostly sucktacular--though not quite as bad as most people claim), the last time we've heard from G N' R (other than that awful song from the Aaaanold vs. Satan movie) was in 1991, when they released both Use Your Illusion albums on the same day. Just to give you an idea of how long ago that was, here are some fun facts about what was (or in some cases, wasn't) going on in the world as I stood in the cold at Midnight to get my hands on these two tapes (yeah, that's right, tapes--the albums also released on CD, but they were still kind of a new thing):
  • I had been a freshman in college for less than a month.
  • The first George Bush was President, and the first Gulf War had only been over for a few months.
  • It would still be three more years before Rick Rubin would revive Johnny Cash's career with the first installment of the American Recordings series.
  • O.J. hadn't killed anyone yet.
  • The Big Lebowski was still 7 years away.
  • The Chicago Bulls had just won their FIRST NBA championship.
  • The interwebs didn't really exist yet. No Facebook, no MySpace, no Wikipedia, no blogs, no Strongbad, no porn. Just a handful of BBSes that only a few hardcore nerds even knew about.
  • The term "former Soviet Union" was just coming into the collective vocabulary.
  • Freddie Mercury was still alive.
  • Hex Games (now celebrating 10 years of QAGS--buy your copy today at www.hexgames.com) wouldn't be founded for another 6 years. In fact, I hadn't even met co-founders Leighton Connor and Dale French yet. I hadn't learned the fine art of the cheap plug yet, either.
Ok, so it was a long damn time ago. Chinese Democracy was first announced in something like 1994, but then the band imploded, Axl lost his mind and had his face replaced with a Guy Fawkes mask, and other bad things happened. Eventually "Guns N' Roses" became "Axl Rose and some other people who aren't really Guns N' Roses," but at least that's closer to being the actual band than "Black Sabbbath featuring Tommy Iomi." Anyway, eventually the band actually released a song on some new Guitar Hero thing and Axl said that the album would soon be released. Nobody believed it, including Dr. Pepper, who offered a free Dr. Pepper to everyone in the U.S. if Chinese Democracy came out before the end of the year.

Dr. Pepper is a powerful motivator (especially Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, which I'm reasonably sure contains crack cocaine), and in order to collect their share of the syrupy goodness, Axl and the boys (whoever that was at the moment) finished the album and announced it would release on November 23 at Best Buy (and only at Best Buy, but I think you can all guess my problems with that). I'm sure you can also buy the album online, but this is a case where I for one need the real thing. I'm fine with just a digital copy of the newest Kid Rock or whatever, but when it comes to serious music (or at least something as long-awaited as this), I want liner notes and album art and all that good stuff. So I dug out my portable CD player, picked up the CD at Best Buy, and hit the interstate, fully intending to (as Jon Bon Jovi might say) have my face rocked.

I had heard from a few sources that this album was supposed to be classic G N' R, and the first few tracks were promising, if not quite up to the Appetite for Destruction level of dirty rock goodness. After that, the album veers into Use Your Illusion territory and pretty much stays there. This is clearly the Axl rose show--not that there's anything wrong with that. Once you accept the idea that Chinese Democracy isn't going to kick your ass with anything approaching Welcome to the Jungle or My Michelle, it works pretty well as Use Your Illusion III--overproduced but very listenable. It's not the new Guns N' Roses album you really want, but when you think about it, Chinese Democracy is the new Guns N' Roses album that you probably should have expected.

As for the free Dr. Pepper, the company tried to make good on the offer, but the sheer number of responses crashed their site. They've extended the offer and supposedly increased their bandwidth, but so far I haven't been able to make it through. As you might expect, there are already several net forums where people are bitching and whining about how Dr. Pepper "scammed" everyone by not beefing up their website beforehand. I'm not sure how failure to anticipate participation in an offer for free product counts as a scam, but I guess idiots like that are the price we pay for porn and Strongbad.
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