The saga of L.A. GUNS is far too exhaustive and contentious to recount within an album review. Most fans don't need much beyond a bullet-point recount that Tracii Guns started the band and once had Axl Rose in his arsenal before history altered the pair's mutual courses. While L.A. GUNS never came within the commercial reach of GUNS N' ROSES, the band certainly made its own strides in the late 1980s as seedy, hard-driving champions of hump rock. "The Ballad of Jayne" was the band's sanitized claim to fame behind the banging succession of fuck jams like "Sex Action", "One More Reason", "Electric Gypsy", "Bitch Is Back" and "Rip and Tear". If you were there to witness it all, it looked like L.A. GUNS baked in its own frustration to overtake its rivals, so much that the strain lead to inevitable combustion and subdivision.
The departure of Tracii Guns and his formation, in 2006, of a separate L.A. GUNS—after Phil Lewis made a decade-long run, 2002-2012, with own version—was one of the more peculiar and fan-insulting moves in rock. QUEENSRŸCHE would be inexplicably destined for the same fate. Now, finally, Guns and Lewis have reunited under one banner and even though Mick Cripps, Kelly Nickels and Steve Riley are nowhere to speak of, much less the near-30 other members who have one of the L.A. GUNS listed on their resumes, the beautifully-titled "The Missing Peace" speaks volumes as to why this L.A. GUNS truce is important. It's one of the loudest and most joyous albums L.A. GUNS has ever dropped—the only justification needed.
The album gets off with a kick and a thump on "It's All the Same to Me", riding doughtily upon a whopping beat laid down by Shane Fitzgibbon, who does a magnificent job in place of Steve Riley. The magic is there right off, with the sleazy riffs and Phil Lewis's sleazier pipes. However you view all that's happened in the past, Lewis and Tracii Guns get right into the pocket and immediately turn on the heat. Hallelujah. Out of all the heritage acts passing through this label with their torches raised for the eighties, this is the most legit-sounding. "It's All the Same to Me" is goddamn perfect, right down to Phil Lewis's closeout screech.
It's no fluke, as "Speed" throttles with a bang, everything louder than the old days, which are both saluted and updated. That's what's so wonderful about "The Missing Peace", Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns not merely mending fences but seeking to take this band forward. "Speed" is full-on, exciting and fiery with rousing gang shouts and a jacked-up groove. "Baby Gotta Fever" likewise throbs with its feet planted in the past, but it's stuffed with brimming guitars to fatten up an already thick projection. "A Drop of Bleach" thereafter becomes "Electric Gypsy"'s bass-gored second cousin, more than a generation behind its predecessor, if structurally reminiscent. "A Drop of Bleach" is blotted with uglier chords, smoldering guitar sirens and a flies-buzzing feedback to Tracii Guns's violent solo.
"Sticky Fingers" would've sat as readily on a DOKKEN record as this band's, it's hard not to daydream of "Dream Warriors" in the intro and choruses, but there's a lot more going on in this one. The jive rhythm being a vital component, it gives Phil Lewis opportunity to loft, while Tracii Guns, Johnny Martin and Michael Grant riff the crap out of this thing. An oddly dropped, synth-splashed bridge sets up an angry if riotously entertaining guitar solo.
If there's one hard rock act nobody ever tried to shame for its ballads, it's L.A. GUNS, given the integrity dropped into "One Way Ticket" and, of course, the group's powerhouse calling card, "The Ballad of Jayne". That tradition will assuredly continue with "Christine", a twangy, sentimental, free spirit of a tune intent on restoring the Sunset Strip's luster with a new coat of paint, one last time. The gorgeous acoustic and string accompaniment opening the thunderous title track is not only mature, it's apologetic in the right way, seeking to poignantly snuff the sins of the past and move on. "The Flood's the Fault of the Rain" is a slow, grimy and loud hail to the British invasion, L.A. GUNS's pissy take on THE ANIMALS's take on "The House of the Rising Sun". It's convincing and satisfyingly eruptive.
Throwing a soul and funk swing into the peppy "Kill It or Die", Phil Lewis turns it on even more than he already has, and it will be a treat if this cut makes it into L.A. GUNS's live set. The confidence shoved into this cut begs for a live audience. If this album didn't have enough surprises to it, "Don't Bring a Knife to a Gunfight" and "The Devil Made Me Do It" are heavier and more contemporary, retaining the same sweat of their predecessors, but swinging agro punches. These tracks swagger, moan and slay everything in their path—hold onto your wigs for "Gave It All Away", an amazing finisher—ushering a new sound to this band that should be celebrated instead of condemned. L.A. GUNS still gives its audience all the retro boom they could want from this gem of an album.
"The Missing Peace" is easily the finest moment yet by a heritage act looking to remain relevant. It's not merely the symbolism posed by the reunion of Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis that makes it a moment to cherish: it's the heart put into this recording.
I could cry it's that damned good.