There no hard and fast rules for an eighties hair metal band aiming to eke out a living this decade.
Some, like Mötley Crüe, have studiously avoided the nostalgia circuit and aligned themselves with young bands. Others, like Whitesnake and Def Leppard, have their pre-Sunset Strip heritage as English blues and metal (respectively) bands to fall back on. There are those like Tyketto and Junkyard who have day jobs and tour in their vacation time. But for the likes of Ratt, Queensrÿche, Slaughter and L.A. Guns, it’s a fulltime job that now involves keeping their support base’s attention, one fan at a time, via social media and the speciallist press which has been chased out of the physical realm and onto the internet.
As many readers will be aware, until recently there were two L.A. Guns, one headed by Phil Lewis – the singer from the band’s late eighties heyday – and the other by founder Tracii Guns. To the relief of confused punters everywhere, Tracii’s version is apparently now on ice indefinitely.
Hollywood Forever is from Lewis’ version and it’s a timely reminder that this genre is still turning out quality material – even though the mainstream has long since moved on. If you liked the new Van Halen album, dig a bit deeper to the likes of L.A. Guns and you won’t be disappointed.
The biggest compliment you can pay a band from the big haired Eighties (Mötley Crüe might consider it an insult) is that the album sounds like the last twenty years never happened. That is certainly the case here – Phil Lewis is probably the number one torchbearer, anywhere, for the Strip scene of the eighties and Hollywood Forever would have been a massive album back then. Its biggest strength is its diversity. “Hollywood Forever” chops along metallically at at a cracking pace, “Eel Pie” is a sleazy grinder and “Sweet Mystery” is a dreamy radio ballad – and that’s just the first three tracks.
“Burn” is the sort of glammy blues lament meant to blast from convertables back when the riots were the number one topic of conversation in Lala Land and the “Vine Street Shimmy” is the sort of song that makes you visualise the video clip (all low-slung guitars and sneers) even though there actually isn’t one.
My favourites are “Dirty Black Night”, a monster of a chugga-chugga glam rock epic that dares you to listen passively without the slightest nod or smile, and “You Better Not Love Me” which is a perfect example of the commercial LA metal genre. People thought these Eighties metal bands recorded catchy songs to get on the radio and please the record company execs. Maybe they even used this excuse themselves as an alibi for “wimping out”. But the radio and the execs are long gone – and the hooks keep coming because that’s actually the sort of music these guys like.
“Queenie” is a punk number, “Crazy Tango” is a little Stonesy (L.A. Guns always were – Englishman Lewis is clearly a big fan). “Venus Bomb”, “I Won’t Play” and “Araña Negro” would probably be best described as bonus tracks which add little to the core of the album.
So, the missing nine per cent? Probably those last three songs, and the fact that this isn’t the 1988 self-titled debut or Cocked and Loaded. It’s better than Hollywood Vampires, though – and that’s regarded by some as a classic.
A toast, then, for Phil Lewis – someone who has done what men have strived to for thousands of years. He’s made time stand completely still.
1. Hollywood Forever
2. You Better Not Love Me
3. Eel Pie
4. Sweet Mystery
6. Vine St. Shimmy
7. Dirty Black Night
8. Underneath The Sun
10. Crazy Tango
11. Venus Bomb
12. I Won’t Play
13. Requiem (Hollywood Forever)
14. Araña Negra (Black Spider)