Tag Archives: Motorhead

It’s galling to see Lemmy being eulogised by publications that would never have given Motörhead the time of day during their prime. The irony is that Lemmy always represented everything they kept telling us rock’n'roll was supposed to be about.

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RIP Lemmy

Lemmy has left us, just days after his 70th birthday.

He was an outlaw figure whose raw and dirty rock’n'roll occasionally irrupted into the safe world of top 40 pop and scared the life out of Top of the Pops presenters. But by the end he’d become a national treasure, revered even by those who hated his music during his prime.

There was nobody else quite like him.

Although ill-health meant he was a diminished figure on stage in his final years, he could still cut it in the studio right up to the end, as the barnstorming final Motörhead album “Bad Magic” was to prove.

Though he was best known for Motörhead, his stint with Hawkwind in the 1970s shouldn’t be forgotten. He sang lead on their big hit “Silver Machine”, of course, as well as writing “Motorhead”, “Lost Johnny” and “The Watcher”, which he would later re-record with Motörhead. But it was his distinctive and unique bass playing where he really made his mark. Listen to “Lord of Light” from the definitive live album “Space Ritual” for example; when Hawkwind toured five years ago it took two bass players to do that song justice live. Or the combination of his bass riff and Simon House’ Mellotron opening “Assault and Battery” on his last album with the band, “Warrior at the Edge of Time”.

Lemmy was the embodiment of the spirit of rock’n'roll. If he was an In Nomine character, he would have been word-bound, and there are no prizes for guessing the word. He didn’t just play rock’n'roll, he lived it.

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2015 Albums of the Year – Part Two

We continue the album rundown with the countdown down to Eleven, setting things up for the Top Ten.

Eleven is a very metal number….

Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic

Beyond the Buried and Me Coma EclipticA quite remarkable record that sounds like all the best bits of contemporary metal and progressive rock from the last decade put into a blender. It’s hugely varied with musical references all over the place, yet it still hangs together as a coherent whole. There is an awful lot happening on this record, and it does take a few listens to take it all in. Songs take off in unpredictable directions, and there is more than one number that feels as though it contains a whole concept album’s worth of music in seven or eight minutes.

Dave Gilmour – Rattle That Lock

Rattle That LockThis highly polished singer-songwriter album is perhaps more satisfying that Pink Floyd’s coda “The Endless River”. Though it does tend towards the middle of the road in places, Gilmour’s immediately recognisable lead guitar lights up every song and sets this record apart. While it doesn’t reach the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd’s heyday. it’s still as much about the gorgeous orchestrated arrangements as it is about the songs.

Gloryhammer – Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards

Rise of the Chaos WizardsDundee’s finest power-metallers return with the follow-up to “Tales from the Kingdom of Fife” in which the hero Angus McFife takes the battle with the evil sorcerer Zargothrax to outer space, where he encounters The Goblin King of the Darkthrone Galaxy, and with the aid of the legendary Astral Hammer and The Hollywood Hootsman defeats the sorcerer in epic battle. Unfortunately Earth and all its inhabitants were destroyed in the process, but nobody noticed because Chaos Magic. But that’s power metal for you…

Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

Iron Maiden Book of SoulsThe metal veterans and British institution continue a strong recent run of albums with one of the most ambitious things they’ve ever done, a double album that might just be their best record they’ve made since their 1980s heyday. They’ve managed a double album without filler, covering all bases from galloping rockers to ambitious epics. It culminates with “Empire of the Clouds”, an eighteen-minute tour-de-force which combines Bruce Dickenson’s loves of history and aviation, telling the story of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R101 airship.

Motörhead – Bad Magic

Motorhead Bad MagicLemmy’s increasingly frail health means Motörhead aren’t the live force they once were, but in the studio it’s another matter. Lemmy has still got it, and accompanied by Mikky Dee and the underrated Phil Campbell, they rock like a bastard, with songs that barrel along like a runaway train. On record at least, with what might prove to be their final album, Motorhead are still the epitome of the primal spirit of Rock’n'Roll, Britain’s equivalent to The Ramones.

Napalm Death – Apex Predator: Easy Meat

Apex Predator - Easy MeatNapalm Death are very angry. It’s hard to make out the words, so it’s not always obvious exactly what they’re angry about, but they’re very, very angry. They combine the visceral fury of punk with the precision of metal, to produce an album that tears out of the speakers and nails you to the wall. Napalm Death show absolutely no signs of mellowing in their old age, and they’ve made a record that’s utterly uncompromising.

Steve Hackett – Wolflight

Steve Hackett - WolflightThe former Genesis guitarist has gained a high profile with his Genesis revival show of late, but he’s also hit a late career purple patch with a string of excellent albums, of which this might be one of the finest. It’s a huge symphonic-sounding work, dominated by his distinctive liquid guitar playing and gorgeous harmony vocals. Just ignore the cover art with the embarrassed wolves and focus on the music.

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RIP Phil Taylor

Sad news to hear of the death of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor of the orginal classic lineup of Motörhead.

Motörhead are Britain’s equivalent to The Ramones; the stripped-down distilled essence of the spirit of rock’n'roll. They were always more than just their iconic frontman, Lemmy. Phil Taylor’s drumming was a vital part of their sound. Just listen to his playing on “Overkill”, perhaps his finest moment; his drumming can only be described as a force of nature.

Now we’re in an age where too many metal bands allegedly use programming for drum parts so impossibly fast no human can physically play them, Phil Taylor shows what a flesh-and-blood drummer could do.  In the late 1970s he was way ahead of his time, a huge influence on the next generation of metal than would come along a decade later with thrash.

