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February 11th is a special day for me. There's no concrete date to when I began this whole reviewing shtick that I've been trying so desperately to make my internetical legacy. But for my money, I consider it to be today, February 11th. That was when I posted my (frankly terrible) review for Gojira's ode to Lunesta, From Mars to Sirius, and the reason I consider this to be my anniversary is because that was the first one I wrote as less of just a time waster and more because I just really, really enjoyed writing about music. And so, with this in mind, I'd like to celebrate my five year anniversary (!!) as a reviewer with a bit of trivia: Motorhead is where "BastardHead" comes from. Legend has it that when starting this new rock n' roll band after leaving Hawkwind, Lemmy had decided to name his band Bastard to reflect the kind of attitude he exudes so naturally. His manager convinced him otherwise, saying "You'll never make it on Top of the Pops with a name like bloody Bastard", presumably immediately after his monocle popped out. Lemmy, for the first and only time in his life, relented and changed it to the name we all know and love right now.
So obviously, Motorhead is a pretty special band to me. I didn't grow up with them like other sentimental bands (Metallica, Guns n' Roses, Pantera, et cetera), but really getting into Motorhead truly does open a lot of doors for metal fans. Lemmy, being the bottomless quote machine that he is, has always said that the band was never meant to be a metal band, they're a rock n' roll band first and foremost. Most metal fans tend to disagree, but I actually tend to side with the creator here. There's obviously a lot of heavy metal at play here (especially on this album, "Burner" is a fucking speed metal monster), but listening to the guitar work, the attitude, and the overall feel of pretty much any Motorhead album ever released (barring maybe Inferno) just makes it clear that the band has always been more about rock 'n roll sleaze than heavy metal thunder.
And that's one of the reasons Bastards is such a brilliant record in my eyes, it's both the most overtly rock n' roll album since Bomber, and it's also without a doubt the heaviest album they'd released up to that point in time. The two best songs exemplify the two extreme ends of their spectrum, with "Burner" being a high octane, double bass filled, speed metal aggressor, while "Born to Raise Hell" is the quintessential rock n' roll party anthem. The rest of the album runs the gamut set by those two extremes, with only one exception, which I'll get to later. I won't lie and say nothing feels like filler, because "Devils" and "Lost in the Ozone" tend to go in one ear and out the other during most runs through the album. But everything else stands as one of the most obviously varied experiences the band has ever provided listeners with. The common attack against Motorhead is that all of their songs sound the same, which is demonstrably bullshit. Chances are that if you abide by that belief, you simply haven't bothered listening further than "Ace of Spades", "Iron Fist", and maybe "Killed by Death". Now, all of those songs rule, but to say those sound identical to "Born to Raise Hell" or "Liar" or "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" might as well be the equivalent of a bright green sandwich sign that says I DON'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT SHIT AND PROBABLY LISTEN TO ARCADE FIRE.
Anyway, the point is that Bastards starts off on one of the strongest feet that any Motorhead album ever has. Eight excellent tracks in a row, from "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" through "Liar", the album just charges forth at full speed before playing around with some more typical rock n' roll, the most shockingly dark Motorballad of all time, and even a sort of extraordinarily heavy quasi-blues track. As much as I love this band, I really can't think of any other albums they've released that start off this strongly and stay this consistently good for as long as this does. No album of theirs is perfect, but it takes a whopping nine tracks before this one stumbles in even the slightest, and that is definitely a commendable feat, especially considering how many of these songs are wildly different from one another. "Death or Glory" is almost a straight up punk song to start, with minute set aside for a marching beat in the middle, "Liar" is preposterously groovy and almost feels like the song Satan would sing to blues musicians at the Crossroads, and "Bad Woman" is essentially a 1950s piano rock song ala Little Richard, except performed by four raucous party animals who reek of Jack Daniels and hand rolled cigarettes. Bastards is basically just an amalgam of every influence the band has ever had (which to be fair, most of their albums are basically this, but this is one of the most blatant examples), and when most bands try to do a little bit of everything, they end up bland across the board. But nope, turns out Motorhead is just fucking great at everything so pretty much every idea sticks.
Despite this being the heaviest album the band had put out at the time, it somehow manages to contain two ballads, one kinda power ballad "Lost in the Ozone", which ranks as the only track I out-and-out don't like, and then there's the almost entirely acoustic "Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me", which I'm... pretty conflicted about. On one hand, it's an incredibly daring song, dealing with a horrifying subject matter that most bands tend to shy away from, and then nails the emotional impact by telling it from the perspective of the little girl, painting the scene in a very depressing, bleak, and most troubling of all, realistic light. The verse about how if she tells anybody about what is happening, she'll lose her family and her home is just brutal. This song is crushing on the most emotional level possible, and there's no happy ending to the story either. There's no ending at all. Dad molests/rapes his daughter nightly, he feels nothing, she's praying for death because she has nobody to turn to because even God hasn't saved her. The end! No moral! But on the other hand, as much as I admire such a brave and horrifying song from an otherwise irreverent group of wildmen, it's... well by a band of wildmen, right in the middle of a wild album about wild parties. Following up such a heavy subject with "I KNOW YOU'RE A BAAAAD BAD WOMAN" just feels... wrong. Maybe it's just personal preference here, but the rest of the album just feels somewhat uncomfortable after that harrowing dirge. I don't know about you, but if I just discovered somebody was sexually abusing his small daughter, I wouldn't be able to so seamlessly shift back to partying. But then again Lemmy is no ordinary man, so I guess such a hard left turn into Depressionville didn't seem out of place to him. HERE I COME BABY WOOP DEE DOO!
