The other day, Daulton discovered that Mike Gatto (not Daulton) loves 90’s progressive metal band Faith No More, and has on several occasions even gone so far as to suggest that he likes them even more than Guns N’ Roses. This is obviously a crock of shit, as everyone knows that Mike Gatto loves Guns N’ Roses — even Chinese Democracy because its funny in the same way Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is. Here’s Mike Gatto’s DEFINITIVE RANKING of EVERY SINGLE GUNS N’ ROSES SONG!
Appetite For Destruction (1987)
This album is the 4th greatest thing in the universe, behind Mike Gatto’s big hard dick and Mike Gatto’s two soft balls. It’s a great album for fingerbanging and it sounds awesome on a shitty stereo. There’s only one kinda slow song, but it’s not even really a ballad. I don’t know how many stars there are on my scale yet because I haven’t gotten that far in my review, but this album gets the most stars possible.
“Welcome to the Jungle” — 10 STARS
It’s hard to imagine a better way to start an album or an NFL game. But beyond the power of the music itself are Axl’s lyris. If Van Halen or Poison wrote a song called “Welcome to the Jungle,” it would be about how cool the jungle is and how awesome parties are. And while that’s true, a small town religious kid like Axl would have experienced LA in a very different way. And when you strip away all the hype and the coke and take clearheaded look back at LA in the 80’s, I think Axl’s perspective holds up better than David Lee Roth’s, even if David Lee Roth is undeniably sweet too.
“It’s So Easy” — 10 STARS
This song is mean and nasty and to the point. There are many standout lyrics, including some choice lines about fucking chicks because you’re bored and being able to handle drinking and driving. But this is the winner: “I see you standing there. You think you’re so cool. Why don’t you just fuck off?” That’s about the coolest thing you can possibly say to some douchebag who’s standing there thinking he’s so cool.
“Nighttrain” — 10 STARS
This song is so fucking sweet. It’s about getting drunk. Or more specifically, being such a sweet dude that chicks will pay for you to get drunk… as long as you’re drinking the cheapest wine she can charge at the 7/11. Awwww…. beneath the gasoline-drinking-rattlesnake-boot-wearing tough guys, they were still just kids (Axl’s still wearing braces in the video for Welcome to the Jungle).
“Outta Get Me” — 9 STARS
Axl was a paranoid dude. That paranoia eventually devolved into self-obsession, but back when he was a teenager getting busted by cops, it was something we could all relate to. Standout lyric: “They’re out to get me. They won’t catch me. I’m fucking innocent. So you can suck me. Take that one to heart.” Will do.
“Mr. Brownstone” — 10 STARS
GNR always a broader sphere of creative influences than their Sunset Strip contemporaries. That lead to super funky shit like this song about doing drugs and then doing more drugs because you’d gotten used to the amount of drugs you’d been doing. Again, very relatable. It’s also about going on stage late, which was forgivable back then because Axl wasn’t fat yet.
“Paradise City” — 15 STARS
This song is “Mrs. Robinson” for the MTV generation. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not about a Paradise City. Rather, it’s about the absence of a Paradise City, and the need we all share for a Paradise City. The kick-ass dick-stomping rock finale is the best thing that’s ever happened to ears.
(author’s note: Paradise City clearly deserves 15 stars, but Welcome to the Jungle is equally as sweet as Paradise City, so consider Welcome to the Jungle’s score similarly adjusted to 15 STARS)
“My Michelle” — 10 STARS
Axl wrote this song about Slash’s teenaged druggie girlfriend whose rich mother overdosed as her dad started working in porno. Again, the same kinds of characters who could populate a Van Halen song, but Axl sees a denial, desperation and sadness where Van Halen only sees a party. GNR occupied a grey area between rock and metal, exemplified in the contrast between the verse’s tight metal riffs and the chorus’s big, swinging rock chords.
“Think About You” — 8 STARS
Not one of the best songs on the album, but it’s still fucking awesome. This would be a standout track on a Poison album.
