Tuesday, April 9, 2002 @ 11:24 AM
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Death, taxes and Motorhead.
As I sat hunkered over my TV tray eating a grill cheese sandwich twenty years ago, I can still remember my father glowering over me and spewing venom regarding the backbreaking futility of life. “Death and Taxes,” he told me. “Death and Taxes -- they’re the only things you can count on in this shit hole world.” Looking back, I guess he probably had a reason to be pissed. Selling homeowner’s insurance couldn’t possibly be the most invigorating way to spend a lifetime of ten-hour workdays. Especially when they were frequently capped off with a rousing, triumphant return to a home that didn’t even seem to know he existed. To this day, I can still recall his breath and how it reeked of the coffee and the peanut butter crackers he purchased at the vending machines in the break room at the agency where he worked.
Sometimes, after a couple 40’s, I start to regret certain things, I start to feel bad about being such a waste -- for contributing to his rage. Even though he hated most music except for the kind played in the background of various honky tonks where he frequently got loaded, I always got the feeling that if he had ever been inclined to start a band, I envisioned him being really pissed off -- yet workmanlike -- in his approach. I imagined that his music would be dark and hairy with a definite palpability to it -- kinda like Lemmy’s mole. If you think about it, this profound facial growth is really just a testament to the authenticity of Motorhead and its music which was spawned during an era which has long since been replaced in the mainstream by bands whose members tend to look like they moonlight on Party of Five and who are about as dangerous as a Happy Meal. If you don’t believe me, just imagine what will happen when Scott Stapp starts getting all those telltale wrinkles underneath his Dutch boy hair-do and that pretty boy façade of his starts to fade. Shit, he’ll end up making more trips to the plastic surgeon than Fred Durst at an all you can eat buffet.
“But doctor!! I have a…a…wrrrinkle. Shhh. If those aren’t bad enough, I think I also might have a blemish as well. A blemish doctor!! A blemish Goddamnit!!! You have to do something about it. I simply can’t go onstage like this! It’s unimaginable!!”
Come to think of it, that should be Stapp’s penance in the next life -- Prince Valiant should be required to spend six or seven decades with an inanimate alien life form grasping tightly on to his ruddy rounded cheeks -- we’ll see how his faux Jim Morrison shtick plays then.
With groups constantly trying to reinvent their sound only to end up becoming diluted versions of themselves, the music of legends like the Ramones, AC/DC and Motorhead stand as landmarks of solid craftsmanship in a world where trendiness is too often rewarded with stellar sales. When I opened Motorhead’s latest offering, Hammered, I knew what to expect -- a loud, fast aggressive slap of disdain for the way things are -- I mean, besides death and taxes, they’re about the only thing you can count on consistently. The first tune, “Walk a Crooked Mile” is nearly six minutes of fury complete with Lemmy’s signature sandpaper-on-sidewalk growl. Even if his voice is less than commanding on the chorus to many of the songs, it all seems to work out somehow. That’s the way it is with a landmark -- the imperfections just lend the creation character and believability… after all, no one bitches about the crack in the Liberty Bell or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
In track two, the drums and bass pulverize a classic “love em’ and leave em’” tune wherein Lemmy states that he’s got to move on because “I wanna be in the wind, I wanna see the sun.” If it sounds harsh for him to just strand this chick alone and twisting in the wind, well… that’s too bad because everyone knows that you can’t be a rock and roll legend staying home with a wife and two kids selling homeowner’s insurance. Not only does he leave the woman broken hearted, but when Lemmy says to call him “Dr. Love” in the eighth song, the listener instantly understands that attitude may have just as much to do with attracting members of the opposite sex as looks do. Hmmm. Maybe there’s still hope for me -- shit, I don’t play guitar -- I still have that inflatable doll though.
What Hammered achieves as an album is an overall rock n’ roll sensibility that defies time periods or media created labels. That isn’t to say that Motorhead doesn’t pen lyrics with certain topical issues in mind, it’s just that the topics that they address: religion, injustice, poverty and hypocrisy are as old as controversy itself. The concept of hell an illusion is touched on in the passage from the tune titled, “No Remorse.”
“Repent ye fool, God will hear,
Christmas carol, midnight clear
Otherwise, pits of fire
Punishment for base desire
Satan waits, goatee bard
Long old tail, nasty spear,
If you believe, these tales they tell
Then you deserve to burn in hell.”
Obviously, these lyrics could have been written years and years ago, and the ideas contained will doubtlessly continue to be pondered and debated for centuries to come. Motorhead simply doesn’t get the respect they deserve from the music community at large because many fans of supposedly more relevant genres can’t get past the fact that these guys play fast and hard and don’t give a shit about incorporating drum machines or sitars as trendy new bricks in their age-old wall of sound. Motorhead has found that there is nothing wrong with stating ideas within the context of the music that has made them one of the most influential members of the metal landscape.
Too often when a band is thought to create music that doesn’t deviate much from their past works, people take it one of two ways. Either they love the band and they want to purchase everything in their catalogue, or they buy one or two and figure that they’ve got the idea. Well, the fact is, if you’re happy with your copy of Ace of Spades or No Sleep Til’ Hammersmith, then great -- but it doesn’t mean that Hammered shouldn’t sit right next to it in your collection. After all, this disc is nothing less than another genius offering from a band that many won’t appreciate fully until they’re gone -- and that’s their problem. Face it, in this uncertain world it helps to know that at least one of the three things you can count on is actually good…in this case great. Hammered is a classic as much for what it stands for as much as what it is -- the rock n’ roll you love.