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Exit the great Wurzel due to some he-said she-said bullshit (and given Mr. Benson's future credentials one might wonder if it was him), and once again the mighty Motorhead are as they once were; a trio. I've always been a believer that two guitarists are better than one, but Phil did a reasonable job holding down the fretboard fort the last almost two-decades. You'd think nothing was wrong at all with the results Overnight Sensation yields. While it's not quite as destructive as Sacrifice or Bastards, it's still a quality metal listen from front to back. Yes, metal. Lemmy might have been able pass off the over-distorted English MC5 reasoning during the Clarke/Taylor/Kilmister years, but the first few seconds of Civil War will convince even the staunchest retro-rocker of its steel.
I'd want to say "Eat The Gun" was the worst song on here if it wasn't so fucking catchy. I'm shocked this wasn't a hit or a live staple of any kind. At any given point during the past few weeks either the riff or the lyrics (Your gun is so big [oh wow]) will get stuck in my head even when I'm listening to other music. That's how much it rocks. This is definitely one of more Motorhead's punk moments, as there is no solo and it's relatively fast, simple and extremely effective. Matter of fact at the moment I'm hard pressed to find one that tops this, even RAMONES.
The thrashiest song on here (and the biggest surprise) is definitely Them Not Me. I was especially impressed how they manage to not gronk the Ace of Spades riff again (although you kind of hear it in the bass underneath when the rhythm kicks in, oh well, I'll take what I can get). But the secret weapon here, as it always is with Motorhead, is drummer Mikkey Dee. This song is one of his finest moments in Motorhead and not just because it's fast, but the way he causes the chorus to swing and groove. This my friends, is the example of heavy metal's true purpose, to smash a spike through the brains of the listener and make him/her/it perk up and die hard. Dee's ability to turn that time around in Them Not Me's chorus is one of those moments. His other truly great moment on this album is Shake The World, whose double bass insanity recalls the chaas of Pleasure To Kill, except at Battle Hymns speed. It's just as head-splitting as it sounds, and I highly recommend it for brain surgery.
Other highlights include Love Can't Buy You Money, which has one of the greatest Lemmy lyrics ever, "Watch your mouth or you might get the dentist you deserve." I was going to put that line as the title for this review, but fucking character limits. On top of that, it is most certainly one of the CHOICE Motorhead slow songs, which is more than I can say for "I Don't Believe A Word." That song on the box set actually kept me away from this album for a long time. 'Fucking hell if they thought this was good this must have been one of their out of idea periods.' Listening to it now, admittedly, it's way better than I remember it, and certainly doesn't sink to the depths of utter boredom like Metropolis, but it damn sure ain't Love Can't Buy You Money.
Even though 95% of the man's discography is utter swill, I have to tip my hat to Howard Benson for making Motorhead sound as dangerous as ever without repeating the same tones as his other masterworks, Bastards and Sacrifice. Most lazy producers just find a sound that works and run it into the ground (*cough* *cough* Scott Burns, *cough), but not Howard. Hell, if not for the album cover spelling it out, Howard makes you think Wurzel never actually flew the coop. What's especially impressive is how he makes Lemmy, in all his mid-range majesty sound like he's playing an actual bass!
Which brings me to one final song I have to mention, the title track. I will never forget where I was when I first heard this. I was on a senior high school travel abroad trip to Italy, and of course, I brought my double disc best of Motorhead album with me. I was riding on one of the trolleys with my party and Sacrifice had just concluded. Eagerly awaiting what was next, I was not expecting THAT bass riff. To be completely honest, it's the Welcome to Hell/2 Minutes To Midnight riff we've all heard a thousand times, but the way Lemmy executes it in that pocket, just fucking rocks. Is Lemmy playing an actual bass sound here? Yes he is and Motorhead is brilliant for it! This is one of those songs that you just have everyone in your party put on a pair of sunglasses, flip the top of your convertible down and cruise down a beach sunset highway. As cheesy as that sounds, it damn sure isn't cheesy when you are doing it to this song, and it damn sure isn't cheesy when Motorhead plays rock & roll. In approaching this album, I was worried that nothing could possibly rise to this song's level, and I'm very happy to say that I was wrong.
