There simply isn’t space (or, I suspect, inclination) to get involved in the ongoing debate about which version of L.A. Guns is the legitimate one. In 2020, for the sake of argument, L.A. Guns is a coalescence of musicians around sometime LAG members Kelly Nickels and Steve Riley. The other version, featuring Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis, will presumably get their turn at shitting on the band’s legacy next year.
Lewis and Guns recorded a creditable L.A. Guns album, The Missing Peace, in 2017, full of Guns’ trademark incendiary guitar playing and the public schoolboy chancer musings of Lewis, two things signally missing with Renegades. Guitarist Scotty Griffin (formerly an L.A. Guns bassist at one time of another) rarely cuts loose with the pizzazz of his rival, save for some nice playing on final track Don’t Wanna Know. But the main stumbling block here is the vocal performance of Kurt Frohlich.
Even on Renegades‘ best material – and there’s a three song run in the middle of the album in the shape of You Can’t Walk Away, Witchcraft and All That You Are that is at least as good, if not better, than anything the Guns/Lewis version of the band is pumping out – Frohlich simply isn’t up to the task at hand. Using a vocal approach that can best be described as ‘unidimensional’, he displays not one iota of the grit and sleaze required to front a band of L.A. Guns’ pretensions. This is music that’s meant to chronicle the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles life, after all; on the woeful Lost Boys Frohlich turns what was clearly meant to be some sort of we-can’t live-any-other-way-we’re-rock-n-roll-lifers anthem into a limp, anodyne High School Musical exposition of what Hollywood producers think of as ‘rebellion’. It’s actually upsetting to listen to.
Which is a shame, as he’s clearly doing the best he can with the limited tools at his disposal and, in a different milieu would surely put in a good shift… And, as noted, there are some truly well put-together tracks on Renegades. Fuse them with the best of what their nemeses are doing in a different studio somewhere else in Los Angeles and you might well come up with the sort of album that might be deemed to be worthy of the L.A. Guns name. Now there’s a thought…
Renegades releases on November 13th.