“Sweet Child O’ Mine” — 15 STARS
Mike Gatto loves this song as much as he hates the Armenian Genocide. It also demonstrates how Axl’s bipolar swings were as much an asset as a liability in those early days. After a couple of ridiculously sappy verses about a pure and perfect love, the song takes a hard and heavy U-turn and all Axl can do is repeat “Where do we go now?!” until he’s screaming his broken heart out. Teenagers all around the world knew exactly how he felt.
“You’re Crazy” — 10 STARS
When it comes to saying “fuck,” nobody beats Axl. Maybe this isn’t really a 10 Star song, but it’s frenetic speed and album placement (after the quasi-ballad) give it extra sweetness points it may not have otherwise earned.
“Anything Goes” — 9 STARS
See “Think About You.” Standout lyric: “Panties ’round your knees with your ass in debris.” There’s nothing about the context or subtext that can illuminate or elevate this song. It’s just a song about fucking, and Mike Gatto loves to fuck.
“Rocket Queen” — 15 STARS
The album closer is just as strong as its opener. It also features what’s probably the most poignant of Axl’s contradictory, bi-polar codas. The first half of the song details the sexual exploits of a cocksure young man (“I’ve got a tongue like a razor, a sweet switchblade knife, and if you turn me on to anything, you better turn me on tonight!”) before abruptly shifting gears as that cocksure man is reduced to a whimpering child, begging for maternal companionship (“Please don’t leave me, say you’ll always be there, all I ever wanted was for you to know that I care.”)
Nobody expected Appetite for Destruction to be such a huge hit. So while the infamously dysfunctional band were beginning to contemplate the monumental task of a follow-up album, the label rushed out an EP of previously recorded live tracks (actually shitty demos with a fake crowd added), classic rock covers, and acoustic songs. Naturally, Mike Gatto would have assumed an album like that would suck more dicks than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And maybe if it was any other band, Mike Gatto would have been correct in his assumption. But LIES stands the test of time as an intimate, sloppy portrait of a great band before it jumped the shark. It officially earns ONE LESS STAR THAN APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION, whatever that number ended up being.
“Reckless Life” — 10 STARS
He leads a reckless life, and he don’t need your advice. If anything, your advice will inspire an opposite course of action, purely out of spite. It’s this kind of thinking that would eventually lead Axl to a place of bitter resentment and isolation. But Mike Gatto suggests you forget about Chinese Democracy and just enjoy life again. Okay, Mike.
“Nice Boys” — 10 STARS
It’s pretty much the same song as the last one. But the last one was fucking super sweet. So Mike Gatto thinks this song is fucking super sweet too.
“Mamma Kin” — 10 STARS
This song starts with Axl saying, “This is as song about your fuckin’ mother.” Mike Gatto never gets sick of shit like that. GNR rocks harder than Aerosmith. So Mike Gatto concludes that GNR’s cover is better than the original.
“Move to the City” — 10 STARS
It’s pretty much Welcome to the Jungle, but without the guitar riffs or lyrical poetry. You can totally see why producers of Appetite picked Jungle instead. But as outtakes go, it’s still a great one. It would have been the best song on a Cinderella album. The presence of a horn section is an awesome delight, even if it portends the indulgences that would ultimately be Axl’s undoing (but Mike Gatto reminds us that we will get to Chinese Democracy later).
“Patience” — 15 STARS
At least for their first two albums, GNR eschewed one of the genre’s most time honored traditions: the power ballad. Sweet Child O’ Mine wasn’t technically a ballad, and while Patience is a ballad, there’s no power. There are no electric guitars and no drums. But there is whistling! Much has been said of Axl’s vocal range and timbre, but the dude has an amazing gift for conveying emotion and sincerity with his voice. Another great outro.
“Used to Love Her” — 10 STARS
This could have been a Johnny Cash song. Or a Rolling Stones song. Despite Axl’s attempts to deflect accusations of misogyny by claiming the song was about his dog, it was about a woman. Maybe Axl’s larger point was that he sees little distinction between the two. He’s kind of a shithead like that. And that’s what makes his ultimate demise as entertaining as his rise, even if the music is no longer fun to listen to. If Axl was a better human being, it would be easier for others to take the song as a joke.
