L.A. Guns: ‘Black Diamonds’
Released on April 14, 2023 (Frontiers Music Srl)
If I had back every day I spent at an L.A. Guns show, I’d have at least a month of my life back. From the days of Jizzy Pearl in 1999 to the return of Phil Lewis and then the two band split fiasco for years and years all the way to the reunion of Phil and Tracii, I’ve seen the boys “Rip N Tear” it up in large outdoor venues, back lots of bike shops, crummy dive bars, and the Whisky A Go Go itself and live, for me, it is “Never Enough”! I love these guys and always will.
With that being said, I’m also honest. The reunion of Phil and Tracii was amazing for The Missing Peace but the follow up, The Devil You Know, was one of the worst sacks of hacky crap I’ve ever heard a band I love put out ever. I mean, it gives American Hardcore a run for its money as the worst thing this band ever did. The most recent album before this one, Checkered Past, was a step in the right direction but so would the sound of aggressive ass cancer be an improvement over The Devil You Know. So, for the first time in my fandom of this band, which goes back to the Hollywood Vampires album thanks to “Over The Edge” being in Point Break, I went into this album with low expectations… In fact, given the crappy Spencer Davis Group rip off “Shattered Glass”, which is a bad meandering clone of “Gimme Some Lovin'”, being one of the first singles put out as if it was to impress us fans, I expected a genuine shit show on this album…. So, the CD arrived at my front door today and I bit through the shrink wrap and stuck it in. I hit play with the same excitement a fan of a bad football team has in a game they know their team is outmatched in… “OK, it is going to be bad. But, can we at least not be a disgrace?” Well, that mission was accomplished. It isn’t that bad.
“You Betray” starts off the album and it feels like it is living in a space between The Devil You Know and Checkered Past. The production quality, or lack there of, immediately hits you in the face. The songwriting isn’t bad but it also isn’t overly inspired. If this is to set the tone for the record the way “No Mercy” did for the self-titled album or “Don’t Look At Me That Way” did for Waking The Dead, it could be a long, bumpy ride… Not a big fan of this one. Very rough production and a very ’90s doom vibe to it with such bad vocal effects, it almost sounds like the audio track is compressed.
“Wrong About You” has a more swinging, funky vibe. Maybe a little bit of the Red Hot Chili Peppers inspiration here? Phil‘s screams show up here and steal the show. This is a good rebound song after a rough start. “Diamonds” is next and this was the third single the band released… Or, at least, it is the second video I saw for it on YouTube. The video shocked me because I was amazed at how bad Phil Lewis looked. I mean, he is his age but this was not complimentary to that fact. In fact, it accentuated his age and made him look even worse… I actually saw some people question if he suffered a medical event such as a stroke based on his appearance. Anyway, the song didn’t do much for me with the video but on a stereo, it sounds really big and impressive. For an album that has had me, to this point, insulting its garage like production quality, this is a massive step in the right direction audio quality wise. It sounds big and powerful and is very catchy…. I just hope to never see Phil with his hair pulled back, black and white, looking like death warmed up ever again. That was alarming. It really was.
“Babylon” is next and it has a really cool vibe on it. I don’t know why but I get an almost classic Alice Cooper vibe here… Think Welcome To My Nightmare era, perhaps? In the words of Jim Ross, business is about to pick up! “Shame” is up next. I guess when you’ve been around as long as this band has, you’re going to have some repeat song titles. There is a song called “Shame” on 2005’s Tales From The Strip album that was one of my favorites. In fact, that entire album review ended up unexpectedly in Stacey Blades‘ book and I wasn’t given any credit for it but Sleaze Roxx did! I digress, this one has a sinister vibe to it and I kind of love it. If L.A. Guns did an album of songs with “Shame” in the title the way Buckcherry did an entire EP called Fuck with all songs that had the fabulous “fuck” bomb in them, I’d be as happy as a pig in poop.
“Shattered Glass” sucks. I can’t understand how anyone can hear that open and not hear the Spencer Davis Group riff. Even the drums kick in the same way they do in the classic “Gimme Some Lovin'” song still played on TV commercials and in major motion pictures and sitcoms, if you will, baby (That’s my Dusty Rhodes impression. I just can’t help but lapse into wrestling speak sometimes…)! The rest of the song is kind of “eh”. But, the fact that the riff and groove of the song is totally lifted from a popular song everyone knows really just makes me question why this got the video treatment and was put out as a selling point of the album. Thumbs down, man. Thumbs way down. “Gonna Lose” is up next and it is a great song. But, again, it suffers from the “I’ve heard this before” bug… “We All Die Young” from the Rock Star soundtrack as performed by SteelHeart‘s lead vocalist, is very similar here. This song still is great… Led Zeppelin vibes! But, again, there is the feeling you’ve heard this before.
“Got It Wrong” is up next and it has a swinging style to it that is immediately infectious. It is great four on the floor rock and roll. “Lowlife” is next and follows suit to “Got It Wrong”. Faster tempo, almost AC/DC crunchy sounding rock ‘n’ roll. The production makes it almost punky sounding because it is rough sounding… That seems to be a problem throughout the album. But, it works in a weird way here. “Crying” is up next and it feels very ’60s British Invasion. Again, the production being so poor probably leans it that way a bit. But, the guitars have an almost George Harrison quality to them and Phil‘s vocals resemble an almost Sgt. Pepper vibe. Ironic considering the “Never Enough” music video plays on The Beatles‘ world changing appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. “Like a Drug” has a White Stripes vibe to it in a way…. Think ’90s indie rock that isn’t grunge. It feels very real though and I dig it as a solid way to wrap up the album. Tracii‘s guitar solo might be my favorite one on the album on this track.
In the end, the album is actually overall pretty darn good. But, whoever thought the singles should be the rip off of the Spencer Davis Group song “Gimme Some Lovin'” and the video where Phil looks so bad, if he walked past a cemetery, two guys would chase after him with shovels is beyond me. There are great songs here with genuine great performances by Phil and Tracii… I can’t figure out why they would lead in with songs that made even me, a huge fan, set the expectation bar so low. But, thankfully, this does deliver the goods!
01. You Betray
02. Wrong About You
06. Shattered Glass
07. Gonna Lose
08. Got It Wrong
11. Like A Drug
Phil Lewis – lead vocals
Tracii Guns – guitar
Ace Von Johnson – guitar
Johnny Martin – bass
Shawn Duncan – drums
Adam Hamilton – drums
Produced by Tracii Guns
Reviewed by wrestlingepicenter.com for Sleaze Roxx, April 2023
L.A. Guns‘ “You Betray” lyric video:
L.A. Guns‘ “Shattered Glass” video:
L.A. Guns‘ “Diamonds” video: