The underlying myth of LA rock unfolds as a hard luck story. The protagonists in these tales reach varying degrees of success in the face of their adversities, but invariably the music sounds and feels as if it just crawled out of the gutter with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a guitar in the other. In the early to mid-eighties, bands like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses led the way as this new incarnation of Glam via the back alleys and sleazy clubs of Los Angeles rose to prominence and turned the street lights onto those gutters and spotlighted them for the whole rock and roll universe. Super groups and newcomers like Velvet Revolver and Jet have recently chartered a nostalgic bus trip through that well worn territory, but neither can keep up with LA survivors, Beautiful Creatures, who continue to live both sides of the LA hard luck story with their second release, Deuce.
Formed in 1999 by former Bang Tango singer, Joe Leste, Beautiful Creatures have had their share of ups and downs already, including, but not limited to, major label success and subsequent fallout and a lineup that's about as stable at the Earth's crust underneath their home city. Through it all, Beautiful Creatures have borne the faded and tattered standard of dirty, flamboyant, LA rock dutifully, while forging ahead and capturing more and more territory from the well protected land of damned good rock and roll.
If you were around for the first go round, when you first hear Deuce you may begin to flash back just a little. There's just something in the production and the overall sound of the music that immediately recalls the heyday of eighties Glam. A closer listen reveals something much harder, much smarter, and much better, however. Unlike some other bands mining this genre for whatever money is left to be made with it, Beautiful Creatures have not donned blinders or turned a deaf ear to all of the music that has been happening around them for the last twenty years. The sounds on Deuce are informed heavily by Grunge, metal, and even a bit of hardcore punk. Songs like, "Thanks" and "Empty" are packed to the brim with meaty riffs and confrontational, angsty vocals to rival any Alice in Chains or Helmet offering. The band also handles the quiet-loud dynamic that nu-metal did to death, but with a much more delicacy and without the down-tuned mock-aggro nonsense.
Like, 2001's Beautiful Creatures, Deuce shines with the quality of its songs. "Anyone" and "Unforgiven" are both excellent examples of a veteran band knowing their strengths and both hit the gate frothing at the mouth with superior riffs and choruses with big enough hooks to ensure there won't be a photo finish at the end of this race. "Straight to Hell" is also a highlight, and "Freedom" has an earthiness, structure, and sound that recall the Cult more than any rehashed Motley Crue song.
Of course, every hard luck story has some real human misery and suffering to it. The production, handled on this record by guitarist Andy Focx (or mishandled maybe), stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Clearly, the band wants to avoid the thick coat of polish that ended up being a source of criticism for a lot of similar bands way back when and even today, in favor of the gritty, street-level aesthetic that makes more sense for the band. Something in the overall mix just comes off a little flat. Where the hooks could really come out and rise up to a new level, instead they come up just short and sort of level out. A couple of tracks, "Superfly" and "Ton of Lead" particularly, sort of blend into the album and just keep things going until the next really stellar song jumps out. "Ton of Lead" throws the record a little out of whack towards the end as it runs longer than the rest of the tracks by a couple of minutes and just isn't as lean and mean as the material around it. "I Won't be the One" by contrast, closes the album with a nice change of pace as the album's only slower track, with a clean guitar part that winds everything down nicely.
Any complaints with Deuce are minor taken in the context of the whole release. In heavy metal, where everything lately is being taken to some extreme or other, it's a welcome change to have a good, straight forward rock and roll album. Beautiful Creatures, in their short existence, have lived enough of the hard luck story for it to be completely believable when they chronicle it in their records, and with gutter rock, a little street cred is all you need. It's rare when a band manages to be both behind the times and ahead of their time simultaneously, and ever rarer still when a band in that situation can find an audience and be successful. Beautiful Creatures deserve to be that rare exception.