Apart from the album's iHawk style "irreverent - maudlin" switch, and one or two songs that are ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things, Bastards stands as potentially my favorite Motorhead album. This one just does nearly everything it sets out to do just right, everything hits bullseye. I'd honestly recommend this as a starting point over more seminal albums like Ace of Spades or Overkill or Another Perfect Day, because this one gives the best taste of everything Motorhead is capable of, and can help act as a guide for where to go next. What was your favorite song here? "Burner"? Go to Inferno. "Bad Woman"? Go to 1916. Et cetera and so forth. For reasons I can't quite fathom (perhaps because 1992 is the last year that fans of 80s metal care about and this was released in late 1993?), Bastards seems to have ended up as one of the forgotten albums in the grand scope of the band's career, which is bizarre since it has the significance of being Mikkey Dee's first album and Wurzel's last, essentially being the last step before solidifying the power trio lineup that has persisted for the last 20 years, but hey, I guess they can't all be winners. Bottom line is that Motorhead is awesome and Bastards is a brilliantly fun album, oozing with attitude and sleaze, and really what more could you ask for from this band? Straight up, unadulterated rock n' roll with a punk and metal edge, just the way it should be.
Originally written (WITH ADDED VISUAL AID) for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
As with covering "Snake Bite Love," the 1990's material of Motorhead is generally met with mixed reactions from fans. This is understandable, considering Motorhead is a classic band and classic bands are generally best known for the material they did early on, or at least the albums that made them famous. From there, its a slew of notable albums that usually don't get talked about that much. Yet after the rather mediocre "March or Die," anything would have been a nice change of pace, and the shifting back to attitude-driven metal/punk madness in "Bastards" is just what the doctor ordered.
"Bastards" seems to fire out more unapologetic, straight-forward heavy metal than previous releases, not to mention dropping some of the punk influence to greater emphasize the metal aspect. The opener in "On Your Feet or On Your Knees" is a perfect example of this, and a very good peek into what lies in store for the listener. "Born to Raise Hell" gets even better, and with a powerful and catchy chorus, is sure to be a barnburner wherever it gets played. "I'm the Man" is also a worthy headbanger, more remembrances of the classic Motorhead design.
Now some songs also deviate from the standard Motorhead sound, but are nonetheless good mentions. "Death and Glory" is a powerful number, infusing more of the punk influences with the general heavy metal approach found elsewhere on this listen. "Bad Woman" is a favorite of mine, which comes with some heaping helpings of Southern influence which makes for an interesting and unique listen on this album. Campbell and Wurzel also spice up things here with some nice solo work, something that is seemingly lacking as a whole on this album.
Unfortunately, not everything is great about "Bastards," despite the good things going for it. "Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me" is an acoustic misfire, not to mention being totally out of place in the track listing. "We Bring the Shake" isn't that notable, though not necessarily bad, but ultimately a throwaway. In addition to this, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the soloing isn't that commendable here. There are a few good ones here and there, but overall not that impressive which is not what I was expecting out of this band and the talent present.
"Bastards" isn't an album that Motorhead fans will likely be celebrating, but its still a fine testament to this band's ability to carry on regardless of time frame. Keep in mind that it was 1993, the golden age of the musical wasteland known as grunge and the "alt" rock explosion of that era, but by the sounds of Motorhead, you wouldn't guess it. If "Bastards" teaches us nothing else, its that even in one of the most trendy eras in music history, when everyone and their mother starting adorning tattered flannel and half-ass musical abilities, Motorhead carried on in reliable fashion. "Bastards" isn't an exceptional release, but even compared to some finer Motorhead albums, its definitely a respectable release in an era when piss poor excuses for music were running rampant and out of control.
‘Bastards’ is Mikkey Dee’s first and Würzel’s last proper Motörhead album, so that’s the nominal line up changes out of the way, so now for the important stuff. What exactly did Phil and Lemmy have for breakfast during the recording? Respectfully, Cider and Jack Daniels. Erm yeah. Anyway, ‘Bastards’ is another brilliantly monikered album, somewhat of a lost classic for the band, not because the fans have forgotten it or the band just the standard record company bullshit. Honestly, Motörhead should have been bigger than Metallica (mainly due to more quality songs, musicianship and live performances) but they had a insanely high amount of record company and managerial bullshit to deal with instead, just typical!