“You’re Crazy” — 10 STARS
By their second album, GNR was already covering themselves. Whatever. Mike Gatto thinks this song is cool as tablespoon of Mike Gatto’s jizz. One of the things that made GNR so much better than other bands of their genre was Slash’s bluesy, rootsy, melodic guitar playing. He never did any of that retarded finger-tapping bullshit, and his acoustic solos are prime evidence of why he kicked the shit out of all those lame 80’s shredders.
“One in a Million” — 10 STARS / 0 STARS
Politically correct or not, this song does a great job of representing the ignorant, provincial, midwestern racist attitudes of the 80’s. It has great anthropological values. It’s crazy to think that back then, rock stars would wear shirts that said shit like “AIDS: Kills Fags Dead,” and there wasn’t a controversy. And it was especially ironic that the most homophobic dudes of their era wore the most make-up and used the most hairspray and looked a whole lot like drag queens. Controversy aside, they lyrics just aren’t that clever or thought-provoking, and Mike Gatto has no clue what point the chorus is trying to make about the verses. Poor Slash. It must have sucked to be the one black dude in the band when Axl pulled this stunt.
Use Your Illusion I (1991)
By the time GNR finally got around to completing and releasing an actual follow-up to their debut album, they’d already jumped the shark. Fame and drugs and narcissism had rotted away the band’s core. Use Your Illusion I & II are basically one extremely long, extremely indulgent album, comprised of early songs that wiser producers had skipped over and newer songs band members wrote individually because they were now rich and could afford homes of their own. Still, Mike Gatto can admit that there are moments of undeniable sweetness hidden in these two steaming piles of mediocrity. — 4 STARS
“Right Next Door to Hell” — 4 STARS
Meh. It’s fast and heavy and it’s sweet when Axl screams. There’s tons of modulations and riffs, just like the first song on their first album. But none of it’s that sweet really. “Right next door to hell, why don’t you write a letter to me” is nowhere near as awesome as “Welcome to the jungle, it’s going to bring you to your sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-knees.”
“Dust & Bones” — 4 STARS
Izzy sings one of Izzy’s songs, which seems to contain a lot allusions to his discontent in the band he’d quit shortly after the album’s release. Shit picks up when Axl starts singing too. But it’s a pretty forgettable tune.
“Live and Let Die: — 3 STARS
This is pretty dumb. Who gives a shit? Not Mike Gatto! Didn’t GNR have already enough cover songs in their brief repertoire? Whatever. It’s still pretty sweet when Axl screams. But not sweet enough that I’d ever intentionally turn this song on.
“Don’t Cry (original lyrics)” — 2 STARS
The only thing stupider than this fucking song was its stupid fucking video. The song predated Appetite for Destruction, but was wisely passed over in favor of songs that didn’t suck. By the time GNR got around to doing a power ballads, power ballads were almost not cool anymore. Still, it’s pretty sweet when Slash throws his guitar off a cliff and his car explodes.
“Perfect Crime” — 3 STARS
If this song was one second longer, it would have been TWO STARS. Mike Gatto thinks it’s pretty sweet when Axl counts to eight real fast and then Slash plays a solo. But whatever. It’s a pretty forgettable song. Still, this video proves how Axl was such an amazing performer that he could make a forgettable song really exciting to watch.
“You Ain’t The First” — 1 STAR
It’s not that this song sucks donkey dicks necessarily. But goddamn, there’s already so much fucking filler on this album. This really could have been left off. It’s not especially catchy, and the lyrics suck (he makes fun of his ex-girlfriend’s driving… lolz). The song ends with someone in the studio yelling, “to the bar!” Yeah, that sounds about right. They clearly had more important shit to do. And so does Mike Gatto.
“Bad Obsession” — 2 STARS
Izzy loved the Stones and brought that songwriting sensibility into the GNR mix that included the Sex Pistols (Duff), Aerosmith (Slash) and Queen (Axl). Without the influence of the rest of the band, however, a lot of his solo shit just sounded like shitty Stones rip-offs. This song is basically an Izzy solo song. The lyrics cover the same ground as Brownstone, but without poetry or wit. “I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do it so the little got more and more” are far more clever than “I gotta a bad obsession that’s always messin’ with me.” Zzzzz… Why is this song 6 minutes? And who the fuck are all those dumbasses on stage with GNR?
“Back Off Bitch” — 2 STARS
This song sucks and is lame. Another early song that didn’t make the cut on their first album and wouldn’t have made the cut on this album if Axl didn’t insist on making a double album with 500 songs on it. The chorus rhymes “bitch,” “ditch” and “witch.” Mike Gatto thinks GNR can do a lot better. Even Slash is boring on this song.
“Double Talkin’ Jive” — 3 STARS
Another Izzy song, this one only slightly interesting for the self-referential way he claims to have “no more patience” after having written an awesome hit called “Patience.” Slash’s solo starts out so awesomely that Mike Gatto started to think the whole song would be redeemed. But it peters out and eventually fades into a super-lame classical guitar outro. Gross.
“November Rain” — 7 STARS
This song features GNR at its best and worst. Best: Slash’s guitar solos. Worst: Actually, now that I think about it, pretty much everything else. The lyrics are lame. The fake synth orchestra sounds cheesier than a dirty foreskin. The epic video is especially fucking stupid. Axl was playing this song long before Appetite for Destruction (as this acoustic demo proves). But much like George Lucas and the Star Wars prequels, he felt the technology wasn’t yet sufficient to realize his vision.
“The Garden” — 2 STARS
Mike Gatto thinks this song sucks harder than Ron Kaye. It’s a shame that Alice Cooper’s collaboration with GNR was for such a shitty, forgettable tune with such a shitty, forgettable video. It seems like there was a trend with the Illusions videos: if it was an Axl song, he went all out on the video. If it wasn’t an Axl song, he wouldn’t even show up.
“Garden of Eden” — 3 STARS
Whatever. It doesn’t suck. There are some cool sound effects, and I like how it’s fast. But look how over-it the whole band looks in this video. Duff got so fat. He’s awesome now, so it’s okay. But shit, Mike Gatto thinks Duff really let himself go during the Use Your Illusion tour. They spent as little time as possible on this one.
“Don’t Damn Me” — 2 STARS
Like Lady GaGa, it only took Axl Rose one album to become so self-obsessed that the only thing he could write about was his relationship with himself. Still, it stands to reason there’d be some potential for sweetness in a song with this title. Nope. It’s tedious. The lyrics are mostly unintelligible. Sometimes it’s okay to write a song and let it go.
“Bad Apples” — 8 STARS
This song is weird and funky and loose and groovy. It’s also the only song on the whole double album credited to all four of the principal creative songwriters of Appetite’s best tunes. But then at the end he yells “Boyeeeeeee!” That cost the song one star.
“Dead Horse” — 4 STARS
Maybe by this point in the album, Mike Gatto’s standards have been lowered to the point where this song sounds better than it actually is. Mike Gatto has no fucking clue what the lyrics are about. But at least it’s not too long or pretentious.
“Coma” — 3 STARS
Speaking of long and pretentious… this song clocks in at a whopping 10:14. The main riff is super lame, and I lost count of the sound effects montages around 12. There’s lots of nifty guitar parts, but this song is as melodramatic and self-involved as Roger Waters at his worst. At one point, Axl sings “I’m too busy watching reruns of my life.” Yeah, no shit. Just wait til year 13 of Chinese Democracy, motherfucker. This really should have been the song to feature Alice Cooper.
