Motorhead – Aftershock

Image

ImageImageImageImage(out of 5)

If you’ve “liked” the official Motorhead fan site on facebook, then you’re probably aware of the amount of fierceness with which the Motorhead p.r. team is pushing the group’s latest effort, Aftershock; everything from status updates asking about your favorite album tracks to adorable pictures of cats posing with a copy of the album.  It’s been at least three years since the group’s last album, The World Is Yours and that is because Lemmy’s heavy drinking/poor diet lifestyle finally caught up with him and he was forced to take some time off in order to address his various health issues.  In fact, according to Lemmy, even during the making of Aftershock, he wanted to get through sessions quickly to go home and rest.

But here we are with the new Motorhead album and best since, I dunno, Kiss of Death?  If you think I’m being facetious, you’ve got another thing coming because I think later period Motorhead albums – Overnight Sensation, Snake Bite Love, We Are Motorhead, Hammered, Inferno and Kiss of Death – from the current and longest lasting lineup of Lemmy (bass, vocals), Phil Campbell (guitar) and Mickey Dee (drums) are just as strong as officially recognized classics like Overkill, Ace of Spades or Orgasmatron.  However it was the group’s previous two albums, Motorizer and The World Is Yours that left me feeling a little cold.  Maybe a few of the riffs were a little dull and trite?  I can’t say for sure except that “Rock Out” is still a gnarly tune.

Anyway my point is that Aftershock, though not quite as strong as the best Motorhead have done, is still quite the wicked collection of raging rock tuneage.  Plus there are 14 songs on it!  That’s more than the group have ever put on an album (not counting bonus tracks which led a different blogger to erroneously claim that Ace of Spades has 15 songs on it when it actually only has 12)!

Well yeah, it sounds like a Motorhead album.  You’re not going to hear anything you haven’t heard on previous Motorhead albums but you’re going to like what you hear.  The group has put the effort into some really great, dirty, simple, heavy and effective rock ‘n’ roll to back up Lemmy’s patented hoarse shouting.  Campbell really pulls out some neat riffs on Aftershock.  In fact it’s pretty commendable that he manages to play such killer, original riffs while sticking to a few heavy, basic chords; I’m surprised Campbell isn’t recognized more as one of the most enduring guitarists in heavy rock.  After all, he’s been in the band since 1983, second longest only to Lemmy!

Does the album have its clunkers?  Sure.  “Silence When You Speak to Me” sounds like “Man in the Box” and drags a bit and the mid-tempo, good-time, AC/DC-style rocker “Keep Your Powder Dry” isn’t the most inspiring song; although it has a strong bridge and guitar solo so it’s not a total loss.  The other mid-tempo, good time rocker “Crying Shame” is a hoot though and sorta reminds me of “Love for Sale” from Snake Bite Love.

But one thing is for sure.  There are more fast, “Overkill”/”Ace of Spades”/”Iron Fist”-style speed rockers than on either of the two previous records.  “End of Time”, “Going to Mexico”, “Queen of the Damned” and “Paralyzed” all tear it up.  Upper, mid-tempo, headbangers “Heartbreaker”, “Coup de Grace”, “Death Machine” and “Knife” are no slouches either.  And there a couple of slow jams in the form of “Lost Woman Blues” and “Dust and Glass” to vary things up a bit as well.

So, what else is there to say about a Motorhead album?  I could talk about the lyrics on a few songs here… lessee… “Coup de Grace” and “End of Time” both tell you how much the world around you sucks whether it be because of media lies, oppressive politics or religion.  “Do You Believe” is an uplifting tune about the power of rock ‘n’ roll.  And some others deal with women, death and violence.  There are also a couple of F-bombs on the album because what good rock ‘n’ roll album is entirely profanity-free, huh?  It’s great to have them back and to know Lemmy is doing well; though I hear he works out now.

Pink Fairies

Image
special introductory paragraph
Never Never Land
Mandies and Mescaline Round at Uncle Harry’s
What a Bunch of Sweeties
Kings of Oblivion
Live at the Roundhouse 1975
Previously Unreleased EP
Kill ’em and Eat ’em
Pleasure Island
No Picture

The Pink Fairies were an offshoot of the Deviants and emerged from the same bohemian/anarchist Ladbroke Grove scene from which Hawkwind, the Edgar Broughton Band and a whole bunch of other “anti-establishment” rock bands came from.  I used ironic quotes because, for all the press the Pink Fairies received for being anarchists, they sure as hell didn’t sing about this topic or even use social satire like the Deviants did.  I’m aware they set up free gigs and were considered a band of the people but, when your most popular song is about a certain male organ, it’s hard to really think of them sticking it to the man. But I like ’em though and isn’t that what counts?