Forget Overkill, Bomber (ha!) and Ace of Spades. Bastards, Sacrifice and Overnight Sensation is the real classic Motorhead trilogy. Buy this with sunglass confidence.
Knowingly or not, everyone has listened to Motorhead. If you've watched TV in the last couple of years, you saw a slow version of 'Ace of Spades' being played for Kronenburg 1664 (although Jack Daniels would have been more keeping with the spirit of the band). If you sat down to frown at Shoot 'em Up, you heard 'Ace of Spades'.
'Ace of Spades' is not on this album, so you won't see it in this review again. What you will see is more Motorhead worship, the return of the power trio and the start of the current line-up. If you are unfamiliar with the history of Motorhead, well, that's what Google's for. This is a review by a raving fan, not a history lesson.
So. Bass. Specifically, Lemmy's bass. It is beefy. It is responsible for making this album so heavy, even though not all the material was written that way. It sits in the mix under the guitar, dominating the low frequencies. And it sounds good. It is always felt no matter what else is occuring in the mix, brass-knuckling your guts with the kick drum, beating on you whilst you fall to the floor, especially on an aggressive track like 'Civil War'. The bass doesn't sound sterile, but packs an organic fuzz that becomes apparent on 'Broken' and the title track. In terms of bass lines, Lemmy fills the bottom of the mix with what would probably be the second guitar part, if such a player existed. On 'Crazy Like a Fox' under the harmonica solo, there is a nifty bass line on the higher frets that duels the harmonica, and the bass has other small solos throughout the album which raving fans appreciate and probably pray for (if you're gonna pray, why not do it someone who can get back to you on it?)
Mikkey Dee is alive and winning on this album. He makes 4/4 rock beats that have been around since rock n roll started sound badass. There probably isn't anything on his kit that isn't utilised on the album, with marching kick-snare beats and double-bass assaults broken up with tom fills that spice every song up. The drum sound is immense. The kit is miked up near perfect and everything sounds balanced, sitting perfectly in the mix, not overpowering anything whilst still beating you up for your beer.
However, this album showcases one element in particular. Phil Campbell's guitar sounds perfect. It rivals Slash's tone on 'Appetite for Destruction' as one of the best guitar tones in rock n roll. It is clean, warm and powerful. When it needs to be heavy, it is. When the tempo starts to inflict neck injuries to listeners, the guitar doesn't disintegrate into a muddy mess. When fretboard gymnastics occur, the guitar is alive. But what about the riffs, you ask? The solos? Well, what do you think? They're great. It's debatable whether Phil Campbell enjoyed the pressure of having to come up with all the guitar parts, but they are brilliant. Riffs like 'Love Can't Buy You Money' and 'Shake the World' belong in the catalogue of classic Motorhead riffs. Faster tracks have meaty thrashy riffs that attack the listener; elsewhere, chord slams invade the sonic space and leave lasting bruises in visible parts of the body (tip: don't headbang in tight spaces). On solos, there is a mixture of bluesy shredding with a soaking of wah and uplifting lead sections in which every note is beautiful i.e. the end solo in the title track.
Lemmy's voice on this album is soulful yet aggressive, gruff but genuine, like on every other album. And what the hell were you expecting? The lyrics are well-written as always with social commentary appearing occasionally but without being preachy, with sarcasm and humour also getting involved. There is only one song that has 'serious' lyrics, namely 'I Don't Believe a Word', with its melancholy delivery for which Lemmy doesn't sound like Lemmy for the verses.
All in all, this is a brilliant album. The production is near perfect, the instruments are amazing, and it has two of my favourite songs of all time, and 'Broken' has the poignant line "Must we be expendable, is that what we are for?" So, buy the album. It won't let you regret it.
I couldn't really think of a good closing statement so you'll get this instead. In case you were wondering why this album isn't rated 100% when it is clear that is what it should deserve. It's simple.
I have to be objective somehow.
