By JAY ROBERTS
The Cassette Chronicles is a continuing series of mini reviews and reflections on albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s. The aim of this series is to highlight both known and underappreciated albums from rock, pop and metal genres from this time period through the cassette editions of their releases. Some of the albums I have known about and loved for years, while others are new to me and were music I’ve always wanted to hear. There will be some review analysis and my own personal stories about my connection with various albums. These opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of anyone else at Limelight Magazine.
L. A. GUNS – L. A. GUNS (1988)
Say what you want about the long and winding (and ever so confusing) road that the band L.A. Guns has found itself on over the 30 plus years of its existence, they really had it all going for them on this first album.
If you paid any attention to the Los Angeles metal scene in the 1980’s, you know all about the birth of the band, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Instead I want to focus on the album itself.
The eleven tracks show the band as a down and dirty gritty rock and roll band. While they might never have attained the commercial peaks as some of their counterparts, this debut is chock full of great music.
The funny thing about that statement is that try as I might, I can’t remember why this was the only album that I ever bought from the band. Nor can I recall why I probably haven’t listened to it in nearly 30 years either. I bought the album on cassette when it first came out but it disappeared from my collection and I never bothered to get it back until I started gathering material for this series.
So you can imagine how delighted I was to be kind of experiencing the music again like it was the first time.
The first side of the album bursts out of the speakers with a real kick in the pants rocker in “No Mercy”. In fact, the band rarely takes their foot off the gas on the album with the exception of the ballad track, which by 1988 was pretty much a required element for any band releasing material.
L.A. Guns (which featured Phil Lewis on vocals, Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps on guitar, Kelly Nickels on bass and Steve Riley on drums) rocketed through what can only be described as some of their now-classic tracks like the immensely satisfying “Sex Action” (no pun intended there), “One More Reason” and “Electric Gypsy”. Great songs one and all.
Side two opened with “Bitch Is Back” (an original track, not a cover of the Elton John song), which given how the band is situated now, comes off sounding like the perfect song to open their live sets.
That song feeds into the instrumental “Cry No More” and the aforemention ballad track, “One Way Ticket’. This is normally where I’d tell you how I nearly vomited with how wimpy and sugary the song was but in a welcome twist in the tale, I loved the instrumental which had a really strong and cool sound to it. As for “One Way Ticket”, it was more of a power ballad and in all honesty, it kind of rocked. In terms of emotional content in a song, this one was chock full of it. I particularly enjoyed the vocal expression/performance from Phil Lewis. It is a killer track!
After that bit of an emotive slowdown, the band kicks the pace up with three highly charged rockers to close out the album. “Hollywood Tease”, “Shoot For Thrills” and “Down In The City” are all pretty decent songs overall, but I do think they are just a bit of a TINY step down from the rest of the songs on the album.
So while it has been a long time since I have heard the L.A. Guns album, I was pleased to discover all over again that the band had a raw and raucous sound that manages to catch your ear and get your blood pumping. I had quite the enjoyable experience listening to this album and if you haven’t listened to this one lately, you’d be well advised to give the album a new spin!
NOTES OF INTEREST: While Steve Riley was listed as the drummer on the debut album, it was Nickey Alexander who played the drum parts for it. He left the band before the release of the album. He would later guest on the band’s Vicious Circle album and spent two years playing with The Cramps as well.
Rock Candy Records reissued the L.A. Guns album in 2012.
I mentioned the long and winding road for the band. For years there has been bad blood between the various members and two different versions of the band. Steve Riley and Phil Lewis had one version for years while Tracii Guns fronted the 2nd version. However, Lewis and Guns reunited to release a new L.A. Guns album called The Missing Peace in 2017. (The album is actually quite good) and will release The Devil You Know sometime in 2019. This version of the band will be playing a local show in my area (New Bedford, MA) in the Vault at Greasy Luck on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Meanwhile, Steve Riley’s version of the band will be appearing at this year’s M3 Festival in Maryland.