Use Your Illusion 2 (1991)
More of the same on disc 2. Sprawling, pretentious epics mixed with short, forgettable rockers about how mad Axl is at everybody. Mike Gatto can’t think of another rock star who was more handicapped by fame. In hindsight, all this is easy to see. But at the time, GNR were at the peak of their critical acclaim and popular influence. These two mediocre albums debuted in the top two spots of the Billboard Charts on the same day. Their videos were mini-movies that featured bonafide movie stars, and the world tour lasted three years. So yeah, there was a point in time when this was really cool. But in the year 2015, Mike Gatto can only find limited pockets of sweetness. — 4 STARS
“Civil War” — 3 STARS
Mike Gatto firmly believes that not even Slash’s stellar guitar solos can redeem this stupid, overly ambitious turd. Axl fancied himself an intellectual, but he only seemed smart because he was surrounded by idiots. At one point, Axl sings about his ‘close memories’ of the Kennedy assassination… which would have happened when he was 1. Whatever. By this point in his career, Axl also claimed to have memories of being a fetus and a Native American.
“14 Years” — 3 STARS
Whatever. Yeah, I guess it’s sweet. But how cool can a GNR song be without Axl singing? The incessant noodley piano kills me on this song. Axl wanted a piano player, so he got one: a douchey turd named Dizzy Reed who sucks. No dynamics, no creative choices, no laying out… just wanky wanky jam jam all over the song. Bleh. You know what, fuck Mike Gatto’s 3 star review. He just decided this song gets 2 STARS.
“Yesterdays” — 6 STARS
Considering how messy and unfocused these albums are, it’s pretty damn refreshing to have a song with relatable lyrics, a singable melody and just a few simple chords. Compared to what GNR was in 1988, this song fucking sucks. But compared to what they would become thereafter, it’s pretty damn good.
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” — 5 STARS
Another cover. Whaver. In making this comprehensive list, Mike Gatto’s been forced to confront the sad truth is, GNR weren’t the best songwriters. Maybe it’s best that they spent their time playing better songs, even if they didn’t write ’em themselves. The production’s lame, especially with the stupid indecipherable phone call that interrupts the guitar solo. But GNR really did make this song their own. Just listen to how much sweeter this live version is from 4 years earlier:
“Get in the Ring” — 5 Stars
This should have been the grand-slam, number one best song on the album. It’s got a killer riff and melodic lead from Slash. And it’s about Axl calling out his critics. But it’s never quite as cool as it should be, even though it’s got a lot of foul language. It seemed childish to me even when Mike Gatto was a teenager, and seems even more childish now that he’s a grown man. Lyrical low-point: “I’ve got a thought that would be nice, I’d like to squeeze your head tight in my vice.” Lame.
“Shotgun Blues” — ZERO STARS
This song sucks worse than a turd.
“Breakdown” — 3 Stars
There’s a banjo solo and a spoken word finale and a recurring sample of Axl saying, “Lemme hear you now!” in a stupid deep voice. And then whole songs devolves into a jumbled mess of studio noise and instrumental tinkering. It’s over 7 minutes for no fucking reason at all.
“Pretty Tied Up” — 4 Stars
Probably the best of the Izzy songs, and also the one that most directly addresses his misery in the band: “Once there was this rock n’ roll band rollin’ down the strip, time went by and they became a joke.” It’s amazing that Izzy could convince Axl to sing those lyrics at the same time that Axl felt GNR was just beginning to realize its potential. Or maybe he did, and that’s why he overdubbed a bunch of retarded adlibs like “Cool Ranch Dressing!” throughout the song. Come to think of it, maybe that was his way of punking Izzy back.
“Locomotive” — 2 Stars
This song is nearly 9 minutes. It’s called Locomotive, but it’s not about a locomotive. Millions of dollars were spent to write, record, produce and distribute this double album. And that’s exactly why the record industry was destined to die.
“So Fine” — 2 Stars
This is the one song Duff wrote by himself, and he sings lead vocals. It sucks.
“Estranged” — 2 Stars
Mike Gatto thinks the only saving grace for this bloated, Titanic of a song are the awesome guitar solos. But at nearly 10 minutes, there’s only so much guitar solos can do. This song marks the thrilling conclusion to Axl’s trilogy of epic music videos about Axl Rose being an abusive boyfriend… starring Axl’s girlfriend (who he actually abused). Actually, she bailed on him by the trilogy’s final chapter, so she only appears in stock footage. It’s doubtful her presence would have made the video(s) any more comprehensible or this song any catchier.