Never Never Land – Polydor – 1971

never never land

The original lineup for the Fairies consisted of former Deviants members Paul Rudolph (guitar/vocals), Duncan Sanderson (bass) and Russell Hunter (drums) along with former Pretty Things drummer John “Twink” Alder as a second drummer, I guess.  I never quite understood that.  His presence isn’t really felt and it doesn’t really seem to matter but, he’s there and that’s that.

So the biggest thing that got me interested in the Pink Fairies is their direct connection to Hawkwind and Motorhead.  But they certainly sound nothing like the former and only vaguely like the latter.  For better or worse, they’re just a solid rock band.  Or if you like parallels, they’re the MC5 to Hawkwind’s Stooges.  If the Stooges were the innovative, weird ones, then the MC5 just played really good rock ‘n’ roll.  But, since when was making solid rock music a crime?

And the first Pink Fairies album is loaded with solid rock tunes.  The primary styles seem to alternate between crunchy Slade and Mott the Hoople style hard rock and Floyd-style laziness.  Rudolph shows off his various tricks; dirty, distorted guitar riffs, normal, non-distorted riffs, phased psychedelic solos and pretty acoustic melodies.  What among those do you think is my favorite approach?  The ace rockers are “Do It”, “Say You Love Me”, “Teenage Rebel” and “The — HEY, WAIT A MINUTE!!!  “The Snake” isn’t on the album?!  What, arrgggglll!!!!

Incidentally, these are the lyrics to “The Snake”, the greatest Pink Fairies song and one of the greatest rock tunes ever, a locomotive of pre-punk, aggressive riffing and fast drumming!  It was later covered by Tank!!!

I’m gonna tell you baby, don’t try to hide, don’t try to hide
That snake just wants to come inside
Here comes the snaaaaaaake!!

Viva la revolution!!!

I like this album; it’s got some great songs on it.  “Teenage Rebel” is a real headbanging song about being an outcast baby!  A rebel!  You don’t want to run into this guy in the streets!  He’ll rough you up with this angry long hair and motorcycle jacket!

Although I don’t know why this tough, angry rock band would want to put “War Girl” and “Never Never Land” back to back considering how these songs are so laid back.  That’s no way to keep the speed snorting long hairs from falling asleep, is it?  Both are good songs but they just seem to slow down the momentum.  Also “Never Never Land” sounds more like a Deviants than a Pink Fairies song.

I should mention somewhere that “Track One, Side Two” is accompanied by piano, “War Girl” has some bongos on it and “Uncle Harry’s Last Freak Out” crams a bunch of riffs and solos together for 11 straight minutes and sounds as though someone forgot to fade song earlier.

What a Bunch of Sweeties – Polydor – 1972

Pink-Fairies-What-a-Bunch-of-Sweeties

Well Twink is gone.

The album starts with a joke about the Pink Fairies playing on URANUS!!! Hahahahahha!!!

Of the the group’s three studio albums, What a Bunch of Sweeties is my least favorite.  It still has some decent material but some of these songs are either too long, not that great or just consist of goofing around.  For instance opening track “Right On, Fight On” is a solid piece of early 70s fist pumping, major chord rock but does it need to be eight minutes long?  Then the very next song “Portobello Shuffle”, although not a bad song, is just 12 bar boogie rock, no different from ZZ Top or AC/DC’s cover of “School Days.”  Listen to all three back to back and tell me differently!

Okay, now “Marilyn” is what I’m talkin’ ’bout!  That’s the kind of song I want to hear; a dirty, mean, hard rockin’ tune with angry, hoarse singing and crunchy guitar riffs!

Oh god, the next song is a novelty country tune called “The Pigs of Uranus”!!!  We’re halfway through the album!!!  Will all you Ladbroke Grove loving anarchists please tell me what you see in this band?!

We’re onto side two.  Now, I know this is a very condescending thing to say but the second best piece of music on this entire album is lifted from the surf guitar classic “Walk Don’t Run.”  The actual song it’s used in is also called “Walk Don’t Run” and is a nine minute epic that has other parts that are okay.  But, would this song be nearly as good without the classic riff played through a dirty fuzz tone?  I don’t think so!  That leaves us with three more songs…

I’m getting tired of this; why are so many songs on this album so long?  “I Went Up, I Went Down” is another eight minute Floyd style song with psychedelic effects on the guitar.  “X-Ray” is okay, I guess… but, what do I see here?  It’s “I Saw Her Standing There”!!!  So there you go, they redeemed an otherwise not so great album with a Beatles cover!