...Phil asked Howard, who was wearing a shirt that had the number 36 or something on it. "No, why?" "Because I've never seen "cunt" spelled like that before." We got him twice with that and finally he started freaking out - "Why did you hire me, then, if you don't like me!" And Phil said, "Well, you were the only one in our price range." (Lemmy: White Line Fever, p. 263 f.) Now, that has definitely changed by now...
Meanwhile Howard Benson is probably one of the most expensive producers out there and a lot of his success came from producing Nu Metal- and Post-Grunge-bands and that means that he is really good at providing a band with a MASSIVE sound. Hence, he was one of the few producers Motörhead ever had who really made them sound just as they should, plus each of the four albums he produced sounded differently (e.g. hear the huge difference between "Overnight Sensation" and "Sacrifice")! (The four Cameron Webb-produced albums, by comparison, basically all sound the same.)
Production-wise "Overnight Sensation" is Howard Bensons's masterpiece for Motörhead and one of the best Motörhead albums ever - song-wise though, it is a mixed bag. The worst song is also the heaviest song on the album. With some growls "Shake The World" may have worked as a Death Metal song (maybe as some kind of a light version of "God Of Emptiness"), but it doesn't work as it is, and that's also the problem with the three mediocre songs "Civil War", "Eat The Gun" and "Them Not Me", which coincidentally are the fastest tracks on the album. While heavier bands can make up for a certain lack of catchiness or songwriting with heaviness or speed, it has never worked out for Motörhead. (Maybe this would have worked for really fast songs like "See Me Burning" or "Red Raw" on the following albums, but those are great songs anyway...)
The catchy "Love Can't Buy You Money" and the two uptempo songs "Crazy Like A Fox" (more upbeat) and "Murder Show" (more serious) are the three great songs on the album, which finally leaves us with the classics, which are, you may have guessed it, the slowest songs on the album: the three midtempo tracks "Broken", "Overnight Sensation" and the closer "Listen To Your Heart" (with acoustic guitar) and, last but not least, some kind of a Motörhead unicum, "I Don't Believe A Word" - a 6 and a half minute long, slow song - which is no blues and no ballad either.
Especially on these slower songs Howard Benson's production really comes into its own - apart from Vic Maile, for example, no other producer has yet managed to provide Lemmy with such a fantastic bass sound (Tony Platt wasn't bad either though) - and the combination of brilliant songwriting and a brilliant production results in a few of the best songs ever. The rest, i.e. the fast and heavy stuff, is not nearly as good, but in the end "Overnight Sensation" still provides half an hour of the best Motörhead you could wish for.
Motorhead marched on through the 90s releasing yet another ripsnorter of a long player in 1996. Top quality rockin' tunes abound in this ferocious assault on the senses. "Civil War" kicks off the procedings and in usual Motorhead style the opening track is heavy as hell. For me though, the album truly comes to life with the 2nd song, the bluesy "Crazy Like A Fox" complete with furious Phil Campbell riffs and an all too brief Lemmy harmonica solo. He really should play that thing more on their CDs. Next up is "I Don't Believe A Word" which contains arguably Lemmy's greatest and deepest lyrics. It's a slow pased number with haunting vocals and a powerful chorus, not forgetting the doomy bass solo intro.
"Eat The Gun" is a sarcastic rant against America's mental gun laws and the title track is now a live staple and a bonafide Motorhead classic. "Love Can't Buy You Money" deals with the issue of greedy fuckers pretending to be your friend to get in on your cash . "Broken" is another popular live tune, "Them Not Me" is a very funny dig at those who gain pleasure from the misfortune of others and "Murder Show" deals with pretty much the same subject but without the humour.
The last two songs are among the best on the album "Shake The World" is one of the heaviest tracks you'll hear. Reminiscent of "Orgasmatron" and easily as good. The album then closes with the excellent "Listen To Your Heart". It's quite a poppy tune by Motorhead's standards but that shouldn't put you off. It's almost as if this track is the answer to the problems described through most of the other songs.
A masterpiece. Almost as good as "Bastards" but not quite.