“You Could Be Mine” — 9 Stars
This may be the only song on the whole Use Your Illusion experiment that holds up the band’s previous highs. It’s mean and pounding and delivers a real kick to the pussy. This might be the last time Axl and Slash really sounded great together. Also, the song was featured in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, a movie I’m sure Mike Gatto would agree is among the sweetest movies ever.
“Don’t Cry (alternate lyrics)” — Zero Stars
It’s the exact same song, note for note, with the same guitar tracks, bass tracks, drum tracks and mixing… the only difference being the stupid, shitty, meaningless, forgettable lyrics from the original version were replaced by new stupid shitty, meaningless, forgettable lyrics. The fact that fans were charged money for this is “Exhibit B” in my case for why the record industry was a house of cards.
“My World” — Zero Stars
What the fuck? Apparently, Axl recorded this by himself and slipped it onto the album without the band knowing. It offers an early predictor of the industiral/rap/metal genre that would yield acts like Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock.
The Spaghetti Incident? (1993)
By the end of the Use Your Illusion album and tour, the band was in an irredeemably shitty place… they weren’t really friends anymore and had no shared creative ambitions. In a pathetically transparent attempt to generate revenue, they decided to record an entire shitty album of shitty cover songs. Maybe it was an attempt to get the band recording something — anything — again. And getting the band back together in a studio may have been a good starting point, except that never happened. They recorded their parts separately and phoned it all in. Enjoy the sound of a once-great band choking and dying on its own vomit. — Zero Stars
“Since I Don’t Have You” — 2 STARS
This is an awesome song recorded by an theoretically awesome band. But it sucks. This is the very definition of lifeless. Gary Oldman stars in the lifeless video.
“New Rose” — 2 STARS
If Axl hears a song with “rose” in the chorus, GNR has to cover it. Those are the rules.
“Down on the Farm” — 1 STAR
Axl sings with a shitty fake British accent. Mike Gatto’s no fan of Nirvana, but this song makes him want to listen to Nirvana.
“Human Being” — 2 STARS
Matt Sorum is such a shitty drummer. This song has no swing and the most plodding groove. Why is this song so fucking long?!
“Raw Power” — 3 STARS
One of the best songs on the album! It still sounds like Axl recorded his vocals while taking a nap.
“Ain’t it Fun” — 1 STAR
Mike Gatto thinks this is the worst Slash has ever sounded.
“Buick Makane” — 2 STARS
Mike Gatto can’t believe he’s actually taking the time to listen to this whole shitty album again. The tambourine in the chorus is pretty sweet. Way to go Dizzy.
“Attitude” — 2 STARS
This song has about as much attitude as a millionaire corporate rockstar getting drunk and doing drugs alone in a giant mansion.
“Black Leather” — 2 STARS
Mike Gatto applauds the industry’s effort to force these dudes to record more music, but it didn’t work. This album shouldn’t have been released until both Axl and Slash were dead.
“You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” — 2 STARS
Duff sings and plays drums on this tribute to Johnny Thunders. CD’s like this used to cost 20 bucks. If you ask me, that’s real music piracy.
“I Don’t Care About You” — 4 STARS
Best song on the album. Still, it’s not saying much.
“Look At Your Game, Girl” — 3 STARS
Four of Axl’s worst tendencies are on display in this cover of a Charles Manson song: misogyny, cynically ginning up controversy to sell records, sneaking songs onto albums without telling the rest of the band, and impulsively hiring new band members (his gardner plays guitar on this track). Whatever. At least it gives Mike Gatto something to think about, which is more than you can say about the rest of this cold corpse of an album.