I’ve read tons about these guys being a “proto-punk” band and being all revolutionary and playing free gigs and stuff but I don’t get it.  Are you sure we’re listening to the same band?  I like dumb, early 70s hard rock!  But why is this group placed on a pedestal as something apart from that?  Actually I can guess… but is it right to have a “righteous” reputation just because you know a bunch of cool people?

Kings of Oblivion – Polydor – 1973

Pink-Fairies-Kings-Of-Oblivion

The Larry Wallis album!  Paul Rudolph left, and the band recorded one okayish single with guitarist Mick Wayne(both sides of it are included as bonus tracks on the CD reissue), but he was gone soon after, and the band recruited former UFO guitarist Larry Wallis.  Larry Wallis is one of those underrated, “journeyman” musicians, kinda like Phil Manzanera (not his style, just his reputation), who have their fingerprints on a handful of really freakin’ great, though thoroughly underrated albums in the pantheon of rock.  And whaaat an album!  No acoustic songs, no novelty nonsense, just seven jammin’ hard rock songs, which bounce back and forth from Alice Cooper-style garagey hard rock, proto-punk, longer, jammier tunes and even a couple of sleazy boogie-rock numbers.

The album starts with “City Kids”, the second best Pink Fairies song behind “The Snake.”  It’s so good, in fact, that Wallis would take it with him when he joined Lemmy in Motorhead, and Lemmy liked it so much that, even after Wallis abruptly left Motorhead, they recorded it as the b-side to their “Motorhead” single.  Just a bunch of no good street kids hangin’ ’round; probably cut their long hair and became punks a couple years later.  The only other fast song on Kings of Oblivion is the instrumental “Raceway”, which, according to the liner notes, became an instrumental by accident.

“When’s the Fun Begin?” and “Chromium Plating” are both enjoyable songs with cool, angry riffs and lots of soloing; the latter has a bunch of wicked hammer on solos and endless drum rolls that are super fun to air drum to.  And “I Wish I Was a Girl” might seem a bit long at 10 minutes; but, if I have to hear a bunch of guitar solos, it might as well be from a pro like Wallis.  Is he admitting to being a sissy in the song? “As a streetfighter I don’t make it/ when the trouble starts, I can’t take it/ the site of blood don’t turn me on/when the trouble starts, I’m long gone.”  “Chambermaid” and “Street Urchin” are about a couple of loose women that you wish you knew.

Now what do you think of your revolutionaries?  I’m not kidding though; I’ve struggled to figure out why this group is placed on a counter culture pedestal when their music isn’t all that extraordinary and their lyrics don’t go beyond standard rock topics…

In a couple years Wallis would join Lemmy in an early incarnation of Motorhead and take some of his best songs with him!

Live at the Roundhouse 1975 – Big Beat – 1982

live_roundhouse

This is a live album taken from a Pink Fairies reunion gig that took place on July 13, 1975 at the Roundhouse.  The lineup for the gig is Paul Rudolph, Larry Wallis, Duncan Sanderson, Russell Hunter and Twink.  The album only contains five numbers.  Apparently they performed more but the sound wasn’t good enough on the rest of them.

The only two songs featured on this collection that come from the studio catalog are “City Kids” and “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout.”  The other three are covers of “Lucille”, “Waiting for the Man” and “Going Down.”  Unsurprisingly the recording is bootleg quality and monophonic sounding but all the instruments are audible enough.

As far as the performances go, “City Kids”, while still great, seems a little sluggish.  “Waiting for the Man” is played like a straightforward rock song and needlessly extended to 10 minutes by guitar solos.  “Lucille” and “Going Down” are performed pretty close to their original 12 bar rock ‘n’ roll and blues rock originals, if a bit harder and “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout” is 12 minutes long and filled with more needless guitar solos.  The group seems in good spirits and having fun but that live excitement somehow doesn’t transcend the recorded divide.  Or I just find the endless jamming kind of boring.

It’s probably obvious that I’m not super excited about listening to or talking about this release.  There’s not much else to say about it.

Previously Unreleased EP – Big Beat – 1984

previously_unreleased

Featuring Larry Wallis and Duncan Sanderson with new drummer George Butler, Previously Unreleased wasn’t initially intended to be a Pink Fairies release.  To me it makes no difference since the band playing on this record is 2/3 of the one that played on Kings of Oblivion but I guess Larry Wallis didn’t feel like a Pink Fairy, ya know?

