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When it comes to Mötley Crüe’s 80s output, the Theatre of Pain is consistently overlooked and overshadowed by the albums that came before and after. Sandwiched between the bombastic Shout at the Devil and 1987s Girls, Girls, Girls album with it’s two massive hits, Theatre of Pain is only really well known for it’s famed power ballad. For me though, Theatre actually ranks at the top with Shout as my favourite Crüe album.
The music here is a lot less aggressive than on the previous albums, but as IWP pointed out it’s not as catchy as bands like Poison and the works. To some, this is a bad thing, but all that aside there’s something about this album I just love. As with all Crüe albums it’s jam packed with attitude, it’s just not as aggressive.
Aggression aside, in terms of riff quality, it’s business as usual. Mick Mars is the man, every riff on this album is memorable and effective. At times, this album sounds much like a less aggressive version of Shout at the Devil; the song “Louder Than Hell” was actually a live staple from the Shout era, and a demo version can be heard on the re-release of that album, only it’s called “Hotter Than Hell” instead. The song is virtually identical aside from the lyrics, of which I prefer the first version (any song that has the words “some like it hot” will always get my vote), although this song is one of the highlights of the album. Other highlights include the opener “City Boy Blues”, which has a really cook smoky atmosphere (not actually sure what a “smoky atmosphere” is, but that description seems to fit the whole album nicely), “Use it or Lose it”, which is the compulsory speed metal song that Mötley always seem to include. Not quite “Live Wire”, but I’d say it was better than “Red Hot.” Although it should be noted that the main riff sounds awfully like “Breaker“ by Accept. The Brownsville Station cover is good fun as well and is relentlessly catchy.
“Home Sweet Home” is the most well known song on the album, and it is often credited for bringing power ballads to the glam metal forefront. An emotional song with a really nice piano melody, this is how a power ballad should sound.
It wouldn’t be fair to give this a score to match the previous albums, but really, it’s an awesome listen. Even if you forget the other Crüe albums overshadowing it, Theatre of Pain still had a fairly big underdog factor. A year later Poison would steal the spotlight with the release of their debut (a lot more poppy than this, but still a great album), as well as Cinderella’s Night Songs being released that year as well (although they never really became truly awesome until Long Cold Winter).
Overall then a great listen, and essential for any Crüe fans. My version is the 1999 “Crucial Crüe” remaster with various bonus tracks, but best go for the 2003 release, which has all of these bonus tracks plus the “Home Sweet Home” video, which is pretty cool.