Not to alarm anyone…from what I understand, Lemmy Kilmister is doing fine…but I think we need to start considering that there will be a point when Motorhead is no longer with us. I mention this because it’s so easy to take institutions like Motorhead for granted when they’re still around, touring every year, and making albums that go largely unnoticed because, well, because they sound just like virtually every album in their catalog.
You did this with the Ramones. Admit it. And it wasn’t until they called it a day until you realized “Holy fuck! The Ramones aren’t around anymore!” Then three-quarters of them died and you felt bad that you took it all for granted. You had all of those opportunities to see them live, but you squandered them.
Don’t let that happen with Motorhead. Go see them before it’s too late. Christ, they’re probably playing at some dive right now down the street while you’re dicking around on the internet.
Like The Ramones, Motorhead is a torchbearer of simple rock and roll music, gutted to a point where there’s nothing remarkable about what they do. But because they are so stubborn, ignoring trends and unwelcomed advice, they are vital contributors to today’s hard rock landscape. And there lies the irony of the band’s brilliance: their simplicity and reliability becomes the reason you forget about them. But the moment they’re gone is the moment your guilt manifests.
They’re on album twenty-four now and, yes, it could easily be album two, eight, or fourteen. Motorhead records are now measured by how far they’ve strayed from the original blueprint. Their best are the ones that sound timeless, while the worst are the ones you can pinpoint within a couple of years the date they were recorded. Motorizer is one of the former, an ass-kicking piece of work that’s a testament to their consistency and contribution to rock music. It won’t change the world and it won’t add to their fan base, but Motorizer should reaffirm their supporters that not only is the band still serving their heritage well, they’re serving it in fine fashion.
Lemmy made a point when I last saw them of introducing the other two members of Motorhead (drummer Mikkey Dee and guitarist Phil Campbell) and their length of tenure (1992 and 1983, respectfully). This incarnation is the longest serving membership of any lineup and it shows not only on paper but throughout the performances on Motorizer. Dee is more showy than he needs to be on some tracks (and in concert too) while Campbell traverses a fine line between metallic solos and the more traditional Motorhead chord structures. But taken as a whole, the two do a great job of enabling their sixty-something year old leader to sound as vital as ever.
Punching everything through your speaker cones is Kilmister’s all-midrange bass work and atonal gravel vocals.
Lemmy runs the gamut with his lyrics, from nonsense (“Goin out to sea / Goin’ over land / Get made up / Like the Elephant Man” – “Runaround Man”) to the silly (“Here come the bass / Thunder in the guts / Rock you ’til you can’t stand” – “Rock Out”) to the astutely political (“I’ll tell you why they run to fight and die / Because the people over them are full of shit and lies” – “When The Eagle Screams”). For each topic, Kilmister sounds both credible and unwavering in his attack. There’s no evidence that he’s considering an early retirement and, more importantly, no evidence that it’s needed. Motorizer is an impressive and attention-getting late career album that should serve notice to anyone who’s overlooked the band in recent years. It demonstrates that, not only does Motorhead still “play rock and roll,” they can still play it better than most anyone else.