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This seems to be the forgotten Motorhead album. Like the other reviewer, I can't understand why that is. However, this is a bit of a gem if you want some scuzzy biker-punk-metal-rock, so if you're a Motorhead fan and don't have it you're only cheating yourself!
Motorhead came into existence just prior to the UK punk explosion of 1976/1977. With the evidence offered on this album, the band could have quite easily cut their hair and masqueraded as Punks. Motorhead, City Kids, Vibrator, each of those tracks could have been classed as 'Punk'. City Kids wouldn't have sounded out of place on the first Clash album, Vibrator could have been The Buzzcocks.
But Motorhead (thankfully!) weren't about bandwagon jumping. So what you get with this album is a strange crossover of styles of the era, quite simply a mixture of classic Punk and early 70's proto-Metal/Biker Rock.
The CD reissue includes a number of bonus tracks, a couple of which are essential (City Kids, On Parole) and a couple of covers (Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers, I'm Your Witchdoctor) which sound completely out of place and rather weak in comparison to the rest of the album. Apparently these covers were recorded at the same sessions as the rest of the material, but they have a totally different vibe and lightweight sound.
Here's a brief track by track rundown:
1. Motorhead - A heavily distorted speedfreak anthem. Manages to out-Punk much of what passed for Punk in 1977. Let down by strangely bad drumming.
2. Vibrator - Another track that would have given any Punk band of '77 a run for their money.
3. Lost Johnny - I'm not a huge fan of this one. Apparently it's an old Hawkind number. Very much a typical early 70's Rock style track, but just ploughs on verse after verse after verse with nothing much happening, until the very end when there's a fantastic little guitar coda, which would have worked well had it also appeared earlier in the song to act as a hook, something this song sorely lacks.
4. Iron Horse/Born To Lose - The Biker Rock anthem. Vaguely Sabbathy at times. It's a bit mid-paced, carried by a sub-Zeppelin riff.
5. White Line Fever - I'm not sure how to try and describe this. There's a Punk/Metal riff going on in there somewhere, but it's just swamped by noise and reverb, and there's no lyrical melody, it's just a shouty noisy mess of a song. If it had been slowed down a little and recorded as well as the next track, it could have been a classic....
6. Keep Us On The Road - THE forgotten Motorhead classic. This could have been recorded for the Overkill, Bomber or Ace Of Spades and not sounded out of place. It's pretty mid-tempo, but it powers and grooves along incessantly on a catchily punchy and simple riff. Also features a bass solo.
7. The Watcher - More 70's riff-Rock. The spooky vocal line gives me the halloween creeps, but there's some great guitar work going on here, from the main riff to the frenzied phased soloing at the end.
8. Train Kept A Rollin'- A pretty tame cover version. I would have expected Motorhead to grab this one round the throat and shake it to pieces, but instead they offered it a comfy seat, a cup of tea and a pat on the head.
9. City Kids - And we're back to a classic Punk sound. Originally a Pink Fairies track, Motorhead take this and turn into something that rivals any Punk track from the mid 70's. This is the first of the bonus tracks, originally being the B-side to the Motorhead single.
10. Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers - The first of the covers I previously mentioned. Not a very good song anyway, doesn't fit with the other material and sounds very thin. That was probably why it was left off the album in the first place.
11. On Parole - Midpaced tempo, with a similar type of guitar groove to the later Going To Brazil or Born To Raise Hell, that kind of bar-room boogie type riff, with a nice shouty chorus. I can't understand why this and City Kids were left off the original album.
12. Instro - A very short riff driven instrumental. The band play competently enough, it's rather noisy, but there's really nothing special about this track. It's obviously just here as a bonus track, a piece of filler.
13. I'm Your Witch Doctor - The second of the bonus covers, see my Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers comment.
Just to finish off, I have to add that this album was the SECOND recording of many of these tracks. When Motorhead first formed in 1975 they recorded an album for United Artists (called On Parole) featuring many of the tracks shown above. That album was rejected by the record company and shelved until 1979 when Motorhead started to hit big with Overkill. These two albums may contain many of the same songs, but they are played by different line-ups under different circumstances, so they sound VERY different. On Parole has great production and a much cleaner and melodic guitar sound. The version of the album I've reviewed here (titled Motorhead) has very dirty production and a much rougher all round feel to it. Motorhead is the the one your neighbours will HATE!