Ego Smackdown! Axl Vs. Kanye

 

Or more accurately,
media smackdown for both of the spoiled, overindulgent stars.

 

By Fred Mills

 

 

That wheezing noise? It’s the dying gasp of the music biz
circa 2008 – the end of the world as we knew it, yo – as the very last
blockbuster releases hit record stores (or Best Buy, as the case may be). With
Sunday’s arrival of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese
Democracy
and yesterday’s release of Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, the end game is finally nigh.

 

No official sales figures have circulated yet, and both
records, admittedly, will probably do gangbusters compared to, say, the latest
Matador or Sub Pop title. But there seems to be a collective shrug taking place
across America
as we approach the holiday season, traditionally the period when major record
labels roll out all their big guns and attempt to blow things up real good for
the fourth quarter.

 

(One subtle indicator that the major label landscape is not looking all that great: in 2008 a
zillion indie bands have scheduled albums with street dates in November and
December, whereas in years past there was a mad rush to get everything out well
before the end of October so they’d have at least a shot at grabbing the
attention of critics and consumers before the big-event titles started
arriving.)

 

The New York Times in particular took the lead with a dismissive tone towards both GNR and West already
being echoed by a lot of reviewers. They called Chinese Democracy “the Titanic of rock albums: the ship, not the
movie, although like the film it’s a monumental studio production. It’s
outsize, lavish, obsessive, technologically advanced and, all too clearly, the
end of an era… a loud last gasp from the reign of the indulged pop star,” and 808s and Heartbreak “at best, [a] rough
sketch for a great album, with ideas he would have typically rendered with
complexity, here distilled to a few words, a few synthesizer notes, a lean
drumbeat. At worst, it’s clumsy and underfed, a reminder that all of that
ornamentation served a purpose. After all, what is Kanye West without scale?”

 

And what is the record industry without scale too, hmm?

 

At any rate, we at BLURT have reviewed both albums this week
(see below for the links), the Gunners getting a healthy-but-guarded 8 stars
(out of 10 possible) and Kanye notching a disappointing “6”. Reviewer Jose
Martinez writing about Chinese Democracy,
observed that Axl Rose & Co. couldn’t possibly meet the expectations that
had been raised over the past 17 years but that overall “it’s still pretty easy
to get swept away by the sheer magnitude of the disc.” Meanwhile, Jason Gross
was somewhat circumspect regarding the West album, noting that the
rapper/producer seemed to be taking a few steps back rather than his usual
forward-looking stance, adding, “It sounds like this album could use a creative
producer who would push the artist into edgier territory.”

 

 

Read ‘em:

 

 

Guns N’ Roses Chinese
Democracy:
www.blurt-online.com/reviews/view/618/

 

Kanye West 808s and
Heartbreak:
www.blurt-online.com/reviews/view/619/

 

 

Leave a Reply