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L.A. Guns Tales From the Strip

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 @ 3:34 PM

Shrapnel Records

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Oh, fuck it--just stop reading and go out and buy this.

Do whatever you need to do to obtain it—really. If you’re a rock fan who had any interest in any aspect of the grittier, glammed-out rocking that was the essence of classic 80’s material performed by bands like Guns and Roses or Faster Pussycat, then Tales From The Strip won’t leave your stereo for weeks. The sad part of this is that I doubt if I would have ever given this record a chance if it wasn’t for an email I received from a reader who said they enjoyed Alice Cooper’s latest, Dirty Diamonds, but were absolutely blown away by the new LA. Guns. I told him that I’d check it out, but I wasn’t expecting too much since I had recently read a review that basically lambasted it and made the effort seem like a waste of disc producing materials. No, it isn’t a practice of mine to let one opinion make up my mind on something, but if it’s a disc I already have doubts about…I imagine that at least subconsciously, it could have had an influence. Of course it’s good that John from Florida clued me in on this or else I would have gone on believing a misconception that has turned out to be about as wrong as a porn featuring Weezy from the Jeffersons having anal sex with Fred Sandford and Lamont while Gary Coleman claps his hands and rides a pony.

“It Don’t Mean Nothing” begins the disc with a classic chorus and addictive tempo as it name checks L.A.--the locale that was home to it all. When selection two hits, if a listener was expecting a letdown after the first burning anthem, “Electric Neon Sunset” follows and proves to be possibly the best tune on a great record. “Gypsy Soul” has a funked up rock beat that grinds and shakes while “Original Sin” goes from a distinctive bass line to Stacey Blades’ display of how to master a guitar solo in a way that compliments the song rather than serving as a distraction from it. By the time the fourth song is over, if anyone bought this believing this band would have to miss founding member Tracii Guns, it would be abundantly clear by this point that the former guitarist’s exit and subsequent jump to Brides of Destruction may have all been for the best. “Vampire” is up next and is yet another powerhouse display of melodic metal while “Hollywood’s Burning” is one of those strange songs where the verse is cooler than the chorus, but it is still a repeat inducing track. In all, an owner of this record may have it for quite some time before they ever get past the first six songs—most likely, they’ll just get played over and over again—nothing against the second half of this disc, but the first half dozen are simply phenomenal.

The last eight tracks of the album consist in part of two instrumentals, “6.9 Earthshaker” and “Amanecer”. The former is a more rocking, rollicking composition while “Amanecer” is moodier and acoustic celebration. As a rule, instrumentals can be viewed as filler, but when an album ends up with fourteen tracks, there really is no other reason to include these here unless the band is really into them or they are being used to set up a tempo for the sequencing. Throughout the last grouping of rockers, “Rox Baby Girl”, “Shame” and “Resurrection” satisfy the most as Adam Hamilton’s bass truly stands out and combines with Steve Riley’s drumming to create an impressive rhythm section that is perfect for these metallic compositions. The only two selections that don’t strike the same nerve would have to be “Skin”—a song that attempts to burn but that somehow inexplicably smolders while “Crazy Motorcycle” suffers from needless vocal effects at the beginning although Blades searing axe work at the end is almost enough to salvage the tune and garner it a thumbs up. When Tales From The Strip finally concludes with the final gem entitled, “Can’t Give You Anything Better than Love” it becomes clear that if this record had been released in 1986, L.A. Guns would have been twice as big as they were during the “The Ballad of Jayne” era. I’m not kidding, and I haven’t been drinking…lately.

Over the past couple of months, I have been fortunate enough to review some albums that have been truly very good (Nashville Pussy, Alice Cooper, Beautiful Creatures). As cool and easy to listen to as those certainly are, Tales From The Strip is the one I’m sure I will be listening to the longest. There is simply no reason for this other than these songs are just classic melodic metal that strikes a chord the same way hard rock did the first time you heard it on The Metal Shop or had it come to your attention as it pounded beckoningly out of a neighbor’s tape deck. A person doesn’t have to be a long time fan of L.A. Guns to appreciate the vocals of Phil Lewis or the quintessential metal drumming of Steve Riley here either. To make matters even more interesting, I’m not sure if I have dealt with an album recorded by an eighties band or some derivative thereof which was recorded today that is actually better than anything said band had ever produced during its heyday—yep, this may be a first. Whether a listener considers either Cocked and Loaded or Hollywood Vampires to be the group’s seminal work, Tales From the Strip is just flat out better. Whatever chemistry the four guys in the current lineup doubtlessly have, it works in a big way. No one knows exactly how much notoriety this record will ever garner—it has already been out for awhile—but I do know that it deserves an exponentially greater audience than it will ever get. I also know that my life is definitely a little cooler for owning it, and I suspect yours might be too. Give it a shot---I’m not sure that it is better than a porn featuring a myriad of played out 70’s sitcom stars, but it’s still pretty damn great.


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