Chinese Democracy (2008)
For all intents and purposes, GNR broke up even before the Spaghetti Incident was recorded. The break-up became official a few years later, as Slash went on to wear his famous top hat in countless endorsement deals and promotional TV appearances. Meanwhile, Axl foolishly decided to reinvent Guns N’ Roses with a new, modern band, thereby silencing his critics and proving himself the creative engine behind GNR’s best work. Over the next 14 years of paralyzing depression, he would cycle through multiple line-ups and producers. Songs were recorded and re-recorded and re-re-recorded. By the time the album finally came out, most of the songs had been performed live or leaked to the Internet years earlier. By then it was plainly obvious to GNR fans that Emperor Axl had no clothes. The album still works, however, as a work of comedy… a parody of all that was terrible and wrong and destined to crumble about the greedy record industry. In trying to make a concept album about his desire to make a great concept album, Axl Rose inadvertently created an ironically thorough reflection on the corruptive forces of greed, fame, ego, resentment and untreated mental illness. It’s one of Mike Gatto’s least favorite albums to listen to, but one of his most favorite to talk about. — Zero Stars / 15 STARS
“Chinese Democracy” — 2 STARS
After the two minute sound effects intro, the song finally kicks off with a microwaved powerchord riff that’s half Teen Sprit and half Rock You Like a Hurricane. The lyrics are mostly impenetrable, though the refrain of “it don’t really matter” may as well be the epitaph on Chinese Democracy’s gravestone.
“Shackler’s Revenge” — 4 STARS
One of the few songs on the album to feature a both a chorus and a decipherable perspective. That alone makes it one of the best songs on the album. Like most things Axl writes, the more he explains it, the less sense it makes. According to chats on a fan forum, Axl says the song is about how he’s not to blame for the Virginia Tech massacre.
“Better” — 4 STARS
From the arpeggiated guitar intro to lyrical themes, phrasing and song structure, this feels like a very conscious attempt to recreate Sweet Child O’ Mine’s formula. At various points, this was rumored to be the lead single. An official video was produced but never released because, like the rest of the Chinese Democracy debacle, it turned out shitty.
“Street of Dreams” — 2 STARS
Musically, it sounds like something you’d hear in a cruise ship revue show. Lyrically, it sounds a lot like Axl’s abortion-shaming Stephanie Seymour, the girlfriend who dumped him and started this whole stupid mess. “All the love in the world couldn’t save you, and the innocence inside… I tried so hard to make you change your mind… What I thought was beautiful don’t live inside of you anymore.”
“If The World” — 1 Star
This song starts with electronic RnB beats and a flamenco guitar solo. It fucking sucks so hard. It’s amazing to think he worked for 14 years, reportedly recording a hundred new songs, and this was one of the keepers.
“There Was a Time”– 3 STARS
Also known by the acronym TWAT, the album’s second Stephanie Seymour opus demonstrates just how little Axl matured during those 14 years in his mansion. According to legends, Axl caught Stephanie Seymour doing cocaine and was so enrage he had to beat her. If that seems hypocritical at best, recall my pregnancy theories from Street of Dreams. This song probably comes the closest to realizing the ‘modern’ sound Axl Rose sought to create in 1999. God damn, that solo goes on for fucking ever.
“Catcher in the Rye” — 1 STAR
According to Axl, this song is about his belief that the J.D. Salinger’s literary classic was responsible for the murder of John Lennon, and thus, should be destroyed and erased from history. Not that you’d be able to discern any of that from the song itself. Queen’s Brian May contributed a climatic guitar solo… but Axl re-recorded it with a dude named Bumblefoot who plays a footshaped bumblebee guitar with wings. Mike Gatto is hanging his head in shame.
“Scrapped” — ZERO STARS
This song is a dagger in my heart. Not only are the music and lyrics are bad, but so are the vocal performances. And the editing and mixing. This song is absolute shit in every possible way.
