Guns N' Roses

The recently leaked tracks supposedly from the supposedly upcoming Chinese Democracy (Geffen)

The recently leaked tracks supposedly from the supposedly upcoming Chinese Democracy (Geffen)

Fourteen years and millions of dollars have come and gone since Guns N' Roses' last disc, an amount of time so staggering that nothing new can be written about the album's litany of delays and disasters. Amazingly enough, an end may finally be in sight. A new batch of leaked tracks—six reworked versions of previous leaks and three newcomers—hit the Internet last month, and if these are any indication, Axl Rose's next release might not only be soon, but also actually be good.

"Better," the arbitrarily placed first track, leads off with half a minute of squawking guitars and synth hiss that sounds cribbed from the Linkin Park playbook. A satisfyingly crunchy rhythm and Rose's signature vocals, thankfully less worse-for-wear than rumored, arrive just in time to assuage the dread. Four minutes later, that same intro returns as a lead-out, but this time it sounds catchy.

The "title" track may not be the hardest song on the finished product, but barring a sudden thematic shift toward death metal, it's in the running for the meanest. After all this time, hearing Rose say, "No, it don't really matter/You can hear it now from somebody else" makes me wonder what we did to piss him off.

The three previously unheard songs—"Rhiad and the Bedouins" and two unnamed tracks—are, respectively, the fastest cut released so far, Axl's obligatory orchestra-rock number, and a confusing, funky, wah-pedal-drenched jam. They don't exactly feel out of place, but when compared with the rest of the earlier leaks, it's easy to hear them in context as something added in later by a Rose who felt something was missing.

Whether Chinese Democracy ends up being ultimately worth the expense and drama is ultimately between Rose and God, but this harbinger of the final release bodes well for the finished product. It's GN'R light—it lacks the wild, coke-fueled bite of Appetite for Destruction, and the symphonic elements lack the overwrought polish typical of the Use Your Illusion discs. But when the songs find their grooves, they're legitimately likable.