Guns ‘n Roses – Chinese Democracy

After an estimated $13 million and 13 years to complete, Guns ‘n Roses have released their sixth album, Chinese Democracy. It was so long in the coming that jokes abounded that by the time they finally released it, China would have a democracy.

The album was posted on myspace and broke every record there was. After such an absurdly long build up, the album was doomed to disappoint. And it does, even though it might be the best Guns ‘n Roses album yet. The opening track is the title song itself, which starts with a long build up – what’s another minute when we’ve waited 13 years – that introduces a very G’nR guitar riff and finally the unmistakable scream of its frontman and only remaining original member, Axl Rose. There are the obligatory ballads, most impressively ‘Better’, and when it is hard it is hard enough.

In fact, the album is an anachronism; were it not for the odd pro-tools knob-twiddle, it would seem Rose had been cryogenically frozen after 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident? It works. Rose’s return might seem belated, but he’s timed it to perfection; never has the musical landscape needed his no-nonsense meat and potatoes rock more.

Kings of Leon – Only By The Night

It is not clear exactly when Kings of Leon graduated from alternative rock heroes to stadium-filling household names, but that corner has irreversibly been turned. Their fourth studio album is almost entirely written for the stadiums they now fill. There are hulking rock anthems, driving radio-friendly hits and the odd slow, moody song to balance it all out.

Unlike this album’s predecessor, These are the Times, this record is instantly likeable, which also means its charm is more fleeting. If nothing ventured is nothing gained, then 'Night' has to go down as a lazier record than their previous efforts; instead of exploring new territory, they have gone for more of the same. This is not all bad, meaning as it does that 'Only By The Night' is simply a more polished version of everything else they’ve done. Singles ‘Sex on Fire’, ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Revelry’ are the pick of the tracks, but like all of their previous work, this is best listened to from beginning to end.

Britney Spears – Circus

Heat readers everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. Britney Spears is OK, and she’s just released her second album in as many years. Circus comes just 12 months after Blackout, which sold poorly for Spears’ standards, probably because it came out at a time in her life more notable for pavement breakdowns and trips to and from rehab.

A year is a long time in showbiz, and Spears’ return aims high; not only does Circus aspire to announce her return to musical form, it wants us to want Britney like we used to. Her bedroom eyes may have lost their sparkle, but Spears pants and giggles throughout the album, determined to remind you of her sex appeal. In order to win back her audience, Spears’ songwriters needed one hell of a single to launch Circus, and with Womanizer they may just have it.

Predictably, that song and several others on the album seem to be bastardised versions of recent chart successes by the likes of Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. The Britney who was neither a girl nor a woman is nowhere to be seen; this is pure dancefloor fodder.

Matthew Freemantle




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