Previously Unreleased contains six brand new tunes and, just like the material that Wallis presented to the original Motorhead, these are basic rock tunes; remember the second Slaughter and the Dogs album Bite Back?  They’re like that.  These are hard rock tunes that lean on pub, glam and even a little bit of punk.

“Can’t Find the Lady” especially fits this punk/pub hybrid with 12 bar rockin’ and rollin’.  And that’s about it!  I honestly can’t think of anything else to say about these songs.  They’re not remarkably distinct but they’re not terrible either.  Wallis plays a mean guitar; he solos but doesn’t solo too much and the songs aren’t too long.
Don’t fret! Reviews for the rest of the catalog coming soon!

Lemmy: the early years

ImageImage

Look, I’m obsessed with the man.  I went to the Rainbow in L.A. in hopes of meeting him.  I became a huge Motorhead fan a long time ago and, when I did, my college friends thought it was some sort of elaborate joke.  They thought I was trying to be funny by buying one of their releases after another.  “I don’t get it, dude.  All their albums sound the same!  And, like they wear leather jackets and bullet belts and like, they sing about rockin’ and rollin’ and like….” you get the idea.  I mean, I get it.  Lemmy isn’t the most eloquent lyric writer and Motorhead albums do all sound the same.  But, thankfully hard rock and hairy motorcycle culture has sort of come full circle as actually kind of cool again – at least in Detroit ;).

But, through it all, I learned that Lemmy is just a really cool guy!  He came of age with rock ‘n’ roll, having learned to play the guitar in 1960, at age 14, when he saw rock ‘n’ roll performers with women pining for them on TV.  He saw John Lennon kick the crap out of hecklers at the Cavern club in 1962!  How cool is that?

He was in the Rainmakers, the Motown Sect, the Rockin’ Vickers, Sam Gopal, Opal Butterfly and finally Hawkwind before he embarked on Motorhead.  He also dealt acid to Jimmy Hendrix.  So how can anyone knock the man?

Yeah, so I try to get all his stuff.  I didn’t review The Headcat because it kinda doesn’t fit the theme of the blog but, so, here we go, Lemmy’s early discography.

The Rockin’ Vickers – The Complete: It’s Alright! – RPM – 1999

Image

The Rockin’ Vickers were together from 1963 to 1967.  The original lineup consisted of Harry Feeney on vocals, Ian Holbrook on guitar, Steven “Mogsy” Morris on bass and Cyril “Ciggy” Shaw on drums.  On the wiki page it lists Nicholas Gibbons as a second guitarist around the time Ian Holbrook was in the band but that’s not in the liner notes so I don’t know what that’s all about.  Ian “Lemmy Kilmister” Willis replaced Ian Holbrook (and apparently Gibbons) on guitar in 1965.  The band only released four singles, most of which, consisted of covers and Lemmy doesn’t even play on the first one.  So, it’s safe to say that, if Lemmy wasn’t on the compilation, The Complete: It’s Alright, I probably wouldn’t have much interest in it.

No, that’s a lie.  It’s old and the group was under Shel Talmy so I guess I would still probably check it out.  But yeah, it is cool seeing Lemmy wearing his old, mod clothes or that silly vicar outfit.  Now, a vicar is a clergyman.  And one could reason the group decided to just pronounce this phonetically.  But, according to the urban dictionary, “vickers” is also slang for “cock” as in, “I showed your mum my vickers”, ohhh boy…

The Complete: It’s Alright contains fourteen tunes, the first eight of which are from the group’s four singles.  The rest are outtakes.  And well, let’s see, these aren’t hard edge mod rock songs like the Who, Creation or Kinks on “You Really Got Me.”  The songs bounce around from energetic 12-bar beat songs – you know “I Saw Her Standing there” – cutesy croony ballads and mid 60s pop/rock.  I lied though, they do “It’s Alright”, a complete rip off of “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” or, an interpolation or something.  And yeah, after the first two songs – Neil Sedaka’s “I Go Ape” and the bouncy “Someone Like You” – the guitar tone gets a bit tougher and more garagey.

