L.A. Guns – Checkered Past

Checkered Past Album Cover Art

L.A. Guns – Checkered Past
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: 12/11/21
Running Time: 44:48
Review by Simon Black

L.A. Guns have no small place in Rock ’n’ Roll history, with Tracii Guns leaving his name behind in one half of the biggest band the 80’s L.A. scene ever produced, before going on to found an act that would prove to be the seminal Sleaze Metal sound, which many skinny sallow kids are still trying to look and sound like thirty years later, even if they never achieved anything like the success they should have. They have definitely proven to be one of the most influential acts of the period.

L.A. Guns though have become the classic example of why going legal when band mates fall out is a really, really stupid idea, because some old Republican-voting circuit judge is not going to see what is wrong with allowing two versions of the band to compete in the same marketplace. This is why every time I see the name come up on a new recording I have to check whether it’s the Steve Riley version or the Tracii Guns & Phil Lewis version. I mean for Pete’s sake, they both use the same logo, so how’s a fan supposed to tell the difference?

Having reviewed examples of both in the last eighteen months I have to say that so far the one that actually has Mr Guns and his original debut album’s singer is winning hands down so far. Riley’s version released ‘Renegades’ last year and quite frankly annoyed the socks off of me in the process. Not only did it not really bear any relation to the L.A. Guns sound I remembered, but it was also a flat, lacklustre and limp affair. ‘Checkered Past’, however, is doing the complete opposite and ticking an awful lot of boxes.

First off, it absolutely sounds like an older and wiser version of the band that cut seminal tracks like ‘Sex Action’, ‘One More Reason’, or ‘Electric Gypsy’ back in 1988. Opener ‘Cannonball’ would feel right at home on that first record, as it bubbles with energy, down and dirty mood, and that old L.A Guns ‘tude. The bluesy ‘Bad Luck Charm’ keeps the foot-tapping mood going nicely and the energy stays there until the first of several slower pieces. The moody, semi-acoustic ‘Get Along’ is clearly an attempt at something a little more mainstream, without losing the essential feel of the band through Guns simple but effectively haunting lead break.

The slower songs are peppered throughout to be honest. ‘If It’s Over Now’ takes a moodier and darker tone, with Lewis’s vocal melody making this one of the highlights of the record, although ‘Let You Down’ isn’t far behind it. The album bounces back and forwards between the lively and the slower effortlessly and manages to pretty much hold your attention throughout. For me it feels like a much overdue and very welcome return to form for an act that really have deserved better at history’s hands over the decades. Now all they need to do is get the sole use of the name back…

‘Cannonball’ – Official Music Video:

01. Cannonball
02. Bad Luck Charm
03. Living Right Now
04. Get Along
05. If It’s Over Now
06. Better Than You
07. Knock Me Down
08. Dog
09. Let You Down
10. That Ain’t Why
11. Physical Itch

Tracii Guns – Lead Guitar
Phil Lewis – Vocals
Johnny Martin – Bass
Ace Von Johnson – Rhythm Guitar
Scot Coogan – Drums


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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