LA Guns were a minor band in the Hollywood glam scene. Forever cursed with comparisons to Guns ‘n’ Roses (they provided the ‘Guns’ from the name as Axl Rose was briefly in the band), in reality they had less success than bands like Skid Row. Like Girl, a lesser known band who produced Phil Collen for Def Leppard and Phil Lewis for LA Guns, they have been best known for their associations. As the 80s disappeared, and grunge took over, while many bands fell apart, LA Guns soldiered on, and while many commentators have poked fun at the fact that the two main protagonists have each fronted their own version of the band, cooler heads understand that Guns ‘n’ Roses had certainly done the same thing up until their recent reunion, there was just more money and better lawyers involved, so Rose owned the name, and Slash traded on his own moniker.
At around the same time as the Guns ‘n’ Roses reunion, Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis started doing some shows together again, and Lewis has announced he’s left his own version of the band, for an ongoing reunion. This album is the first fruits of that pairing.
LA Guns always had a few strong songs but were not a great albums band. This album continues that trend. For every ‘Speed,’ there’s a ‘Kill it or Die.’ Phoned in songs like ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ sit side by side with ‘Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight,’ the former sounding like an attempt at a modern ‘Black Dog’ and the latter a great song driven by a classic 80s Metal riff. This album is well suited to the modern age, where in the 80s you had to fast forward a cassette or move a needle, now you can make a playlist of the songs you like. In the 80s we called that a mix tape, but it was harder work and less flexible.
There’s a total of four ballads amongst the twelve tracks, including ‘Christine,’ a country tinged and forgettable track, the title track, which is a decent song, ‘Gave it All Away,’ which starts with classical guitar and turns into a stock standard power ballad, and ‘The Flood’s the Fault of the Rain,’ which is the best of the pack and has some of Guns’ most inspired lead work on it.
Other standouts include ‘Sticky Fingers,’ which has lots of great guitar playing and musical variation and ‘Baby Gotta Fever,’ where a droning guitar piece cuts through a driving tom drum beat that takes you right back to 1986.
These bands suffered a fall from grace that perhaps has only happened once before in the music scene, with the death of disco. Overnight, no one wanted to know them. There are certainly spoils today for bands who are able to reform, or who managed to keep going, as people in their late 40s continue to seek out new music that doesn’t stray much from the sounds of their teens, and younger fans look back to older bands to get a fuller picture of the history of the music that they love today. LA Guns were never a pivotal band in that scene, but they were certainly part of it and this album plays to their strengths as well as revealing their weaknesses. This album is a fun listen for fans of LA sleaze, but it won’t be anyone’s album of the year. For these bands, these albums are really a statement of ongoing legitimacy, new music for the hardcore fans, but the tour off the back of it will be more likely to feature songs like ‘Ballad of Jayne’ and ‘Electric Gypsy.’