L.A. GUNS (FEAT. RILEY AND NICKELS)
Released on November 13, 2020 (Golden Robot Records)
L.A. Guns are one of my favorite bands. But, sometimes being a fan of this band lands you in the position of a child who has their parents split up. You have to choose sides. Thankfully, I never had to deal with such serious things in my youth. But, the vocal L.A. Guns fanbase seems to want you to pick a side. I’m in that strange position where I actually agree that both sides have the right to use the name and therefore I simply accept that there are now two bands called L.A. Guns and both play rock and roll music that I like. So, now you know my position on the great debate as to who is the real L.A. Guns. With that put to bed, lets talk about the new album!
The new album, Renegades, sees Steve Riley‘s version of the band back in action featuring the return of Kelly Nickels from the original line-up and the return of Scotty Griffin from the Steve Riley / Phil Lewis 2000’s line-up. Attempting to fill the massive shoes of Phil Lewis is Kurt Frohlich who I must admit was a virtual unknown to me until he assumed this role. So, the band is set. But, how does the output sound? The answer? Pretty damn good! I mean, it is different than what we have received by Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns‘ version over their last two non-Christmas offerings which saw a very slick produced The Missing Peace album in 2017 and a record that I hated a few years later called The Devil You Know that explored a far less produced, more Black Sabbath sound. This album, Renegades, is produced more in line with 2005’s Tales From The Strip but, overall, with far less of a guitar driven sound. Tracii Guns and, to a lesser extent Stacey Blades, tend to be the driving force of L.A. Guns on the albums they play on whereas this sees a much more reserved guitar approach that does make it feel less like an L.A. Guns album than it probably should. But, the content is still strong.
The first track on the record is “Crawl” which was the first song the band put forth. It has a good groove and good lyrics. It explores some of what you can expect throughout the album from Frohlich‘s vocal delivery, which is both totally different and occasionally identical to that of Phil Lewis. I’ll explain. Frohlich‘s tone throughout the album ranges from Ace Frehley to James Hetfield like. But, on some words and expressions, he does have a very Phil Lewis like delivery even though the voices are very different. That likeness became something I almost found myself looking forward to throughout the album and it shines through on some songs more than others.
“Why Ask Why” is probably the most guitar driven song on the album and yet one that has less of a Phil Lewis approach by Frohlich. Very grooving but it has a much more modern vibe to it. I absolutely love the lyric “Yeah you get on my last nerve, I will choose to grade you on your curves.” That lyric just is so perfectly sleazy and perfect! Great catchy hooks and the best guitar solo on the album is right here in this track. “Well Oiled Machine” has a swagger that could have fit on the debut album some 32 years ago. It has a little “Sex Action” vibe but it is a little short on the chorus melody.
“Lost Boys” is the next track and I will tell you that the album doesn’t get better than this. Frohlich‘s voice seems to come alive best here with a whole lot of phrasing that feels very Phil Lewis like while not doing an impersonation. What is odd is it is a brooding verse and a somewhat grungy sound — a sound I have never and will never like. But, it brings it back to a very defiant, ballsy rock sound with the simple yet catchy chorus. The guitar solo is a little lacking. But, if I was going to say, “Hey dude, you should get this album” to a friend, I’d play “Lost Boys” to try and convince them it is worth the money. It’s really a bad ass song. “You Can Walk Away” is a ballad and a catchy one. Something about the production reminds me of the Danger Danger song “Naughty Naughty Christmas” from the Santa Claus 2 soundtrack. You can search the entire internet and I promise you no one else will make that connection anywhere else, folks.
“Witchcraft” is up next. This track feels like it could have fit on Hollywood Forever. Strong musicianship, strong vocals, light on melody in the chorus and ultimately, it’s a song I find I don’t revisit as I go back through the album. “All That You Are” might sound like a ballad title but it isn’t and it’s a very catchy song with a lot of harmonies that work. Strangely, I find that it reminds me of something off of former Quiet Riot frontman James Durbin‘s first album after winning American Idol… Maybe in the vain of “Outcast” off that album which featured Mötley Crüe‘s Mick Mars on guitar. It’s very catchy and has a great guitar hook to it also.
“Would” is a very soft accoustic song. Parts of it give off a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe without the funk. It is OK. “Renegades” came up on my 11 year old son’s Spotify account one day and he asked me about the song. He’s seen L.A. Guns live before so it wasn’t a discovery of the band. But, he told me if I bought the album, he wants to borrow it based on this song. It is a bad ass rocker with a lot of melody and harmonies. I love the balls on this one. “Don’t Wanna Know” finishes up the album with a Mötley Crüe feeling vibe but not really. Imagine if Mötley Crüe had the singer from The Black Crowes singing instead? Hard to handle… I mean imagine? Well, that kind of is how this comes off. Catchy.
In the end, Steve Riley has resisted new music ever since Tracii left the band and has put out three new albums and two cover albums since then. A fantastic 2005 effort called Tales From The Strip, a so-so 2011 effort called Hollywood Forever, and now, with a fresh coat of paint due to so many new and never-mixed parts, a strong effort called Renegades. It is a good assortment of songs and catchy tunes. Will it set the world on fire? Probably not. But, if you are an L.A. Guns fan, regardless if you love Mommy or Daddy more, you’ll be satisfied with what you get here. I’d grade it as a solid B+ and better than Hollywood Forever which had a few good tracks and a few real bad clunkers. This one has mostly good songs with only a few that I don’t like at all and a few I think will make it to my car’s USB geek stick for future playing. Oh, and it certainly is better than the other version of L.A. Guns‘ The Devil You Know, which was a steaming pile. But, it does not fill me with the same piss and vinegar of The Missing Peace. So, take from that what you will.
02. Why Ask Why
03. Well Oiled Machine
04. Lost Boys
05. You Can’t Walk Away
07. All That You Are
10. Don’t Wanna Know
Steve Riley – drums
Kelly Nickels – bass
Scott Griffin – lead guitar
Kurt Frohlich – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Produced by Steve Riley
L.A. Guns (feat. Riley and Nickels)‘ ‘Making of’ “Crawl” video:
L.A. Guns (feat. Riley and Nickels)‘ “Well Oiled Machine” single:
L.A. Guns (feat. Riley and Nickels)‘ “All That You Are” single: