Friday, December 30, 2016

LET THEM EAT METAL #4: Ace of Spades by Motörhead (Ending the year with ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!)

In the days of yore, when pop music meant something, it was filled with nourishing musical ideas and showed the tides of progress.  But then something happened, the ability for it to fill our soul has nearly vanished, and the masses are starved on good music.  There’s the occasional quality track that stays good after multiple spins, but it has gotten to the moment where even good pop music gets stale.  We live in a white-bread world in mainstream music.  However, there’s salvation from the drek that the masses need to know about.  In the words of Marie Antoinette, or more accurately The Rods quoting her: “LET THEM EAT METAL!”

Hello degenerates, heathens, weirdos, and deviants.  I am the Rock Otaku, and I’m here to show you worlds such as hard rock, metal, punk, alternative rock, movies, TV, anime, video games, and anything that makes us scream, shout, and gamble on the road crew for the love of a lamia girl (preferably legal age).

This series is dedicated to the best that heavy metal can offer.  As you will read, I will take you on a journey though the annals of heavy metal’s storied history from its beginning in early 70s, its crystallization in the late 70s and early 80s, its breakthrough into mainstream conscience in the early to mid-80s, its maturation in the late 80s and 90s, its dominance (sort of) in the 2000s and even today, and the rare moments that very few talk about unless in the company of like-minded fans.  Not in that order, but I’ll be looking at the footnotes oh metal history in the order I desire.  In short, this series is about metal, plain and simple.

While metal is awesome, its main rival (and occasional ally), punk rock, can offer some interesting musical ideas.  Started in the mid-70s as a reaction to arena rock, progressive rock, disco, and unfortunately heavy metal, punk rock’s main goal was to take rock ‘n’ roll back to what it was in the 50s: short, simple, straightforward, and very edgy and angry.  Also a massive influence on punk rock and its ethos (plus the image) is glam rock, with its stripped down music and shocking image.  Another stripped down genre that influenced punk was garage rock.  In short, punk is what happened if Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash performed a fusion dance with T. Rex, David Bowie, Slade, Sweet, and New York Dolls with the rage of MC5 and The Stooges.  The bands associated with the genre included The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, and many others.  But one band took the elements that were rooted in and expanded on 50s rock, merged them with heavier forms of rock like metal, and influenced the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, speed metal, and thrash metal movements around the world.  That band was Motörhead.

Started in 1975 after the fall of Hawkwind, bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister decided that after performing in various 60s rock acts and being a roadie for stars like Jimi Hendrix, he would have his own rock band, with blackjack and hookers.  While they weren’t in the initial lineup when the band first started, “Fast” Eddie Clark and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor could be technically the first two guitarist and drummer that achieved success with Lemmy’s band.  Yet one of the most interesting thing about the band is that Lemmy was more of a fan of 50s rock and had more kinship with punk rock than heavy metal, playing with The Damned when they needed a bassist, and his style would clash with what metal was at the moment and even today (with djent, tech death, and modern progressive power metal), while his band’s style would inspire many metal bands in the 80s.  Such influences they delivered would range from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Power Metal, and even some Glam Metal (that last one is debatable, but their insistence on being called “rock ‘n’ roll would impact the subgenre’s mentality in my opinion).

At first, they released their first album Motörhead in 1977, then Overkill and Bomber in 1979, which would showcase their skills and multiple musical styles from metal, rock, hard rock, punk, blues rock, and even country (not sure about that all, but I’m sure those are the styles Razorfist mentioned in his Metal Mythos on this band).  Then in 1980, they released their fourth album, Ace of Spades, which is considered their best work.

Why this album at this moment in time?  Well, this can be considered a tribute to the late Lemmy and an analysis towards what he was able to do with his bass and famous vocal style alongside “Fast” Eddie and the also-deceased “Philthy Animal.”  Do I own a Motörhead album?  Hopefully in the next few weeks.  Do I regularly listen to them?  I do, but it depends on if I’m away from power metal and AMV Hell knockoffs.  Do I have massive respect for them, and do I enjoy them when I listen to them? 

