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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/