Released: 2012, Cleopatra Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
I don’t care what anyone says, beneath the interpersonal drama and flowing scarves, L.A. Guns remains one of the best hard rock/metal acts spawned from the 80’s hair metal scene. Now for those who didn’t grow up in the 80’s, it’s hard to express just how pervasive the glam scene was to the general culture. It was a permanent fixture on radio, MTV, news stands, there was literally lipstick and spandex everywhere you looked. But L.A. Guns were always just a little bit different; their look was just a little bit grittier and their sound owed more to Aerosmith and the Stones that it did to the New York Dolls. At the same time that I was entrenched in the emerging sounds of Sepultura and King Diamond, I heard the unique combination of Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns on “Never Enough” and that was it. As hardcore or kVlt as I might’ve professed to be, I damn near wore out my COCKED AND LOADED cassette. And don’t get me started on the genius of HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES. Name one other band from that era that could’ve written a song like “Over the Edge”…
But shit happens, lineups shuffled and Tracii Guns ran the brand into the ground for a while, but the band eventually released what are arguably their best records yet with 2002’s WAKING THE DEAD and 2005’s TALES FROM THE STRIP. Rather than sounding like another 80’s throwback trying recapture their glory days, these albums showed a mature band that was comfortable with their past and who could successfully embrace a more modern and relevant sound. As one of the 12 people who actually purchased TALES FROM THE STRIP, I’ll willingly go to bat for that album any day of the week. Seven years since the release of TALES, L.A. Guns are back with new label support from Cleopatra Records and a new album, the aptly titled HOLLYWOOD FOREVER. While it doesn’t match the track for track consistency of WAKING or TALES, HOLLYWOOD FOREVER more than lives up to its expectations.
HOLLYWOOD FOREVER shows the band focusing on what they do best; powerful anthems, emotive musical melodramas, and bouncing dirty rock rhythms. The album is masterfully paced, balancing these musical personalities strategically across the disc so that it never feels weighted in one direction. The opening title track recalls “Show No Mercy” from their debut, familiar in its pounding sense of urgency and gang chorus, while the album’s first single “You Better Not Love Me” is entirely fresh but immediately recognizable as classic L.A. Guns. Tracks like “Eel Pie,” “Vine St. Shimmy” and “Venus Bomb” are slathered in sleazy swagger from the Sunset Strip, while the grunge undertone of “Burn” is an out of character but entertaining foray for the band. But check out “Requiem (Hollywood Forever)” towards the end of the disc; it’s a dark, acoustic driven track with a distinct gothic vibe to it and is a shining example of the caliber of songs that they’re capable of writing. Stop the CD right there, because the closing “Arana Negra (Black Spider)” sours the emotion built up from the previous track, as Phil Lewis unintentionally sounds like a kid in an 8th grade Spanish class butchering the language.
Speaking of Phil Lewis, the guy still has an amazing set of pipes. His rasp has gotten a bit raspier over the years, but he’s still got the range to pull off these kinds of tunes. But it’s really guitarist Stacey Blades who should get most of the credit here, as the guy pulls off some stunning six string work and gives the tracks some musical credibility. Check out the closing solos on the title track and tell me I’m wrong…
Anticipation for HOLLYWOOD FOREVER has generated more press for L.A. Guns in the last couple of months than they’ve seen in who knows how long. And rightfully so, it’s really an enjoyable record from a number of angles and delivers everything the band said that it would. Now let’s hope that it doesn’t take another 7 years for the next one.