I outright love this band!  When you get down to it, Lemmy is an awesome musician, and his music will live on, no matter what happens.  When I heard that he died, I did not believe it.  When you get down to it, Lemmy felt invincible, with his age, physical condition, drug use, and sex life, and nothing was going to kill him, but then he died from prostate cancer, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmia.  In that same year, we lost Scott Weiland, who’s also considered a legendary rocker with a massive influence on many of today’s rock bands.  Later, specifically this year, we lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, quality pop music, civility, and Carrie Fisher (F*** YOU 2016!!!).  Let’s just say that this year royally sucked, and to end it, I plan on ending it with the music of Motörhead to cleanse our bodies from this year’s fetid gunk.

Now that we got this out of the way, let’s get to the review to end this extremely disappointing year and hope for a rockin’ 2017.  THIS IS MOTÖRHEAD!  LET’S ROCK N’ ROLL:

1.    Ace of Spades:
Should I even go into depth on why this song is a deserved classic?  Anyone?  Well, here goes nothing.  This song is, in my mind, a TRUE CLASSIC.  Everything about it is excellent.  The beat.  The classic bassline.  The classic guitar riff.  The classic drum work.  Lemmy’s classic vocals.  The classic lyrics about card games like blackjack (and possibly hookers).  The classic guitar solo.  Everyone has dissected this rocker, and it’s still something I feel that music fans should love.  Yeah, the gambling aspect may be considered unhealthy, but has there ever been a politically correct Motörhead song?   Never, this band is about being loud and loving every second of their hedonistic lives.  If there’s a single flaw, it’s that I get a tear when hearing the ’08 remake, where Lemmy replaces “And don’t forget the Joker” with “But apparently I am!” as a continuation of “You know I’m born to lose/And gambling’s for fools/But that’s the way I like it baby/I DON’T WANNA LIVE FOREVER!” probably because, well, he does live forever, but not on this plain of existence.  Anyway this song is a classic, I love this track, and I feel that as a way to start this record, it’s the perfect way to do so.  Though I’d like to see if there are any Rio: Rainbow Gate AMV’s made to this song.
2.    Love Me Like a Reptile:

