Sleazy, scuzzy, dirty, trashy, sloppy - those are just some of this album’s virtues. Sounding as if it was recorded live in somebody’s basement, the amateurish exuberance of the boys’ performances wins me over every time. Plus they have the songs, primarily supplied by bassist Nikki Sixx, with Mick Mars’ primitive yet memorable guitar riffs and Tommy Lee’s energetic drumming leading the way. Melodic tracks like “Public Enemy #1” and “On With The Show” betray the band’s pop instincts (as well as the improbable influence of ‘50s rock n’ roll), while catchy, rocking shout alongs such as “Live Wire,” “Take Me To The Top” and the title track are among the band's very best. Many a teenager wearing ripped jeans and a heavy metal t-shirt fell in love with this album back in the early ‘80s, and just because the group went on to totally underachieve doesn’t take anything away from this stellar first set. Just try to find a weak track, I bet you can't, as the band's knack for memorable riffs and catchy vocal hooks lifts virtually every one of these songs above the ordinary. Sure, this album shouldn’t work as well as it does; the recording quality leaves a lot to be desired, the playing is often-amateurish if enthusiastic, and Vince Neil sings like a banshee lyrics that let's face it are often stupid and sexist. So what? These rocking songs sound damn good, pure and simple, and what's more important than that when judging hard rock music? (Go listen to Bob Dylan if you want poetic or "meaningful" lyrics, ok?) Besides, not every song here is filled with simplistic, horny come-ons (though "Come On And Dance" and "Piece Of Your Action" certainly are), as the more refined "Starry Eyes" has evocative harmonies, and "On With The Show" is actually a pretty and even touching finale.
Shout At The Devil (Elektra ’82) Rating: A
Unpretentious in the extreme, their first album was a minor garage rock gem that was highly energetic and fun, and the band's sophomore set, Shout At The Devil, continued the forward progress. For one thing, the production is miles better than on the debut (though that’s not saying much), as is the playing (perhaps they learned how to). Plus, Vince Neil puts in a nasty vocal performance, giving this album its teeth. Also, whereas on Too Fast For Love the band sometimes seemed to succeed almost in spite of themselves, here they actually sound formidable and even dangerous at times (this album is much heavier and more metallic than its predecessor). Many of these songs feature Mars’ simple but memorable guitar riffs and are sing along catchy come chorus time, particularly “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young Too Fall In Love,” both of which are all-time Crue classics. So is the menacing title track, which predictably got the band branded as Satanists (not that the publicity hurt them). Elsewhere, the "In The Beginning" intro provides good campy fun, "Bastard" grooves along rapidly and has a catchy shouted chorus, “God Bless the Children of the Beast” is a surprisingly evocative instrumental interlude, “Red Hot” rocks on its cocky vocal, and the band even tackles The Beatles' “Helter Skelter” without embarrassing themselves. Granted, the defiant “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid” and the dumb but fun “Ten Seconds To Love” both share a similar melody, but at least it’s a really good one, and "Danger" is a moodier but still rocking finale. In short, Shout At The Devil is easily the best album that the band has ever done, and it remains an early '80s classic that should greatly appeal to any hard rock fan who still has some teenager in them.
Theatre Of Pain (Elektra ’85) Rating: C+
This album includes “Home Sweet Home,” the pinnacle of the lighter inducing cheese metal power ballad that was so prominent throughout the mid-to-late ‘80s. It still sounds great, though the rest of this album is seriously disappointing. The album's other hit single, a cover version of Brownsville Station’s “Smoking In The Boys Room” also provides modest fun, but I find the energy lacking elsewhere. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the bluesier base that the band brought to the table this time (ironic considering that image-wise Motley Crue really went glam here), but Nikki Sixx and co. simply didn’t deliver much in the way of memorable songs here. Exceptions come in the form of strong album tracks such as "City Boy Blues," with its bluesy, twisting riffs, and "Use It Or Lose It," on which Tommy propulsively drives the song forward. Still, there's no getting around the fact that most of these songs are musically uninspired and lyrically air headed. My guess is that the boys’ deep drug dependencies and hedonistic lifestyle got in the way of the music (see their Behind the Music episode or read Neil Strauss' The Dirt for proof), and though this album became a big seller, with the band going from underground attractions to the top of the heavy metal heap, it didn’t deserve to be.
Girls, Girls, Girls (Elektra ’87) Rating: C+
After hearing the classic chug of “Wild Side” and then the trashy fun of the admittedly mindless title track (now playing at a strip club near you) I thought that Motley Crue might be back in peak form. However, before long it becomes apparent that my optimism was unfounded; though the album isn't bad, it's hardly inspiring on the whole, either. The two mellow songs, the (believe it or not) subtle “Nona” (super-short at 1:25) and the power ballad “You’re All I Need” are the best of the rest, the latter being one of the few songs here whose lyrics probably took more than ten minutes to write. Its lyrics, about a guy who kills his girlfriend because he doesn't want her to leave him, are dark stuff for the Crue, but rest assured the rest of the album is as air headed as unfortunately I've come expect. Then again, the twisting riffs and shouted choruses of "Dancing On Glass," “Five Years Dead” and “Sumthin’ For Nuthin’” aren’t half-bad musically, but the generic boogie of “Bad Boy Boogie” and the empty anthem “All In The Name Of…” are about as dumb as metal gets, while a pointless live rendition of “Jailhouse Rock” showed that the band were grasping for ideas. Vince Neil, whose performance throughout is generally grating, sings “I love my work.” It’s no wonder, because clearly the boys were living it up during these sessions and not working very hard. Given that the band put minimal effort into making this album, I'm not going to put a lot of effort into reviewing it, but suffice it to say that (like its predecessor) this lazy effort provides a cautionary reminder that excess drugs and booze can be very bad things.
