This last couple of weeks has seen two legends leave this mortal coil; in this blog I am looking at the 1993 release from Motörhead in tribute to the passing of Ian Fraser Kilmister, who was better known as Lemmy. It is sad that he is gone, but he had not been well for a long time and their last album 'Bad Magic' was one of their best in a long time. I watched the memorial service live over the weekend (the hangover was huge - worth it) and listening to all those tributes and stories showed me what I already knew - the man was just a rocker who was loved by his friends and fans (famous or not) with a passion that was beautiful to see. I have picked this album to review as it is not one of their alleged "hit" albums, not that they never gave a shit about that - as long as they could tour and play music, then all that sort of thing could bugger off to hell. This album was released in the height of Grunge when rock was meant to be old hat, it originally came out on ZYX records (back then, I knew it more for dance music than rock music) and it just seemed as if the world was against them. To me that sort of environment made them a dangerous prospect as they were always at their best when their backs were against the wall, at the time it was out I hung out with one guy who would only play classic rock and it has been a while since I listened to this. This album was created during the brief period when Motörhead were still a four piece, when Würzel was still part of the band before they settled on the three piece of Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee. The album was actually meant to be called 'Devils', but when Lemmy saw the cover which artist Joe Petagno has created in response the cover of 'March ör Die' which he called awful. When Lemmy saw the cover, he changed the title on the spot. I love the title; it seems to suit the songs better than the original tile in my mind. So have I picked a difficult album to review or is it a lost gem?
The opening track to this album is called "On Your Feet or On Your Knees" and to my ears it is one of the finest songs that Motörhead ever wrote, I would take this one over the likes of "We Are the Road Crew", "Ace of Spades", "Hellraiser" and maybe even "Overkill" (but that is a close second if the truth be told). It is just a fast pace, peddle to the floor rock anthem that should have been the leap board to further glories, if only the record label had promoted the album outside of their German homeland. This album is worth hunting down just for this anthem the downtrodden taking up arms, getting up and taking back their dignity. This is a standard on any playlist I make, it was a lot of mix tapes I used to create and it never fails to raise a smile on my face; so yeah, I like it a lot. "Burner" continues that good work; it is a frantic song that comes out of the blocks with all guns blazing. You have a speed metal element to the song here, the riff is manic, the drums are on fire and pulsing like you have drank a dozen Red Bull and you can see through time. It improves with each listen and it is a song that will have anyone who has ever started to listen to metal up in arms and swinging their head wildly; it makes me surprised that this song (and by default album) are not classed as modern classics. The third track is called "Death or Glory" and for the most part it is another frantic metal song (it is one of their heavier albums this one), it does not leave you a moments piece on this song and it goes like a freight train on the loose. You know what you are getting as soon as it starts, but my deity it fills this man full of adrenaline and excitement every time I put it one. "I Am the Sword" starts off slower (in a given sense) and takes a while to work its magic if I am honest; the verses are not as strong the previous numbers, the chorus and middle of this song save it from being consigned to the filler pile (each band has them, no matter how much we do not like it) and it is a decent, if unspectacular number.
"Born to Raise Hell" is a rock 'n' roll anthem which was re-recorded with Ice-T & Whitfield Crane later for the film Airheads where Lemmy had a cameo where he stated he was the editor of his school's magazine. The song is a relief after the fury of the first four songs and was the second track to be released as a single off this album, it is a brilliant song that is hard to get out of your head after it has been played; this is a song that showcases all sides to Motörhead in my mind - the rock, the metal and the boggie that influenced Lemmy and Co are all to see on this song; another song that should have received more praise. "Don't Let Daddy Kiss Me" was the first song to be released as a single off this album, it is a song which deals with the horrible subject of child abuse and it is not an easy song to listen to. It is a slow acoustic song (with a loud ending that is just as dark) that does not pull any punches and it is harrowing to hear; the song itself was offered to Lita Ford & Joan Jett as Lemmy thought it would sound better sung by a lady, but they both turned it down. It is not a song I would listen to due to the subject matter, but it is not meant to be an easy listen and it is performed very well. "Bad Woman" is the seventh song of the album and the band change the mood after such a loaded subject with a song that combined the hard and heavy rock elements of the band and it is your standard rock song about a woman who is wrong for the man. It is performed well, at this point Motörhead were not have a bad day but I can safely put this song in the filler pile – it is alright, but after such a deep subject on the last song it is probably best they used a filler afterwards just to make people feel more at ease. “Liar” is next and it is a song which places Lemmy’s view on religion firmly on the map – let’s just say he is not a fan. It is a slower number, very moody and full of anger towards those who he saw preaching a falsehood that he did not agree with. If this point of view is right or wrong is not for me to discuss either way, but the song is one of the best on the album just for the music. It is a stomping tune, the venom in the mix gives it an edge above a lot of the album and the slower pace gives it a distinction from the rest of the album.
“Lost in the Ozone” is another slow number which talks about being lost in the world and feeling alone, it is not a song about the environment at all and it actually works really. It is not a song which is wasted in self-pity, it is getting on with it and spitting in the eye of the world. It is a great song, but I have a feeling that Lemmy might have wrote it with someone else in mind once again – either way I like it a lot. “I’m Your Man” is a bruiser, it is defiant and makes no bones about being a song that shows the protagonist is the main man, head honcho, numero uno, the big cheese, etc, etc. Much like a lot of the second half of this album, it is a slower song compared to the first half of the album; but it is still a heavy number with a killer solo. Once more I have heard other songs by Motörhead which I prefer, but for what it is then it does its job incredible well. The penultimate song of the main section of the album is called “We Bring the Shake” is a song that I have always had a soft spot for to be honest, it feels like it has section that remind me of Hawkwind and that is always something that I loved from the first moment I heard it. It is just a simple rock song about standing up for what you are – what is there not to love here? It might not be their best ever, but it is just a brilliant Motörhead tune and that is the end of that one. The album proper ends with the proposed title track of the album “Devils” and this is a really strong song to end the album on; you have a slow riff that sounds like it is being played by Lucifer and his friends, the drums that sound like thunder, Lemmy sounding as if he is singing for his soul not be taking by the man in red tights and the lyrics are inspired. It is one of those songs which brings everything together in just right, the solo is one of the best of the album, the band sound spot on and I can see why the title was considered for the album title – shame it was on the same album as “On Your Feet or On Your Knees”. After this there is a bonus cover song of the Rolling Stones classic “Jumping Jack Flash”; it is a straight forward cover and does its job well.
I still think this is the best album that Motörhead ever released; I know that is not a statement that many will agree with and I am comfortable with that, but it is at the very least a lost classic. Released when the world was against them, badly promoted by their label and often overlooked by people. However, I do think it is gaining some momentum amongst the faithful, it was once placed 4th in a list of the best album by Motörhead on Ultimate Classic Rock. For me, it will always be the rock album that I listen to the most when I was an alternative kid and is still one of the best album from Lemmy & Co. Motörhead might be no more, but their music with live on – Rest In Peace Lemmy, from all of us here.
9 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost
Top song – On Your Feet or On Your Knees
You can purchase Bastards on Amazon here
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At the time of writing, this album is not on any streaming sites; but get your finger out and purchase it!!!