I’m kinda confused by this reissue.  It lists “Stay By Me” and “I Don’t Need Your Kind” as credited to “Orbit music.”  Who is “Orbit Music”?  That’s the writer of the song?  As far as the credits say, the only originals on here are the ballad “Stella” and “I Just Stand There”, the former by Nicholas Gibbons and the latter by Cyril Shaw.  Otherwise the songs include  the mod/pop of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart””, the Kinks’ “Dandy”, rock ‘n’ roll standards “Say Mama”and “Shake Rattle and Roll”, really lightweight pop song “What’s the Matter with Jane” and an “in house” Ray Davies number called “Little Rosy.”

Is that Lemmy singing on “Little Rosy” behind that little, cute keyboard thing?  That’s funny!  I mean, I think it’s Lemmy!  It sure doesn’t sound like the other guy who just kinda sings in a normallish, non-distinct style.

In conclusion, I don’t have much to add about this CD.  It’s 32 minutes and has fun catchy tunes but, ultimately I prefer the original “Dandy” anyway.  “Someone Like You” is really fun though.  But otherwise it’s more of novelty and a curiosity than anything else.  Speaking of which…

Sam Gopal – Escalator – Stable – 1969

sam_gopal

Acid.  And so Ian “Lemmy” Willis joined Sam Gopal, a Malaysian tabla percussionist who moved to London in 1962, aware that British pop groups were usurping Indian sounds.  If you must know, the other two guys in the band were Roger D’Elia on guitar and Phil Duke on bass.  The band formed in 1967 after Gopal had formed and disbanded a bunch of other groups who performed on the same stage as all the other psychedelic bands in all the other psychedelic clubs in London.

For those who are unaware, tabla percussion are those hand drums you hear on “Love You To.”  Got it?  Even though the group is named Sam Gopal, guitarist/singer Ian “Lemmy” Willis, as he was credited on the LP, is the actual star based on the fact that he wrote all the original tunes – apparently in a single night.  I don’t know how true that is and, when I look at the CD reissue, the credits actually list all the members on a number of tunes.  I don’t know or care really.  They also cover “Season of the Witch” and “Back Door Man”, which wasn’t on the original but released as a single.  Also “Angry Faces” is credited to Alan Davidson, whoever that is.

The music: Psychedelic!  That’ it!  I mean, the entire thing is one big whirl of acid-trippy nonsense!  It’s a fun record for sure and either Lemmy, Roger D’Elia or both just constantly play wah-wah solos through-out as Lemmy moans the lyrics in his patented hoarse, thick British voice.  I mean, he wrote every song in one evening, so I don’t think the lyrics have any deep meaning at all.  It really is all psychedelic gibberish.  But it’s DARK psychedelic gibberish!  Some titles of interest include “Cold Embrace”, “The Dark Lord”, “The Sky Is Burning”, “You’re Alone Now” and “Angry Faces.”  Songs which don’t have dark titles but are still weird include “Horse”, “Grass”, “Escalator”,”Yesterlove” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  And I guess the title “It’s Only Love” could have come from any band.

Some songs have prettier melodies, some have blues licks, some are more distorted than others and some are a bit louder and wilder but overall, the whole album has a druggy vibe.  And the drums on all but one song are done with tabla so most of the album makes you feel like sitting and just tripping out.  “It’s Only Love”, as mellow as it is, is one of the standouts.  “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the only song that rocks; albeit in a druggy way but still has an actual drum kit propelling the tune.  The acoustic melody in “Yesterlove” sounds exactly like the start of “Stairway to Heaven”; I’m not gonna draw any conclusions from this!  “You’re Alone Now” sounds like the beginnings of both Lemmy’s Hawkwind tune “The Watcher” and Motorhead classic “Stone Dead Forever” both lyrically and musically.  The “Back Door Man” cover is pretty faithful.

But I know what you really want to know!  And the answer is; you gotta hear it!  Sam Gopal strip away all of the prettiness and sublimity from the original “Season of the Witch” and rumble through it with a heavy bass part, unsubtle, basic chords and some broad shrieking the “must be the season of the witch!”  I don’t think I need to describe the difference between the voices of Donovan and Lemmy.

And to conclude this piece, here are some lyrics chosen at random from the Escalator LP:

“Black wings across the sky bring the night fall/ winds wind around the stars, black riders call”

“The sky is burning, red and gold, the clouds are sweeping clean/ my thoughts returning to time when there was only youth”

“Can you see me in the glass/ Can you touch me as a I pass/You’re the one who wanted to be on your own/ and all the faces around you have turned to stone”

“Time goes by and I can see all the things I want to be/when I open wide my eyes, they tell me no lies/and I can feel it, the spring unwinding in my head/and if you think you like me livin’ baby, you’re gonna love me when I’m dead!”

Thank you, goodnight!