Tracii Guns is perhaps the Pete Best of the LA music scene. After starting the primeval line-up of Guns N’ Roses in 1985, he left the band before Axl and co. took Sunset Strip—and the world—by storm. The band he formed after leaving, LA Guns, sold a few million albums, but Tracii is certainly entitled to mull over what might have been.
The original line-up of LA Guns was in truth, quite underrated, but when their label interfered excessively on 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, the band splintered. They reformed briefly for 1995’s excellent Vicious Circle, but a succession of different frontmen and a seismic shift of sound since that opus contributed to LA Guns’ demise.
Now the infamous original line-up is back and while Axl Rose spends his time figuring out whether the world is ready for his Moby-inspired industrial metal, it is refreshing to see LA Guns sticking to what they know. As a result, this collection of ‘70s and ‘80s- influenced hard rock is never going to win a Grammy, but is a worthwhile effort all the same.
The make-up and leather may just about be gone, but the combination of Guns’ phenomenal guitar work and the vocals of English frontman Phil Lewis, is as dynamic as it ever was on debut record LA Guns. The two have had their differences over the years, but on the brash title track that all seems forgotten.
Instead of the full-on punk Tracii turned to with his side band Killing Machine, the tunes on Man in the Moon are a blend of the crunchy riffs and gothic overtones of the band’s best material. It doesn’t always come off—as “Out of Sight” demonstrates—but on standout tracks like “Don’t Call Me Crazy”, “Turn It Around”, “Good Thing” and the extremely poppy “Beautiful”, it certainly does.
Elsewhere, the fiery riff on “Spiders Web” sounds eerily like “Never Enough” from sophomore release Cocked and Loaded, and the fast and furious “Fast Talkin’ Dream Dealer” also harks back to the down-and-dirty grooves of that record.
As a result, LA Guns could possibly be accused of failing to move on musically, but then again, remaining faithful to your roots and actually releasing records every now and again are lessons that the reclusive frontman of Guns’ former band ought to pay attention to. Put in that context, perhaps Man in the Moon is a triumphant statement that Tracii holds no regrets about what might have been after all.