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Shout: the Crue's finest hour - 90%

Shout_it_Out, December 4th, 2005

Motley Crue issued their debut album, the wonderfully titled Too Fast For Love, in 1982. It was issued first as an independent release before securing a major label release later the same year with Elektra Records. Despite the band already having established itself as the biggest band on Sunset Strip, the album was a commercial flop in the rest of the U.S. as the band failed to capture the MTV audience as it had the LA glam audience. Thus, it was imperative that the band follow up the album quickly in order not to lose the footing it had gained in the market. That album, released in April 1983, was named Shout At The Devil.

The album was to be preceded by the single, which also bears the name Shout At The Devil, but as great a song as it is, it essentially must be heard in conjunction with the album’s opening track, In The Beginning.

Likewise, In The Beginning is not to be taken as a stand-alone song, but an introduction to “Shout”. Featuring synths increasing in volume, the track features a short narrative written by Sixx and read by the elusive Allister Fiend. Building to a crescendo, the narrators voice reflecting the youthful sense of invincibility expressed in the lyrics, this most ambitious beginning lets the listener know they’re not in for just any heavy metal album. This is a Motley Crue album.

With the instantly memorable prose, ” And it has been written/Those who have the youth have the future/So come now, children of the beast/Be strong/And Shout at the Devil”, we are treated to that timeless heavy metal opening that is the distortion-soaked chords which begin Shout At The Devil. Tommy Lee’s cymbal-heavy drum style combines with Sixx’s basic one-note-per-beat to create a thumping rhythm over which Mick Mars can lay his classic guitar riff. One can hear the distortion dripping from the amp.

Within 20 seconds, we are greeted with the first vocal of the album, the meaty backing cries of ”Shout. Shout. Shout”, before Vince Neil, in one short burst, makes the song his own. The high-pitched squeal telling us to again “shout at the devil” is hardly pretty, but Motley Crue were never a band to make pretty pop songs. The pop songs on this album are ballsy, often dark, affairs. Shout At The Devil, originally titled “Shout With The Devil” with “I’s” in the place of “He’s”, was written by Sixx after his dabbling in the occult invited a poltergeist into his home.

The album’s second single, and the third track on the album, is a slightly less intense affair. Looks That Kill encompasses one of rock n’ roll’s oldest clichés, being as it is a song about a girl who’s “razor sharp” and If she don’t get her way/She’ll tear you apart.” She’s a maneater; she’s irresistible and she uses her power to her advantage. We’ve heard it a millon times before, we probably even know the girl in question. What separates this song from the rest is Mick Mars’ infectious guitar riff; the two-part chorus, one a trade-off between Neil and Mars, the other an impossibly catchy group effort; and, of course, a classic guitar solo featuring huge bends and tasty palm-muting. Tommy Lee’s drumming on the song is basic but inspired, the “hole”(to borrow a term from Stewart Copeland) on the last beat of the chorus is worth particular note.

Bastard follows, a straightforward metal song by all counts, driven by Tommy Lee’s thundering drums. If the guitar riff puts the ‘rock’ in this song, then Lee gives it the ‘roll’. He dictates the pace without ever becoming showy. To borrow an often meaningless phrase, he “plays for the song” – his drumming is integral to the song but doesn’t dominate. The lyrics are angry and, charmingly, express the group’s willingness to kill one who has crossed them. ”(Bastard!) Consider that bastard dead … Don’t you try to rape me”

Following Bastard comes the instrumental God Bless The Children Of The Beast, written and performed by guitarist Mars. Continuing the satanic theme of the album, with a lyrical nod to the opening track’s narrative, this track is a pleasant blues-rock guitar solo which shows Mars’ melody-writing talent. Unlike the first track, “God Bless…” is not a companion track to that which follows it, but clocking in at just 1:33, but hardly feels like a stand-alone track either which leaves it an odd, almost awkward, inclusion sandwiched between two heavy rock tracks.

That which follows it is Helter Skelter, an unexpected Beatles cover. The Crue cover is heavier, more distorted, more brutal in every way than the original except, interestingly, in the vocal department. While the guitar riffs gain greatly from Mars’ heavier tone, Vince Neil seems unable to muster as violent a vocal as McCartney. Though Vince’s cleaner voice sounds good at times, he’s exposed as soon as he takes a more aggressive approach, as when he exclaims, ”You may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer.” His voice cracks when pushed, which is unfortunate as the song is performed perfectly by the rest of the band. Neil’s vocals let down what is an excellent cover of a classic song.

The next is mosher’s favourite Red Hot, another song driven by Lee’s “rolling” drumming. Featuring a fun, poppy chorus preceded by a pre-chorus which exhibits Sixx’s great ear for a melody. ”The kids scream in fright, through the night/Loving every bit with delight/And we blow out our minds with your truth/And together we stand for the youth.” While not Sixx’s best moment lyrically, the words do adequately express the sentiment of the opening track and, to a lesser extent, Bastard. The feeling of camaraderie and youthful vigilance seeps from the song, infecting the listener with that same energy.

Third single, Too Young To Fall In Love, is somewhat of a forgotten classic. The least popular of the three singles from the album to date, the song is a favourite of fans and critics alike. Built on Lee’s solid drumbeat, the song features the album’s most memorable guitar riff and some of Sixx’s strongest lyrical images. ”You say our love is like dynamite/Open your eyes, it’s like fire and ice.” “You’re killing me/Your love’s a guillotine.” Also worth noting is Mick Mars’ blisterin guitar solo.

Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid could be considered a cousin of Bastard and Red Hot. It features Nikki’s angriest, and best, lyric on the album and is my personal favourite track from the album. A biting satire written from the perspective of a truncheon-happy police officer, the song sees the bassist unleash the anger stirred up as a result of the treatment given to an average junkie in early 80’s Los Angeles. The chorus is one for the moshers but, disappointingly, the band has chosen not to play it on the current tour. ”Knock ‘em dead, kid/(Knock ‘em dead)/The blade is red, kid/(Knock ‘em dead)”

Another fan favourite follows in the punk-metal anthem Ten Seconds To Love. This is the ultimate blowjob song, inviting the listener to be “my ten second pet”. Charming lyrics include: ”Touch my gun/But don’t pull my trigger” and ”Shine my pistol some more/Here I cum/Just ten seconds more” The lyrics are awful, but fun to sing along to. This leads us to the final track, Danger.

This track, more than any other on the album, shows a musical depth which belies the hair metal awfulness which has become the band’s enduring image. The song can be seen as the conclusion to the album, beginning with a similar theme to earlier songs, that of the power of youth, but taking a tragic turn, ”All my friend’s are dead/I lost my head/It made me hate.” “Out of my head/Lost in gin/From riches to sin” A repetitive guitar riff drives the song. The riff needs to be good to occupy such a central role in the song, and Mars doesn’t disappoint. The chorus is perhaps the least poppy on the album, but perhaps the most enduring, consisting of, simply, ”Danger/You’re in danger when the boys are around.” It’s a mature ending to an album characterized by immediacy – musically and thematically.

Overall, Shout At The Devil proves itself to be a worthy landmark of a time before glam metal became a parody of itself. The album expresses real purpose, real aspiration and real musical vision. That the band would never fulfill the promise shown by their breakthrough effort is a shame. The album which followed, Theatre Of Pain, was a commercial success but was critically panned and hasn’t aged well. A few flashes of genius followed in the 2 albums which followed, but the Crue had grown up by the time they returned to such musical heights, and so had their fans.