But if there are two topics associated with rock ‘n’ roll, it’s sex and drugs, as well as parties (make that three topics), and Motörhead write a lot of songs about those topics.  This is one of their sex jams.  More accurately, this is about a girl that gets Lemmy stiff and him ready to take her to the nearest hotel.  Possibly a hooker to pair it with the blackjack of the previous song.  Matching the sexual intensity is a venomous guitar riff, bassline, and drum beat that goes with Lemmy’s snarling growling.  Included are basic, but punchy guitar solo.  Each part goes together in this short, but effective, rocker like a glove.  Plus, there’s a sense of danger, with a snake rattle used in the percussion and references to venomous snakes that turns this song from a basic rocker to a pure slab of sleaze that 5 Seconds of Summer should take notes from.  Plus with all the snake references, I’m sure that I’m getting a vibe that Lemmy might have been a fan of hers:
Suu is best girl, though.
Time for the next rocker.
3.    Shoot You in the Back:
Where the last song was probably about sex with a lamia (or naga if you prefer Eastern mythology), this is about being a western badass.  With its galloping beat and guitar and bass work, Lemmy and co. evoke the era of the cowboy and their awesomeness in a swingin’, rootin’, shootin’, hard rockin’ song about a killer gunslinger in black.  Like in a western movie (you know, before every studio decided to make movies about superheroes like today).  As a result, there’s a similar energy to Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle,” another western-inspired hard rock song that evokes that era’s bravado extremely well.  Lemmy’s guttural vocal delivery works here, and the guitars are thrashin’ with a smokin’ riff and solo that follows the Code of the West (try to use Google to get that reference), a drum performance that evokes a bucking bronco.  It’s also a great fit for this album, considering the cover art.  If you’re a John Wayne fan, a Jimmy Stewart fan, a Clint Eastwood fan, or a fan of westerns in general, then you need to listen to this song.  Hell, this is a great song to play Red Dead Redemption to.
4.    Live to Win:
Yes, I’m aware of the fact that there’s an awesome Paul Stanley song of the same name that South Park used in their WOW episode.  But unlike that cheesy rocker, this is fast, straightforward, and right-to-the-point.  Yet at the same time, it has the same sentiment.  Essentially, it’s about being knocked around, but having the will and the fighting spirit to jump back up when knocked on your ass, living and striving to be the best around.  This is essentially a “Nothing stands in my way!” song, right down to the execution.  Starting with a thumping bassline that goes into the main guitar riff, the song stays in the fast lane for a majority of the song, with Lemmy belting about standing his ground and preparing for the moment when he is on top.  Adding to that are short, but tastefully bluesy guitar solos from Fast Eddie, with a longer one to close out the track.  This song is just aggressive, and it has the right to be aggressive.  Great song, and I’m not sure what to say next, so I’ll let Kamina have the floor to remind you what this song is saying:
Now to the next rocker.
5.    Fast and Loose:
From speedy metal to bluesy, bouncy hard rock, Motörhead decide to show their sensitive side.  More exactly, they show Lemmy’s ways with the ladies.  An ode to his sexual energy, Lemmy belts about how he can make the girl he’s singing to get with him in the bed and showcases how he can pleasure her.  Essentially, he knows that she likes it fast and loose, and he’s going to operate in that manner when they meet.  He also sings how the girl that like it the way she does knows that she wants more of the Kill Master.  To avoid alienating kids who aren’t aware of Lemmy’s sexual prowess, the song’s bouncy beat allows for a tastefully bassline, sleazy guitar riffs and licks, a steady drum performance that is well, fast and loose, plus there’s a bluesy guitar solo.  If this isn’t proof that Lemmy isn’t a British Glen Quagmire, then you need to listen to more Motörhead.
6.    (We Are) The Road Crew:
An ode to the roadies everywhere, this song gets this reaction from me:
Next time, I should vary images from Brütal Legend.
This headbangin’ rocker is about the life of the guys and girls that drive the band across the country, make sure that they look good onstage, ensure their sound works, and probably lead their devoted followers into battle against demons, zombies, skeletons, sellouts, and emos (and possibly angry white boys and drunk parents who listen to Hinder, Nickelback, and Saving Abel if Double Fine ever makes a Brütal Legend II).  Even better when you realize that Lemmy was a roadie before he was a rock star (he worked for Hendrix).  To dedicate this song properly to the unsung heroes of rock ‘n’ roll, Motörhead go for a driving beat with Lemmy singing about the tribulations of life on the road while providing thick basslines, the Philthy Animal keeping the beat in check like a sound technician on the drums, and Fast Eddie providing some intense guitar riffs, one excellent lick, and some crazy solos with the wah pedal.  Overall, this is a song worthy of the trust of Lars Halford, and the kind of metal to kick Emperor Doviculus’ and General Lionwhyte’s asses to.  What a way to end side 1 of this classic.
7.    Fire, Fire:
Kicking side 2 into action is this fast-paced rocker.  Dealing with, of course, sexy time and arousal, this thrashing sleaze rocker provides the intense energy that libido can provide to a man.  If I can describe this song’s attitude properly, this song is the audial equivalent to a man who just saw a very attractive woman, and vice versa.  And of course, it wouldn’t be a Motörhead song without the fast, aggressive, and loud instrumentation and feel.  With a powerful bass, punk and blues tinged metal guitar riffs, thunderous double-bass drums, and a scorching vocal delivery from Lemmy, this song is pure rock ‘n’ roll.  Plus included is a fiery guitar solo that will definitely heat up your face until it melts off your skull.  Overall, this is a fun song, but I’ve noticed a formula in this album.  Not the sounds, but the structure.  I’ll go into depth at the end, but we need to get going.  These songs are pretty short.
8.    Jailbait:
So for this song, Lemmy sings about his infatuation with a young girl, a girl young enough to get him in trouble with her parents and hopefully only her parents.  The issue here?  The title.  Not to say that this song is bad, but this has the same problem as Winger’s “Seventeen.”  A well-structured song that has everything you want in a rock song, but it’s about a much older man (Lemmy was in his 30s when he recorded this) lusting after a teenage girl.  You’re going to lose points with most audiences and make them uncomfortable with this lyrical content.  But here, where “Seventeen” reveals the underage lust in the chorus, this starts with that, and it’s arguably worse in that regard.  But, again, like “Seventeen,” it’s a banging song.  This bluesy metal number is pure musical sexual ecstasy, with thick bass, pounding drums, a strong beat that gets you in the mood for love, and blazing guitars, and Lemmy sounds excellent in his vocal delivery, plus there’s a strong guitar solo.  Everything about this song is perfect, and Motörhead manage to sell this dirty song with conviction and talent.  It feels like it works here, not a filler track, and it continues the sexual adventures of Lemmy Kilmister.  But thanks to the lyrics, this might be passed off, though the band pulls it off.  In a way, Lemmy is really reminding me of early Quagmire here.  I mean this is up his alley.
Remember when Family Guy was charmingly funny and not trying to shock everyone or be preachy?  Pepperidge Farm Remembers.
9.    Dance:
From blues metal to rock ‘n’ roll, Motörhead continue their assault.  To get the thought of Lemmy getting into trouble out of our heads, this song is about the times when you don’t need to think when hearing rock ‘n’ roll, YOU NEED TO DANCE!  This is a hard-hitting song that predates “Shut Up and Dance” by over 3 decades in its concept, and it’s a good song to groove to as well.  Not to bash it or say that this is filler.  It isn’t.  And its length allows you to get to the next track with ease while enjoying everything about this new one.  With a catchy guitar riff, a pounding rhythm section with thick bass and on-time drums, I can guarantee that you’d be shaking your tail-feather to this 50s-style rock number in no time.  If not, then Lemmy’s commands will get you on the dance floor faster than the Flash in bed (hey, this is a sexy album).  Plus, there are two great guitar solos that add to the dancing feel and showcase Fast Eddie’s chops.  In general, this is a great dance song in a genre that may or may not need more of them.  I mean, dance songs in heavy metal, but…
10.  Bite the Bullet:
If one thing may have been lost by most people, Motörhead is a band that has a lot of influences from punk rock as well as heavy metal.  Hell, their incorporations of early punk elements is what lead to their signature style and aesthetic.  As a result, we have a straight-up punk rock song here, with its very, very short runtime at 98 seconds, use of one short guitar solo at the end, and overall speed, with a fast riff, bassline, and drum performance from Fast Eddie, Lemmy, and the Philthy Animal respectively.  Plus you have some of Lemmy’s most aggressive vocals yet to appear on this album, with lyrics about, surprisingly, a breakup.  But the overall aggression of the delivery makes it seem as if Lemmy was just tired of this one woman and decided to tell her that he’s leaving for good.  Overall, great song in practice out of what could have been a disaster in theory, as they go the punk rock approach to this breakup instead of a ballad.  Great job guys, you win the opportunity to emulate KISS.
11.  The Chase Is Better Than the Catch:
No joke, that line in the last song review describes what this song sounds like: a KISS and/or Van Halen-inspired pop metal number with sleazy lyrics, as if it were performed by Motörhead.  There could also be an influence from Slade or The Sweet here, but due to how I’m, well, an American, KISS and Van Halen are the two bands I’m comparing this rocker to.  Even weirder is that this is the longest song on the album, being the only track that’s over 4 minutes long.  However, just because it’s like 2 of my favorite bands of all time, a little below Aerosmith (I’ve heard elements similar to the Bad Boys of Boston here, so that might have impacted my analysis), that doesn’t mean this song doesn’t rip.  With a mid-paced, bouncy, glam-inspired beat, right to the bass and drum performance, and a tastefully savage guitar delivery, this song provides the sonic backbone for Lemmy singing about, again, cuddling with a really attractive woman and the chase to get there.  Plus adding to the raw take on what will ultimately be the style known as glam metal, there are some ripping guitar solos on this album that evoke Ace Frehley’s mad guitar theatrics (when he decides to play).  Overall, this is the song that evokes the feelings of lust in all of us.  But, thanks to our politically correct environment, I feel that these songs are in short supply these days.  Great song.
12.  The Hammer:
Finally, we get to this moment.  Like how the title track was a slightly-under 3 minute speed metal anthem, we end side 2, and the entire album for that manner, with a slightly-under 3 minute speed metal anthem.  Everything about this feels like a spiritual sibling to “Ace of Spades” from the riff, the bassline, the drum patterns, the vocal performance, the structure, the guitar solo, everything.  This hits hard, and after this, the album ends.  Lemmy belts out a hard hitting vocal performance about being a badass, or possibly it’s about Lemmy bringing judgement to wrongdoers who threaten to ruin rock ‘n’ roll.  But whatever the case, he sounds savage here.  Overall, this punk-tinged speed metal number hits like a rock, is as hard as a diamond, and possibly helped thrash metal lose its baby teeth in the early 80s and become a musical force.