“Riad N’ the Bedouins” — ZERO STARS
Mike Gatto declares this song to be a disgrace to GNR’s legacy. Axl explained that it’s all about Stephanie Seymour’s brother, who was a criminal. If he says so…
“Sorry” — 3 STARS
Like most of Axl’s songs, it overstays its welcome. But unlike most of Chinese Democracy’s songs, it has a chorus. Unfortunately, “I’m sorry for you, not sorry for me” sounds like something a four-year-old would say. It’s a shame that Axl set out to make his magnum opus during such an emotionally uninteresting phase of his life.
“I.R.S.” — 2 STARS
This song would have gotten 1 STAR were it not for the part where Axl screams over some dude’s guitar solo. It’s pretty awesome when that happens. But the rest of the song is a turd.
“Madagascar” — 1 STARS
The music is droning and repetitive. For some reason, there’s a fucking Martin Luther King Jr. spoken word montage instead of a guitar solo. Lyrically, Axl finds a new low as he asks forgiveness from God on behalf of all those who have wronged him but aren’t mature enough to repent for themselves.
“This I Love” — ZERO STARS
This is the most epic of the album’s three Stephanie Seymour ballads — which is to say it’s the most laughably overblown and shamelessly sentimental. Axl started penning this conventional power ballad back in the mid 90’s, when he still had a real band. According to his story, Slash and Duff told him they were done playing “Stephanie Seymour ballads” and impugned his songwriting ability. If that’s true, they were fucking wise beyond their drug-fueled years. If there’s one song that sums up the whole album, it’s this one. The only thing shittier than this song is the idea of spending 15 years crafting it. While the album version is shitty enough, this live performance is even shittier. Watch closely in the second verse as Axl forgets to sing and Bumblefoot has to help him find a teleprompter.
“Prostitute” — 2 STARS
Axl promises that he’d never prostitute himself for “fortune and shame.” Ironically, these days you can see him performing in Vegas, where he’s fat and plays an airbrushed poker-themed piano and dresses like a glam Liberace. Instead of Slash, he’s joined by DJ Ashba, a dude who is not Slash but wears a tophat and smokes cigarettes while he plays a Les Paul.
Rarities, Demos and Outtakes
“Sweet Child O’ Mine 2.0”– NEGATIVE 15 STARS
When Axl set out to make a brand new GNR, his first order of business was to pay them re-record his old band’s amazing debut album. Why would anyone do anything so stupid and pointless? Money. Axl thought if he replaced Slash in GNR’s old music, he could prevent Slash from earning royalties. What he didn’t expect is that that nobody would want to license classic GNR songs that had been re-recorded by another band. Well, almost nobody. He did sorta succeed once, when the producers of Big Daddy agreed to license the last half of the new band’s Sweet Child 2.0. This video starts with a live performance from real GNR, then around the 3:00 mark, it transitions to the new band. And new vocal takes from Axl. And an organ? What the fuck!?
“Sympathy for the Devil” ZERO STARS
This fucking sucks and didn’t need to exist. Mike Gatto only mentioned it because it marks the last time Axl and Slash worked together. The legendary guitarist walked after he was finally allowed to hear the mix — and learned that Axl had overdubbed it with one of his childhood friends on guitar. Apparently, this was Axl’s way of telling Slash he was now co-lead guitarist. It didn’t work.
“Just Another Sunday” 1 STAR
This song fucking sucks. Mike Gatto doesn’t don’t care if it’s just a primitive demo. It sucks. He’s so glad Axl didn’t decide to release a Use Your Illusion III, otherwise we’d probably have both an official release of this turd along with the alternate lyrics version.
“Silkworms” 1 STAR
This weird piece of shit was written by Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman, the second full-time keyboardist joining GNR to help realize Chinese Democracy. After playing the song live a couple of times, Axl wisely shelved it. There’s nothing more pathetic than a single, childless fat dude in his 50’s singing about a “bitch” with a “pussy full of maggots.”
“Oh My God” 1 STAR
Axl tried to recapture the magic of You Could Be Mine when he licensed what was to be the first single from Chinese Democracy for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s End of Days. The movie flopped and so did the song. Supposedly, the fans’ wholehearted rejection of this song stung Axl’s confidence and triggered a wave of vicious self-doubt that delayed the album for years.