Dr. Feelgood (Elektra ’89) Rating: B+
The guys sobered up for this album and put some effort into it, and the difference in quality over the last two albums is noticeable. It's still inconsistent, but this largely enjoyable album contained some good songs, including another lighter inducing power ballad in the surprisingly sensitive “Without You,” the supremely catchy, Poison-esque pop of “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.),” and the agreeably melancholic sing along “Time For A Change.” Better still was the chugging, hook-filled title cut, “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” which begins with a pretty guitar jangle before gaining steam with a propulsive rock kick and snotty lyrics, and the relentless “Kickstart My Heart,” which was their best rocker in years despite the unearned arrogance of its lyrics. Unfortunately, “Rattlesnake Shake,” "Slice Of Your Pie," “Sticky Sweet,” and “She Goes Down” are utterly idiotic (though not entirely unenjoyable; I like the "She's So Heavy" rip-off towards the end of "Slice Of Your Pie," for example) as the boys' libidos get the best of them (they may be sober but they're still horny). The 43 second introductory instrumental “T.N.T. (Terror ‘N Tinseltown)” is pretty pointless as well, and Dr. Feelgood on the whole is a decidedly hit or miss affair. Fortunately, Bob Rock’s forceful production gives the band a much-needed jolt of energy and muscle, making even the lesser songs at least sound good. In fact, Metallica famously tabbed Rock as producer for The Black Album because they were so impressed by the sound quality - if not the songs they quickly noted to try to retain their underground cachet - of this album. The band also supplies far more hooks than on either one of their last two disappointing efforts, resulting in their most popular (and third best) album. Update: After Decade Of Decadence, a competent "best of" collection that included a really good new song, "Primal Scream," Neil got kicked out of (or quit depending on who you ask) Motley Crue. However, he rejoined their ranks for 1997's Generation Swine after the John Corabi sung Motley Crue (1994) stiffed, as did Neil’s solo albums. After another rip-off Greatest Hits album in 1998 (along with a subsequent tour and double live album called Live: Entertainment or Death), Tommy Lee, who had continued to make headlines but for all the wrong reasons, left the band in 1999; the band released New Tattoo without Tommy in 2001. Two volumes of idiotically titled box sets, Music To Crash Your Car To (a reference to Vince Neil's manslaughter conviction for killing fellow rocker Nicholas Dingley of Hanoi Rocks, as if that's something to make light of) came out in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and Tommy returned in 2005 for yet another greatest hits album (this time a 2-cd set) and a surprisingly successful tour (playing Madison Square Garden without an opening act, for example). In between all this was Tommy's reality TV show, Vince's appearances on VH1's Surreal Life, and "tell all" books about the band's seedy lifestyle. Did you get all that? Takes a deep breath...Alas, what the Crue always failed to realize was that a band like Led Zeppelin partied as much as anybody (though none of them died and were resurrected like Nikki Sixx), but when push came to shove they also put in the work and got the job done in the studio. Motley Crue too often didn't.
Red, White, & Crue (Elektra ’05) Rating: A-
Originally I was just going to end this page with the above update to their career, but I've been listening to a lot of Crue lately, so I decided to review the 2-cd compilation mentioned in my previous review. This collection at least tries to get everything right; there are few glaring omissions (Decade omitted "Too Young To Fall In Love" and Greatest Hits excluded "Looks That Kill"), it covers their whole career up until 2005, and it even includes scattered rarities, remixes, and three new songs. Unfortunately, the new songs, including a cringe-worthy cover of The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man," are forgettable aside from the solid "Sick Love Song." As for the rarities, the previously unreleased "Black Widow" shares the same creeping riffs as "Merry Go Round and Round," but the single "Toast Of The Town" (now also available on the Too Fast For Love reissue) is quite good and is most welcome. Elsewhere, we get most of the Crue's biggest and best songs, and the album is useful for grabbing great songs ("Home Sweet Home," actually included in its superior '91 remix version, and "The Wild Side," among others) from less than stellar albums. Also included are "Primal Scream" (from Decade) and "Bitter Pill," a strong poppy number originally on Greatest Hits. Whereas the first cd covers their first five well-known albums (I would've liked to have seen more songs from the debut, and there were better choices available than "Piece Of Your Action," "Helter Skelter," and "All In The Name Of…"), the second disc covers their less notable later career. I hate to say it, but the band is better when they stick to their limited yet endearing formula, but, ever market conscious, the band too often followed trends and were bandwagon hoppers. Want examples? Well, how about their terrible cover of The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In The U.K" (c'mon, I'd be stunned if anybody in the Crue even knows what the UDA or MPLA are) for chasing the punk revival? "Hooligan's Holiday" (not bad, actually) with Corabi is metallic but decidedly grungier, while the awful "Planet Boom" (originally on their Quartermarry EP, as is the much better guitar instrumental "Bittersuite," which is quite soulful) is industrial/nu-metal all the way. Still, this compilation does a good job of gathering some good songs from a less than exemplary era, such as "Afraid," which boasts a good dark groove, "Generation Swine," which sees the band back in more familiar glam metal mode, and "Hell On High Heels," which is pretty rockin' and has a good harmonized chorus. Basically, at the time of this release the Crue had produced three very good albums and scattered strong songs elsewhere, and Red, Hot, & Crue does an admirable job of trying to gather everything all in one place. It's not exactly the collection I would compile (I created my own shorter playlist), but it does a good job of summing up a band I have a soft spot for even though I feel that deep down they could've been a lot better had music rather than partying been their main priority. Still, they've had their fair share of good songs, even their detractors should give them that, and they continue to bring it live, which is the best that most bands twenty five plus years into a career can offer.
send me an email
Back To Artist Index Home Page