L.A. GUNS – The Devil You Know

Strike while the iron is hot! That seems to be Tracii Guns (guitar) and Phil Lewis (vocals) motto ever since they reunited L.A. Guns back in 2016. Well, reunited might be the wrong for the band as the reunion is only between Guns and Lewis, the rest of the band –  guitarist Ace Von Johnson who replaced Michael Grant in 2018, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Scot Coogan (Lita Ford, Ace Frehley, Michael Sweet, Brides Of Destruction) who recently replaced Shane Fitzgibbon – has little (well, nothing, actually) to do with the band’s original and most famous line-up. In 2017, L.A. Guns released The Missing Peace and the following year they put out a live album, Made In Milan, recorded at the Frontiers Festival and now they’re back with yet another studio record – three albums in three years is quite a lot in a time and age when bands more than often take three or four years in between albums.

For a guy who has never been a big fan of this lot, the reunion record The Missing Peace came out better than I had thought it would. It was far from perfect – I gave it 5/10 – but on the other hand I had no expectations whatsoever on that album. If anything, I feared that the record would be an underwhelming, to put it mildly, experience. But it sounded just like I remembered the band and they had brought along some songs that I actually dug, so maybe there still is hope for the band, I thought. This meant that I actually looked forward to dig in on their new album, just to see if their creative minds had come up something that would take me by surprise.

The album opens with the single “Rage”, a rough, rowdy and kicking sleaze-rocker with lots of punky attitude and an in-your-face outlook. While that might sound like a winner, unfortunately it’s not a good song. No hooks, no catchiness, nothing that sticks at all – just raw. I couldn’t remember squat when the song ended – and I still can’t. Thankfully, I take notes while listening. Rough and crunchy, “Stay Away” follows, sleazier than ever. It’s a cocky tune, again with a whole lot of attitude but again, the song just won’t linger. It’s too forgettable and ok at best. “Loaded Bomb” is a gritty and groovy rocker, a sleazy piece that brings in some twists of Melodic Rock, something they succeeded with on Hollywood Vampires (1991), my favorite LAG record. It’s catchier than the first two and the refrain holds a clear hook which makes it the best tune so far. That said, it’s still only a decent tune.

The title-track – also a single – is slower and heavier and contains a darker edge. While the main-melody is ok, the rest of the song just refuses to grab a hold and the hooks are nowhere to be found which makes this tune as confusing as a single-choice as the opener. At least to me. “Needle To The Bone” takes a stroll down Classic Rock lane, complete with Keith Richards influenced guitar riffs mixed with a punky and dirty attitude. The sleaze rock is mixed up here with some smoother pop-melodies which is exactly what this song needs. So, I smile, gives the song a thumb up and states that it’s the best one so far. This could have been a single! “Going High” comes on a heavier base, it’s ballsy and hard with some clearly Metal influenced riffing. It’s dark and rowdy but also holds a rhythmic sleaze-rock groove. But this one too falls on the way-side – it just won’t stick with me. It’s ok at best.

The raw and punk-laden sleaze-bag of a song called “Gone Honey” might be dirty and dishevelled but it also sounds unstructured without hooks, catchiness or even a functioning melody-line. The tune sounds unfinished, kinda like an outtake more than actual song, very demo-tape-ish. No cigar there. “Don’t Need To Win” is upbeat and straight-forward, bedraggled with sleaze-dirt of LAG’s 80’s past – back to the roots-ish for sure. Still the tune really doesn’t go anywhere and is a filler to my ears. “Down That Hole” is a mid-paced, blues-infected, rowdy rocker where Classic Rock meets Sleaze dito. So while it’s raunchy and earthy, it’s also based on a memorable melody and holds a refrain that sticks. It’s one of the very few glimpses of light so far – which makes it a very welcome one. Good tune.

And what would an album by a 80’s sleaze-rock band be without a ballad? It really has to be one, right? So they gives us one called “Another Season In Hell”. Clocking in on over six minutes, what we’re given here is no la-la-la love song. Like Phil Lewis said: “You wanna hear love songs? Then go listen to Journey”. That’s their attitude so what we’re given here is a dark, melancholic, dark and raw ballad, quite robust with big blues vibe, both gloomy and gritty. It’s no power ballad for sure, but it’s emotional and sounds honest and deep – easily the best track on the album. As a closer we get “Boom”, if you get the CD or a digital download. Not for vinyl-purists, then. But don’t sweat, vinyl-lovers, as you won’t be missing out on anything. It’s a rough and kicking punk-sleaze-rock-metal track, very straight-forward and in-your-face. It’s also quite redundant and weak and nothing I’d spend any extra green on.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t get this album at all. Not only is the quality of the songs of poor standard – almost no songs stands out, there are no hooks or catchiness and even the ones I liked turned out to be somewhat forgettable – the production is also underwhelming. Sure, I know that Guns and Lewis wants it raw, stripped and gritty and they got that here. But the overall production sounds rushed, like a demo or at best a pre-production. After all these years, these guys must know how to do better than this, I mean, the last album at least showed some song-writing skills. Tracii Guns produced this with Mitch Davis, who produced the vocals and even though the guy is a really good guitarist, maybe an outside producer had been to prefer. Or maybe I’m just not fan enough to appreciate this.

3/10

More L.A. Guns reviews:

The Missing Peace

Tracklist:

1. Rage
2. Stay Away
3. Loaded Bomb
4. The Devil You Know
5. Needle To The Bone
6. Going High
7. Gone Honey
8. Don’t Need To Win
9. Down That Hole
10. Another Season In Hell
11. Boom (Bonus Track)

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