17-year epic fails to fire with fans

The downfall of Soviet Communism took 70 years, but Chinese Democracy appears to be in jeopardy after just two weeks.

The Guns N' Roses album that was 17 years in the making climbed only as high as No 3 when it debuted on the national sales chart.

It has tumbled to No 18 in its second week of release.

That is a disturbing sign for the most expensive rock album, the cost once estimated at $US13 million ($NZ22 million).

But the pop world just might have reached its limit in indulging frontman Axl Rose's appetite for production, which led to delay after delay, year after year.

"Fool me once, shame on you - fool me 20 times, and I'll be done with you," says Guitar Player magazine associate editor Matt Blackett on the tepid public reaction to the album so far.

Chinese Democracy sold 261,000 copies in the US in the first week following its November 23 release as an exclusive at Best Buy stores - a respectable figure in an age of diminished record industry expectations, but it was half of what 18-year-old singer-songwriter Taylor Swift's second album Fearless sold two weeks earlier.

What is more, the reconstituted GNR tallied one-third of what another veteran hard rock band, AC/DC, sold out of the gate with Black Ice in October.

That album, a Wal-Mart exclusive, notched a 784,000 first-week sales figure.

Only two albums have crossed the 2 million sales mark during 2008 - Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, which had a 1 million-plus first week in June, and Coldplay's Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, which came out a week later and posted 721,000 copies in its first week.

The band's management and record company did not respond to requests for comments.

The GNR album was outsold by Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak, which logged sales of 450,000 the same week, and Swift's album, leaving it at No 3 for its chart debut.

Second-week sales plummeted 78%, to about 57,000 copies, leaving its two-week US total under 320,000 copies.

Giving the album four stars on a five-star scale, Rolling Stone hailed Chinese Democracy as "a great, audacious, unhinged and uncompromising hard-rock record".

But Paste magazine wrote: "Too bad the epitaph's already scrawled in Chinese Democracy's anachronistic margins: a bottomless pit dug by disposable income, a persecution complex and egomania."


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