I have seen L.A. Guns with most of their various line-ups throughout the years, a handful of times in Hollywood and a dozen or so times in the UK so I was really excited to hear Renegades, the debut album from the Steve Riley / Kelly Nickels / Scotty Griffin version of the Hollywood vampires. Most fans see these as the definitive rhythm section of the band. The return of Kelly on bass results in Scotty moving over to lead guitar. But can he live up to the incredible guitar players before him?
Any doubt about this particular incarnation is immediately put to rest with Renegades opener Crawl. A track so identifiable with L.A. Guns, it could not be by any other band. The familiar rhythm section, a killer groove and Kurt Frohlich even has a vocal style that is similar to Phil Lewis. Even the lyrics are in familiar territory “icy cold with a jet black stare”, “everything about you makes me crawl”, the whole track sounds like a more rock ‘n’ roll version of Malaria from the Cocked & Loaded album. It is joyful to hear Kelly Nickels clearly on the bass frets with his distinctive style, sounding fresh and rejuvenated. It feels like a welcome return for Kelly and the rest of these much loved members.
Why Ask Why has a party alt-rock sound with a punk attitude. The guitars are sharp and clear and do not let up throughout the whole three minutes. A different direction to previous albums but still manages to keep elements of the L.A. Guns trademark sound. It is easy to imagine The Whisky crowd jumping around to this fun, lively track. Well Oiled Machine has a mid-1980’s style that is more akin to the Paul Black era of the band. The song brings to mind images of riding around Sunset Strip and Scotty’s guitar playing actually sounds like Traci on this one.
Lost Boys has a great riff with a dystopian feel; sultry guitar on the verses lead into a chanting chorus. It sounds like a cross between Lynch Mob and Crash Diet and Scotty’s solo sounds very much like Stacey Blades. You Can’t Walk Away is the best L.A. Guns ballad since the Oasis influenced Beautiful from the Man In The Moon album. It has a 1970’s British feel and is perfectly placed as the closer to side A.
Opening up side B, Witchcraft is a welcome slab of rock that is designed to be played live. It is easy to sing the “tired of your witchcraft” chorus and it sounds like a spider has taken control of the fretboard. Riley’s drums are so prevalent in this song and when it ends with his crashing drums you are so glad he’s back behind the kit. I am genuinely surprised by how many great riffs Scotty has come up with for this album and this is particularly evident on All That You Are, where it sits perfectly with a chant of ‘heys’ and ‘na-na-na-na’s’. It sounds like modern AOR and definitely one for fans of H.E.A.T.
Would is the least L.A. Guns style song on the album and it jarrs. It has an acoustic 1990’s psychedelic grunge feel and disrupts the whole mood. It is not a bad song in itself but it should have been shelved for a different project, like a follow-up to American Hardcore.
The title track Renegades lifts us up again; classy and melodic, it has a true Californian vibe. It feels like rock n roll gypsies on an open road with the desert sun in their faces. Scotty’s playing is so sublime you will hope he never picks up the bass again. The closer Don’t Wanna Know is a gloriously fun way to end the album. It has a fast shuffle similar to Hellraisers Ball from the Waking The Dead album. This track also sounds most like the current Lewis / Guns version of the band.
Listening to the album feels like a trip down memory lane meeting up with the various versions of L.A. Guns throughout the years. From the Nickels/Riley heydays to the Nickels/Griffin 21st Century Hollywood elders. Renegades is as good as any L.A. Guns album since 1994’s Vicious Circle. We have long been used to having two versions of the band out there and who knows, this new line up may allow for a third version in the future (and there can never be too much L.A. Guns in the world). Renegades is classic L.A. Guns, great riffs, cool attitude and pure Rock n Roll.
Renegades is available from Friday 13th November 2020 from the below link.
Drums – Steve Riley Bass – Kelly Nickels Guitar – Scott Griffin Vocals – Kurt Frohlich
02. Why Ask Why
03. Well Oiled Machine
04. Lost Boys
05. You Can’t Walk Away
07. All That You Are
10. Don’t Wanna Know