LA Guns – Hollywood Forever – Review

Would the real LA Guns please stand-up… OK, this isn’t going to be one of those reviews. The whole history of the band called LA Guns is a confusing mess and in the scheme of things personally I don’t really care who ‘owns’ the name or who doesn’t like who. I do know I like a lot of the early material though I certainly was never a hardcore fan; to be honest it was the attitude that the band managed to convey in their music that was key to me. They were always sleazy in a very laid back cool way and one that I find at odds with a lot of characterizations that use the word ‘glam’. For me that has other owners.

Just to be clear, this is the Phil Lewis fronted band and represents just the second studio release since officially forming back in 2002. If you ever want to be really confused look up the Wikipedia entry that covers LA Guns and try to figure out how many members have played in a band called LA Guns! So for this record we have Phil Lewis on vocals who I have been a fan of since his days with Girl (who featured Phil Collen from Def Leppard), Steve Riley on drums, Stacey Blades on guitar and Scott Griffin on bass.

So what do we get with Hollywood Forever? Well, an initial listen will give you the immediate message that the band have not attempted any radical paradigm shift here – that sleazy rock’n’feel is still firmly rooted and harks back to the golden 80’s. If you grew-up through that era you will hear a lot of what was good about the music then brought forward in this album. For me the first few listen or two felt a lot like pulling on your favorite pair of cowboy boots – everything seems to fit nicely, no surprises, but equally pretty predictable, but in a good way.

The opening track, “Hollywood Forever” I have to admit immediately reminded me of classic WASP, which given Steve Riley’s past as the drummer of WASP, perhaps shouldn’t have been as surprising as it seems. Somehow Phil Lewis seems to drift into a pretty convincing mirror of Blackie Lawless. This may come over as a criticism but if anything it is intended as a compliment.

Moving on the next track has become one of my favorites – “You Better Not Love Me” – which has a great guitar harmonic-driven intro, powered along by a driving bass-line. This song is essentially Phil Lewis giving his ‘girlfriend’ some advice and has a great grove. With lyrics as follows how can you not love this band “My friend, she don’t play nice, her lips are like marshmallows, but her blood is cold as ice…”

Overall the production is great and so it should be coming from the highly experienced Andy Johns, who has a list of credits as deep as any including The Rolling Stones, Led Zep, Van Halen, Cinderella and more recently Chicken Foot. One thing I did notice is that each instrument has a nice space to work in; for once the bass isn’t buried in some low-end mush, while the cymbals and drums cut through and drive the band along. Everything fits together in a very complimentary way.

The album closes with a surprise; the last track is entirely sung in Spanish. This is “Araña Negra” which is a cover from a band called the Bicicletas and after looking this up, the  LA Guns version is pretty close to the original, but perhaps with a little more swing to it. Phil pulls this off with apparent complete ease, which for a lad from London, England is perhaps harder than it might seem.

Having just seen LA Guns live at the M3 Festival, the album lives up to what they delivered on stage. Phil is sounding great and I am hoping to catch them at a venue where they can play a full set including more of the new material.

So how much do I like this release? Well, to be honest it has been on constant rotation in the car for the past two weeks and it’s not wearing even a tiny bit thin on me and is one of those records that just seems to get inside your head a little bit more each time you hear it. This is really strong release and in my opinion a must buy for anyone with any appreciation of metal. Score 8.5/10

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