Before there was Guns N’ Roses, there was Hollywood Rose and L.A Guns. The former would dissipate and become G’N’R and the latter is still around and active to this day- in two incarnations that is, one led by namesake Tracii Guns and the other by drummer Steve Riley. It’s a confusing state of affairs the music world has seen many times before, but all you need to know is their latest release Renegades is from the Riley faction, despite both bands recording under the exact same name.
Renegades is essentially what you’d expect from a veteran Sunset Strip band; it’s tempting with tracks like the opener “Crawl” to label them a poor man’s G’N’R until you remember there wouldn’t be a G’N’R if not for them. “Why Ask Why” and “Well Oiled Machine”, while channeling Velvet Revolver are definitely stronger and avoid hard-rock cliches, and “Lost Boys” is an all-around solid tune with smatterings of Skid Row here and there. Then there’s the acoustic ballad of “You Can’t Walk Away” with its ELO-esque harmonious chorus, a catchy number soaked in Hollywood, followed by the rockers “Witchcraft” and “All That You Are”. “Would” slows things down again in Framptonian fashion; the riff-packed “Renegades” picks the pace back up right after. Rounding it off is “Don’t Wanna Know”, an impressive duplication of the original Appetite-era Guns sound with its snarling guitar and manic groove- very much true to form.
A record like this generates conflicting feelings- on one end, with a band like L.A Guns that was and still is a prominent act in a legendary scene, it’s great to hear that old school sound preserved and kept alive 30 years after the glory days of the Strip came to pass. On the other end, it’s a bit underwhelming hearing a band like this doing the same thing and being bogged down in cliches without any sort of remarkable sonic evolution over time. That’s the fundamental dilemma with artists (and their fans) defined by a long-gone moment in time, at some point do you pack it in and move on or do you keep the flame burning? Depends on the act and their approach, some can continue to pull it off better than others. What can be said is Renegades is par for the course and isn’t much more than that- and for many (including the band), that’s just fine.