Now for my final thoughts.  I’ve noticed that there’s a similar structure throughout the album, regardless of how punk of whether the blues are on full effect here.  Essentially, you get three verses in every song with a short chorus that’s meant to be shouted out in unison rather than give the song pop radio airplay.  Usually after the second verse/chorus, there’s a guitar solo, and then there’s usually be a guitar lick or much-longer solo that ends the song afterwards.  Is this exclusive to this album?  Not really, as I’ve heard this structure across multiple Motörhead songs, but that is not an issue.  The whole issue with formulas seems to have occurred thanks to the internet allowing people to learn more things about their favorite music, even though a formula is a way to tell bands apart, and because Nickelback has ruined the idea of using a formula for modern artists.  Now here’s my piece: FORMULAS AREN’T TERRIBLE!  They can allow for a musician or band to create their stamp on the world of music as well as create a sort of cohesive flow for an album.  Think about that, in his Metal Mythos series, Razorfist bashed The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden, and album that doesn’t rely too much on formula most of the time, rather going for proto-progressive metal, yet he considers this album, one that has a very obvious formula, a true classic!  Yes, music is subjective, but you know what relies on formula?  Rock ‘N’ Roll!  Anything else?  EVERYTHING THAT PLAYS ON POP RADIO, REGARDLESS OF GENRE, MAY IT BE POP, R&B, HIP HOP, OR EVEN COUNTRY MUSIC!  Rock Otaku, Out.

