i think what this proves more than anything is how important the original lineups were to those great early records.
this album draws a pretty obvious line in the sand that this is a totally brand new band, and for that fact alone it's a success. had this come out in 1998, i'd probably be a bit more forgiving, i'll fully admit that. it would have sounded a bit more fresh had it come out then.
the problem is, while the album isn't nearly as awful as i'd imagined, there's also not a single song on here that i could honestly with a straight face say is among GNR's 25 best songs... in fact, the BEST song on this album doesn't even touch the worst song on Appetite (which is more a testament to Appetite's greatness than anything).
look, this is a band whose first album was the very first CD i ever bought, and who worshiped from 1987 to 1994, but that band is not the band that played on this record, not even close. Axl was certainly a big part of what i loved about the original band, but not the biggest by any means.
I think this is a complete piece of work though. I could easily put a few of these songs in their top 25. There is a lot of bombast, but underneath is a really tight, gritty rock record. I actually love the updated sounding hair metal ballads....it's almost like Axl is saying "I brought this style back and I don't give a fuck what you think". I find Chinese Democracy to be more consistent than YUI I and II, although the highs may have been higher on those albums.
This thing really is a grower.
Edit: "Better" and "Street of Dreams" are simply fucking amazing.