|L.A. Guns - 'Hollywood Forever' (Cleopatra Records)|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Monday, 25 June 2012 04:00|
No matter how many cool musicians or reality television stars Tracii Guns experimented with in his version of L.A. Guns - the rubbish version as it was known, unfortunately, to some - the main swell of interest in the band gathered around the version bookended by drummer Steve muthafuckin' Riley and frontman Phil Lewis, even when it appeared that the former guitarist's take on the infamous cock rock outfit was treading more boards and getting more press, though, invariably, the latter was more often than not negative.
If you've followed the career of Lewis from his days with Girl and Tormé right through to his decision to not let this L.A. Guns thing die in the face of fierce (though not always in the correct manner) competition from his former bandmate, then you will have embarked on an entertaining journey; his calling out of arena rock - targeting Poison, Motley Crue and Def Leppard - and retaliatory needling that Nikki Sixx's book, 'The Heroin Diaries', was "a total fraud," recently exhibited that the English rogue had lost none of his subtlety and, ultimately, cool.
So, it was with a whiff of expectation that I entered into this deal with 'Hollywood Forever', the first studio album in seven years from the real L.A. Guns. Produced by Andy Johns who, as well as producing the band's 2005 album 'Tales From The Strip' and 'Waking The Dead' a few years previously, has a colourful CV that somehow shifts from the seminal 'Marquee Moon' by Television to Autograph's 'Loud and Clear' in a curious decade (and body) of work. With Riley and Lewis ably assisted by Scott Griffin on bass and Stacey Blades on guitar this new album was welcomed into URHQ like a lost friend.
After pressing play, however, this friend threatened to be one that perhaps you should keep close in memory only. The title track opens the album and, after a typically moody intro interspersed with sampled dialogue, rips and tears into a clichéd piece of dated '80s metal that sounds, and this is not a joke, like W.A.S.P.
The backing vocals kinda give away that this really is L.A. Guns, the hook too, but Lewis's vocals in the verses, complete with a Blackie Lawless-style maniacal laugh, are, like the song itself, a little shocking. The band might think that this rip-roaring opener is a real statement of intent - it's not, it's worryingly average and mortally dated. Could Tracii have been right all along.
Thank fuck then for second track, 'You Better Not Love Me', which, happily - no, not happily, mercifully - pulls this album into the here and now with a gorgeous hook that screams of vintage Lewis, rather than has vintage Lewis screaming: there is a massive gulf in quality of the two. This is more like it.
'Eel Pie', despite the crazy moniker that gives Phil the chance to thrill us with a little old school cockney dialogue, is another strong tune, sounding not unlike something Beautiful Creatures would have thrown up in the last decade. 'Sweet Mystery' follows and replaces the heaviness with melody; the album is suddenly more relaxed with the seemingly forced bluster of the opener long since forgotten - the song that follows, 'Burn', offers much of the same but hits a few less of the targets. 'Vine St. Shimmy' bullseyes those targets, though: it's more trademark LAG and motors along in a fashion that you half expected to be presented with when cracking this disc out of its case.
'Dirty Black Night' gets me thinking, for the second time, about sophomore album Faster Pussycat with its guitar work, and that, my good friends, I can live with. 'Underneath The Sun' slows things down but, with another great hook that Lewis appears able to come up with for fun, provides another positive aural outcome that, ultimately, proves to be an appetiser for the song that follows: 'Queenie' opens like The Georgia Satellites before getting into a barroom brawl with a sumptuous hook and swaggering guitar break that reeks of lowslung rock 'n' roll - it's like former member Muddy Stardust left a little of his magical r'n'r juice in the studio: a real album highlight.
'Crazy Tango' might have a dodgy title and even dodgier lyrics - "I hear you taste like cherry mango" - but it is another winner of a cut, not unlike some of the more classic rock-orientated tunes in the modern repertoire of The Quireboys: yes, L.A. Guns, after a shaky opening o' cod metal, are soaring with the sweet sounds of glorious rock 'n' roll.
'Venus Bomb' hits the gas again but threatens to be an album, rather than tank, filler. It's not a bad song, but this album hits top gear when it loosens up rather than clenches a fist, a point proven with the song that follows, 'I Won't Play', which, again, struts around like it learned all its moves from watching Mott The Hoople.
'Requiem (Hollywood Forever)' shows the opening track how to take the title of this album and make a great song out of it: a proper shock rock influence spurts out this time, like a vintage Alice Cooper murder ballad, and the song takes the album's theme full circle in moody, yet impressive, fashion. Though this seems like a perfect ending for the album , it isn't: a great cover of 'Arana Negrata (Black Spider)' by Argentine outfit The Bicicletas (a band that I'm sure you're all familiar with) pushes the long player over the line with another catchy hook.
It could be argued that this fourteen track album is a little too long and, therefore, susceptible to filler tunes but, and I think all rational minded folk would agree, I'd take this over yet another band re-recording their old shit every day of the week.
This is a good, solid, return for L.A. Guns proper; it isn't the best album in their back catalogue by some distance but, in 2012, this is a thoroughly enjoyable rock 'n' roll romp. Like the recent releases from the likes of Little Caesar, Bang Tango and Vain, 'Hollywood Forever' takes a chance by making new material the lifeblood of the record but, like those aforementioned bands, L.A. Guns wins every time for doing so. Well worth investing in - you will hear hundreds of worse albums in 2012.
To pick up your copy of 'Hollywood Forever' - CLICK HERE