But does that formula hinder this song?
There’s a reason that this album is a metal classic, and it’s because this is Motörhead at arguably their best.  The songs are catchy as hell, the production is excellent, the guitar work is excellent mixing punk, blues, rock, and heavy metal, the bass guitar is some of the best I’ve ever heard, and the drums helped show that metal can be louder, faster, and more over the top before Venom came in.  It’s also an extremely excellent, well, rock ‘n’ roll album in every sense of the phrase.  This is an album that I can talk about to not just metalheads, but punks, drunks, rednecks, inner-city kids, slobs, snobs, freaks, geeks, weirdos, hedonists, prudes, guys, gals, musicians, music fans, otaku, weeaboos, comic fans, cinephiles, Disney aficionados, Trekkies, Browncoats, Whovians, wizards, goths, steampunk aficionados, furries, and so on, and we can all agree that Motörhead is awesome.  You may have a Motörhead song that you prefer that may not be on this album, but there’s no denying how lame things would have been if this didn’t exist.  If there’s no Motörhead, then I’m sure rock ‘n’ roll wouldn’t have survived the 80s synth explosion.  No thrash, no hair metal, no grunge, no garage rock revival, no indie, no neo-traditional country, nothing but artificial music for the rest of our lives.  Would you want to live in that world?  No, and that’s why Motörhead were so important, but thanks to the modern world wanting to screw everyone over, we lost Lemmy and so many others, and 2016 felt that death hard (seriously, Justin Bieber is considered a legitimate artist today, JUSTIN BIEBER!).  But in the hope that we get more bands that rock hard in 2017, I will say that this album is not just a true rock classic, but it’s required listening for those who are passionate about rocking out.

Also, I wish everyone a shining, Happy New Year!

RIP Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister (1945-2015).  You were, and always will be, the true King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Final Rating: 10/10 (Not just heavy metal, but pure rock ‘n’ roll; a definite must-own if you’re a fan of raw, no-BS music).

Next time on Let Them Eat Metal: Balls to the Wall by Accept

Until next time, this is the Rock Otaku.  Live Loud, Play Hard, and Eat Metal.

All used references are done under the rules of fair use and are owned by their original creators.

Also dedicated to Carrie Fisher (1956-2016).  May The Force Be With You.

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