‘Bastards’ is an album of two half’s, I know all albums have two sides but this has somewhat of a clear divide in terms of musical direction. The A side is frighteningly good, the first 5 songs are just balls to the wall, be that balls to the wall speed metal or rock ’n’ roll, its achingly heavy (barring the ballad ‘Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me’ which is tender but I could be a prat and argue that lyrically it’s still heavy). The second side still rocks but displays the bands more experimental side, and although less successful than the frankly stellar A side, its still rather good. The AC/DC of erm rock ’n’ roll? (I was going to say metal but that’s not strictly the case)…hardly. ‘Liar’ displays a new sort of groove for the band, all mid tempo and angry! ‘Lost in the Ozone’ is a power ballad (two ballads on a Motöralbum? It’ll be MTV unplugged next!). ‘I’m the Man’ is a weird sort of bluesy grunge that doesn’t actually work, but it’s the only one on the album, so we can overlook that. Oh crikey it’s all experimental! But doth it rock? Aye, indeed.
Individual life affirming, hell raising and rocking tracks include. ‘On Your Feet Or On Your Knees’ (which isn’t about oral sex don’t worry!) which is a riff onslaught with a nice foot stomping pace, a definite underrated Motörhead classic on a underrated Motörhead classic…bizarre that! ‘Burner’ along with ‘Sacrifice’ is as close to thrash metal as the band got. It’s short, sharp and prickly (much like a hedgehog) with some eerie wahed guitar from Phil and one of his most unique solos. The lyrics here are particularly harrowing ‘I don’t think you know your future yet…’ well Mystic Meg does.
‘Death or Glory’ is the customary war themed song that has Lemmy indulging in one of his favourite past times, military history (well he’s not saving the Nazi memorabilia for a rainy day or the second coming of the forth Reich). It features Würzel and Phil at their most ferocious and insane; frantic (not the Metallica song!) riff work ahoy, and Mikkey shows he’s not been hired just for his uncanny resemblance to Joey from Friends. ‘I Am the Sword’ again has some brilliant spidery riffs and Lemmy’s most disturbing and vicious vocals ever. ‘Born to Raise Hell’ again continues the theme of having loads of great songs all stuck together (which isn’t actually a theme, but it feels like one). Now, if you don’t like rock ’n’ roll you won’t like this, but this begs a bigger question…what the sweet baby Jesus were you listening to Motörhead for if you didn’t like rock ’n’ roll!? Did you want jazz? Eleven finger tapping? “Proto-speed-thrash-metal?”…I despair of you and if this album wasn’t so good I’d take your life and mine! Anyway, ‘We Bring the Shake’ is the best of the more experimental numbers here. It’s quite reminiscent of Hawkwind, which is no bad thing. The verses have an ethereal droning quality to them which would fit just perfectly on ‘Space Ritual’ and the chorus well rocks…I feel I need more adjectives to describe rocking. So all in all an excellent bunch of tightly crafted songs.
Production and performance wise, this is the band displaying their most aggressive tendencies which were somewhat lacking on ‘March or Die’ (although that album is nowhere near the abomination others have made it out to be). The guitar sound is immense and everything’s definitely in the red. Mikkey, as the new boy has something to prove and he does it in style. The drums on the album are killer especially in contrast to the drab and straight sounding Tommy Aldridge (who is good for Ozzy and Whitesnake but not Motorhead). Lyrically, Lemmy combines his typical rock ’n’ roller themes with a more grizzly outlook on humanity and he does it with the class and flair of a man who’s done it all, well by it all I mean your mum and sister (hell, he chatted up my mum when she was fourteen too…and that’s all she disclosed, Jailbait?). Würzel and Phil deliver the goods once again on guitar, with some memorable moments.
‘Bastards’ is another masterpiece from the band who won’t or more likely can’t die. Ignore the negative review, the band and fans alike recognise ‘Bastards’ as one of the bands finest and it’s the best to feature Mikkey so far. Just another great album from an Englishman, Welshman, Scarecrow and a Swede.
I picked this album for one reason and one reason only: BURNER!! Masterful, tight, speed/thrash metal. Easily one of the best Motorhead songs from the 90s. 2 minutes and 52 seconds of pure fucking destruction you just can't live without.
With Motorhead having such a good streak of killer songs on the albums I heard before this, I thought the rest would be on par with the aforementioned song/slab of punishment.
The problem of this album can be summed up in:
1) Lemmy's voice. It sounds just too jolly and happy for my taste, and with a gruff voice like his the last thing you wanna hear is THAT.
2) The songwriting itself. To name a few examples: "On your Feet on your knees" is just mediocre speed metal, "I'm your Man" almost sound like Soundgarden with grunted vocals, "Lost in the Ozone" begins like a Guns 'n Roses ballad and "Don't let Daddy Kiss me" is just an abomination of the worst nature. Not much like Ozzy's "So Tired", but, damn me, it pulled it's biggest effort to get on that sucking level.
"Born to Raise Hell". With such a title I thought "man, this is going to kick my ass bigtime". But no. Is just a rock 'n roll-ish number that, in itself, isn't bad, but is very lacky in terms of aggression.
And what the hell is up with "Devils"? I swear, the part at the end sounds EXACTLY like a song from the 80s I just can't remember from where it came. Sting? Beats me.
But the guitar tone kills. Too bad it can't save this album from total mediocrity.
One kickass song. The rest is either VERY mediocre, or just shite. Approach with caution.