I heard a new Guns n’ Roses song on KROQ this morning. It was the lead single from the 15-years-in-the-making Chinese Democracy. The hosannas at whichever evil-multinational major label that swallowed up Geffen records must have been deafening when Axl finally stumbled in — bleary-eyed from a 72-hour meth-fueled final mixdown — and said in no uncertain terms: “Release this, motherfuckers!”
Yeah, not so much. The song I heard this morning was one of three tracks that have been leaked (or is it “leaked”) to the Internet, and the official release date of Chinese Democracy remains a mystery, or as the joke goes — sometime after actual democracy in China. What’s so extraordinary about this is how unextraordinary it is anymore. The only thing surprising is how long it took for any of this music to actually hit the Net. Axl must sleep with his laptop under his pillow.
We all know the drill: big artists like Radiohead get their tracks stolen (or is it “stolen”?) and posted on some rogue website or newsgroup; the word spreads at netspeed; and pretty soon everybody who wants to has dug up the songs, which might even get played on the radio. Then, the lawyers send their threatening letters and the band pleads with their fans to please not listen to what are always described as unfinished demos or rough mixes. The fans, as always don’t care: they’d rather spend hours on forums discussing the virtually indistinguishable differences between the rough mixes and the finished product, which they rushed out and purchased or downloaded the day it came out, just like they were going to. (Unless the leaked tracks sucked total ass, in which case the artist and record companies had no right to try and charge for them anyway!)
Meanwhile, smaller bands like Arctic Monkeys or Drive-by Truckers use the internet as an organic part of their marketing strategy, actively posting tracks on their websites or MySpace long before they are supposed to be released, knowing that hardcore fans are going to spread the word if the music’s any good.
So in the case of these Guns n’ Roses songs — “There Was a Time,” “I.R.S.” (the one I heard on KROQ) and “Better” — which was it? My guess is that they were a trial balloon, leaked on purpose to see if there was any interest, and if people thought that they were any good. (It’s not really within the purview of Medialoper to do music criticism, but this particular ‘Loper always thought that it was Izzy’s songwriting and Slash’s guitar were what made Axl’s terminal assholishness so great back in the day, and they are both long gone. So, interesting song, but not necessarily caring.) Considering that there is no doubt that people are still interested in this music, it might actually signal that an album is due. I’m sure that Axlologists are debating that point right this very second.
Either that, or Tommy Stinson leaked them. That would be OK, too.