I was feelin’ kinda dirty, so I figured we’d roll around in the Hollywood sleaze together for Classic Albums. This week’s pick? Cocked & Loaded from L.A. Guns. It’s so deliciously dirty you need a shower when it’s over. I saw them on this tour twice, and had an absolute ball both times. When I hear this record, all I can think of are The Ritz in New York City, and Sundance in Bay Shore, two places that are sadly no longer with us, and two places this band blew the roof off of in the fall of ’89 and summer of ’90 respectively.
“Letting Go” is a quick intro number that sets the tone for what’s coming, and right away is “Slap In the Face” which features one of Philip Lewis’ rougher, rawer vocals. The band is out for blood, and it shows immediately. Tracii Guns goes to town with the first of many incendiary solos across the 14 tracks that make up the album. First single “Rip and Tear” is one of the best tunes these guys ever came up with, and anytime I’ve ever heard it in the ensuing years, the ladies always start dancin’. Again, Tracii’s guitar work on this one cuts glass. “Sleazy Come Easy Go” is classic 80’s Sunset Strip glam/sleaze/groove/fuck rock, and was stuck in my head for days. I always loved the stories about the doe-eyed kids trying to make it in the big city, succeeding, and ultimately falling from grace.
One of my favorite L.A. Guns songs, both live and studio, is “Never Enough” with a powering riff that is instantly recognizable, and was also a strip club staple back then. But one of the most amazing songs on Cocked & Loaded is “Malaria”, no question. With an atmospheric groove that sounds like it came from the jungles of Borneo, this is a tale of one man’s fight against the Asiatic Death, Steve Riley’s drums a metronome of the beating heart, desperately clinging to life. This journey ultimately brings us to side one closer, and beautiful song “The Ballad of Jayne”. We all know what it’s about, no need to rehash, but Philip’s singing is pained and longing, and this was the slow song that guys loved every bit as much as the girls did.
The strange bells of “Magdalaine” get side two rolling with one of the album’s faster tracks drum-wise, but the guitars remain clean and somewhat acoustic throughout. On paper that sounds like an odd combination, but it shows a sophistication in the songwriting not seen on the debut album. “Give a Little” brings it back to Sleazytown in a big hurry, and that’s good. That’s how we like it, no? “I’m Addicted” is Tracii’s guitar solo track, and he wails away for two minutes before “17 Crash” indulges in my favorite form of trickeration. The verses go one way, and then awaaaay we go on the choruses!
The final three songs are a dirty, dirty triumvirate of Strip Rock. And by that I mean part Sunset, and part Gentleman’s Club. “Showdown (Riot On Sunset)”, “Wheels of Fire”, and “I Wanna Be Your Man” all follow the formula to a T, singing about fighting, girls, and sex in a way that made the boys leer and the girls up for it. Not that I know from personal experience, mind you. All in all Cocked & Loaded is one of those albums that just made being bad feel pretty damn good, while demonstrating a growth in L.A. Guns that put them head and shoulders above many of their peers in 1989.