Review by Jeff Maki—
Has the time finally come for the hair-metal revival? Axl, Slash and Duff have reunited in Guns N’ Roses on the “Not in This Lifetime Tour,” clearing the path for spandex, hair spray and leather once again. I think I read Whitesnake recently recorded one of its best albums in years. Bands like Def Leppard have never really gone away. Don Dokken and George Lynch reunited for a tour with Dokken, and shit, even Babylon A.D. and Steelheart have new records coming out. So where are Slaughter, Trixter and Heaven’s Edge? Playing the M3 Rock Festival. So is this it? Maybe.
In my youth, I tended to lean on the heavier, thrashier and even weirder side of things in rock and metal, but admittedly, there were a few hair and glam bands I actually liked. Bang Tango, Dangerous Toys and L.A. Guns immediately come to mind. They were a little dirty, a little dangerous and had an edge that bands like Poison and Def Leppard did not. I loved the albums “Cocked and Loaded” (1989) and “Hollywood Vampires” (1991).
In recent years, there have been two versions of L.A. Guns, but differences seemingly have been resolved, reuniting frontman Philip Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns for the first time since 2002 with a new album, The Missing Peace. The current lineup is rounded out by bassist Johnny Martin, guitarist Michael Grant and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon.
The new album is scheduled for release on Oct. 13, 2017, so let me get my bike out of the garage, take a ride down the strip and give you my impression with an unaltered first take of my listen, track by track:
“It’s All the Same to Me”
The title says it all here—this opener is a by-the-numbers rehash of hair metal’s glory days. Like I said earlier, at least this straightforward, all-too-predictable track is more GNR than Poison, but it has me worried about the rest of this album.
This one is totally different, with a main Guns riff carrying the tune in the vein of Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye.” It’s not a complete rip-off, but it’s damn close. Still, I really like this one. It’s a fast and catchy highway tune. File it in the class of biker and race car rockers like “Highway Star” or a song by one of L.A. Guns’ contemporaries, “Kickstart My Heart” by Motley Crue.
“A Drop of Bleach”
The band throws some more variety in here., this time with a throwback feel to Lewis’ vocals, that is until the chorus kicks in, which would fit right in on a Seether record. But this one is radio friendly and catchy as hell.
Song by song, I’m getting more into this. Boy, does Tracii Guns have riffs-o-plenty all over this album. This song has a GNR/Alice Cooper feel, taking an epic turn with an ominous organ, which caught me completely off guard.
And here it is. “Christine meet Jayne, Jayne this is Christine. You had to know this was the traditional ballad just by looking at the track list, right darling?” “What a shame.”
All kidding aside, this one has a slight southern twang to it the vein of the Guns’ previous “Ballad” and Faster Pussycat’s “House of Pain.”
“Baby Got Fever”
A song pulled straight out of 1988—and I take what I previously said back, this one DOES indeed sound like Poison. From Lewis’ Bret Michaels-vocal style and chick lyrics to the C.C. Deville guitar break, I guess this is the party rocker the band felt it needed to include.
Halfway through, and it’s a mixed bag, but mostly in a good way. I now feel like listening to some old L.A. Guns or White Lion or GNR or something. Sure, there have been some cringe-worthy moments, but I’m absolutely liking it so far. Let’s see what the Guns are firin’ off next.
“Kill It or Die”
That sounds more like a title of a Motorhead song. The title is fitting, as we finally hear Lewis getting a little wild with his vocals with some rock ‘n’ roll screams. Musically, this is one of the more complete songs here, with each member equally contributing on his instrument. It’s the perfect mid-album and mid-set song, as the alcohol begins to take affect and the crowd begins to cut loose.
”Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight”
We immediately get more Priest-guitar riffing. What follows is a melodic, ‘80’s-style rocker with some background gang vocals in the chorus. Had I expected L.A. Guns to release an ‘80’s-sounding album, this track would’ve been the frontrunner. Here, it’s my fourth favorite so far.
“The Flood’s the Fault of the Rain”
OK, so as probably expected, this is ballad No. 2. Is this a cover of “House of the Rising Sun?” The acoustic guitar opening almost had me fooled. Even Lewis’ vocals are similar to the classic rock track. However, this one fits in here well as another drinking tune or one for a road trip.
“The Devil Made Me Do It”
“Lord have mercy/The devil made me do it!”
That lyric and this song is the stuff of ‘80s legend. Even though Bon Jovi would have never, ever written a song with “Devil” in it, the shouted chorus reminds me of the Jersey rocker’s “Slippery When Wet” era. Step aside, “Electric Gypsy,” this one’s got enough of that classic L.A. Guns dirty, bad-boy flair to make this its new biker anthem.
“The Missing Peace”
The title track is a “Hollywood Vampires”-inspired epic power ballad, following a similar formula with synths and probably Lewis’ most familiar vocals of the album.
“Gave It All Away”
Power ballad No. 3, for those scoring at home. Again, this is another one in the “Hollywood Vampires”-vein, but surprisingly, due to the haunting melodies and Randy Rhoads-style guitar work (particularly a “Diary of a Madman” riff), this may be the heaviest song of the album.
“The Missing Peace” is a lot of what I expected, but the reunion of Lewis and Guns is enough to pique interest. The band certainly still has the playing down, and I would jump at the chance to catch them live because I’m sure it’d be one hell of a rock ‘n’ roll party. A lack of originality and playing it a little too safe hold this album back. But overall, having a couple original Guns back in the scene together is in no way a bad thing. I’m sure it’s “kinda like a dream” for longtime fans.
Frontiers Music, Oct. 13, 2017