It would be a mistake for history to remember L.A. Guns only for the temporary merge with Hollywood Rose that spawned the first official lineup of Guns N’ Roses. During the last great hard-rock era on the West Coast, L.A. Guns released albums that stand out as brilliant souvenirs of the format called sleaze rock by the music press. The band’s second album, Cocked & Loaded, led a pack of riff-raff that included the Crüe, Ratt, Poison, Hanoi Rocks, Faster Pussycat, and a host of less-memorable hard rockers. At their best, L.A. Guns were the hottest opening act around, blasting greasy sex, dope, and rock-and-roll anthems from the grandiose touring stages of Def Leppard and AC/DC. If there is a problem with L.A. Guns today, it is that there are two bands recording and touring under the name L.A. Guns.
In fairness, both bands contain some original members, if you consider that the lineup has been in a near-constant state of flux since Tracii Guns founded the original version while in high school. The two bands came about when Tracii left to form Brides of Destruction. Front man Phil Lewis hired a replacement named Stacey Blades, and L.A. Guns survived. But when the Brides project flatlined, Tracii rounded up alumni Paul Black and Chad Stewart (this version, with Jeremy Guns on bass, is the one that will play San Diego) and began to appear in public as L.A. Guns.
The L.A. Guns with Blades is a snarling riff machine in the way of Guns N’ Roses. Yet Tracii Guns, never a particularly gifted guitarist, adds a skanky quality to his music that harkens back to the disorderly bandstands of the Sunset Strip during the mid-’80s. I, for one, am glad that there are bands still willing to go there.
L.A. GUNS, House of Blues, Thursday, January 10, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $17.50.