Back to the future with Tracii and Phil

It’s certain that the history of the band is labyrinthian when the singer who you reunited with after 16 years issues a statement saying he’s left again, before having to clarify that he’s only left one of the two versions of the same group that he’s in. Welcome to the world of LA Guns.

Such chaos has always been the way. As every sleaze rock anorak knows Axl was in the band for a bit and their guitarist Tracii Guns was in an early incarnation of GnR for a while. In fact, it’s probably easier to say who hasn’t been in the troupe.

But, in the spirit of making things simple. “The Missing Peace” sees Guns reunited with Phil Lewis, which makes this LA Guns. And that’s really all you need to concern yourself with here. The ex-Girl vocalist was part of their best moments in the 80s and early 90s, and forget the half-arsed stuff they produced when the pair re-united at the turn of the millennium, this is the real deal.

Even the cover looks like their debut, never mind the sound. As for the songs, it takes all of about 15 seconds of “It’s All The Same To Me” to have you dusting off the spandex and screaming “LA Guns are back, baby!”

Always a touch more nihilistic than their sleazy peers, “Speed” knows where the trouble is at. “A little speed makes you want a little more” intones Lewis, in the half spoken, yet totally cool vocal style he always had, and there ain’t a person on the planet who thinks he’s talking about his car.

“A Drop Of Bleach” has the dirty bass groove that classic Guns always had, and Lewis steals the show on the filthier than Motley on a three day bender, “Sticky Fingers”.  This is him announcing he’s back and no mistake.

It is impossible to listen to the bluesy, country fried ballad “Christine” without thinking of their hit “Ballad Of Jayne”, so don’t bother. The band don’t shy from the past here and neither should the listener.

Whilst this is clearly rooted in hair metal, it is unfair to say it is a rehash of warmed over outtakes. It isn’t. There is a modernity about the pummelling “Baby Gotta Fever”, “Kill It Or Die” has a big ol’ swinging groove and if there was always an undercurrent of violence about LA Guns in their prime, “You Bought A Knife To A Gunfight” dares you to take them on even now.

The other ballad, “The Flood’s The Fault Of The Rain” has the same feel as classic rock standards from “House Of The Rising Sun” onwards, but this collection seems happier when having a party. Which is why, perhaps, “The Devil Made Me Do It” is like time travelling back to the hookers and blow of The Rainbow Bar And Grill.

The title track, with its massive intent and magnificent guitar work from Guns is like a timely reminder of how good they were, while the closing “Gave It All Away” is a bit of a departure, with its Spanish guitar and slow building, deliberate feel, it belongs on the  “Hollywood Vampires” album  from 1991.

Handy really, because “The Missing Peace” feels like their first album since then. Perhaps because they’ve gone back to their roots, it is most certainly their best in almost 30 years.

Rating 8/10

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