Phil Taylor was a legend. And there aren’t many musicians you can honestly say that of.

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Even the Gods are Mortal

Sad news. A week afrer Motörhead had to abandon a gig four songs into the set at Salt Lake City due to Lemmy feeling unwell, the same thing happens a week later in Austin Texas.

As reported in NOISEY.

Lemmy walked offstage mid-song; a fan-filmed video caught him saying it— ”I can’t do it”—before he shuffles off, slowly, painfully, with the help of the cane he’s recently started using. The crowd, stunned, quickly regained its composure and began cheering—not heckling, cheering—for him. A chant rippled through the venue—”We love you! We love you!”—in a display of solidarity and communal support that could bring even the most hardened metal veteran to tears. After a few moments, the 69-year-old frontman reappeared, and grabbed the mic. ”I would love to play for you, but I can’t. Please accept my apologies. Next time, alright?”

And of course they accepted. A friend who was there told me that the crowd was sad—he mentioned seing fans weeping afterwards—but “very understanding,” and I’m not surprised. No Motörhead fan—or metal fan in general—could have stood there and watched the great man falter like that, and then reacted any other way.

Lemmy is the embodiment of the spirif of rock’n'roll. If he was an In Nomine character, he’s be word-bound, and I’ll leave you to decide if he’s angel, demon or something else. But in the real world, even gods are mortal.

After releasing such a blistering new album, it’s sad so see Lemmy’s increasingly frail health catch up with him, and it’s time to hang up his Rickenbacker.  As the linked article says, it’s killing us to watch him die.

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Motörhead – Bad Magic

Motorhead Bad MagicMotörhead are a British institution. Their name and logo have become so iconic that high street department stores sell their t-shirts to people who probably can’t name a single song with the possible exception of “Ace of Spades”. But after Lemmy’s recent health issues saw a tour cancelled not once but twice, and one or two lacklustre recent festival appearances, there have been doubts as to whether Lemmy is quite as indestructible as we thought, or that they are still the primal force they once were.

So, with their 22nd album “Bad Magic”, have the legends still got it after all?

“Victory or Die!”, growls Lemmy as they launch into the raw and dirty rock’n'roll of the opening number. “Thunder & Lightning” barrels along like a runaway train, then comes the driving guitar-driven hard rock boogie of “Firestorm Hotel”. Those first three numbers set the pace for the whole record. It’s true that Lemmy’s voice isn’t quite as powerful as it was in their 80s heyday, but the Motörhead still rock like a bastard even after all these years.

Other great moments include “The Devil”, with a suitably demonic guitar riff, and “Choking On Your Screams”, which falls on the metal side of the metal/hard rock divide with a particularly menacing vocal. The one change of pace is the slow blues “Til The End” where Lemmy drops his traditional gargling-with-broken-glass style and sings with a fragile, cracked vocal. The album ends with a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for The Devil” which doesn’t quite convince, but aside from that, Bad Magic is a remarkably consistent record. Phil Campbell is economical but effective with lead guitar work, and Mikky Dee makes his mark on drums, especially his fusillade opening “Shoot Out All The Lights” and on the Maiden-like “Evil Eye”.

You can argue all night about what genre Motörhead belong to. Lemmy has always denied they’re a metal band, but they’ve been considered honourable members of the metal tribe right from the start. There’s an awful lot of the attitude and fury of punk about them too, of course, but listening to this record you can hear deep roots in the rock’n'roll of the fifties and sixties that Lemmy grew up on. They, as much as anyone else, embody the primal spirit of rock’n'roll, turned up to Eleven. Motörhead are still here, and they’ve still got it. Rock and roll will never die.

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Not So Alternative Comedy

In a Guardian comment thread that was actually far more entertaining than the nasty mean-spirited blog post it was attached to, somebody linked to this joke from Alexei Sayle:

I was at a Motorhead gig when after an 8 hour number entitled ‘I’ve got a dick the size of a Ford Cortina, someone called out “sexist shite” and they thought it was request …

If you laughed at that, it’s very likely that you know little or nothing about Mötorhead or their music.

Alexei Sayle could be a very entertaining comic actor, but I never rated his act as a stand-up comic in the early days of his career. He presented himself as an “alternative comedian”, eschewing the sexism and racism that was a staple of so much second-rate comedy of the 70s.

But his act was actually nowhere near as radical or as funny as he liked to think it was, and tended to be laced with a lot of smug self-rightousness. The example above showed, just like the racist Bernard Manning, he was willing to get cheap laughs by punching at his audiences’ designated out-groups without needing to put in any effort to be genuinely funny.

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The idea that Britain will never win the Eurovision Song Contest because of politics and regional block voting remains an untested hypothesis as long as the out-of-touch dullards of BBC Light Entertainment continue to choose half-arsed entries that anyone who cares about music is deeply embarrassed by. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. The British entry needs to be Mötorhead.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 4 Comments

Time to bring back Top of the Pops?

On The Guardian website Miranda Sawyer campaigns for a return of Top of the Pops. Unfortunately she spoils a good argument with the mistaken opinion that The Mercury Music Prize represents the sole valid alternative to Simon Cowell’s X-Factor, and they are the only two games in town.

I’m not sure if the Top of the Pops format will work today, but we desperately need something to reverse the situation in the past decade whereby the general music-buying population is more or less completely cut out of the loop in determining which records and artists become successful.

With records played to death on the radio before they’re even released, we’ve reached the point where everything mainstream audiences get to hear is decided in advance by a very small number of elite tastemakers from the record companies and the media. The Mercury Music prize gives every appearance of being run by this same clique.

What was great about TOTP was the way it used a strict formula based on chart position to decide who appeared on it – nobody got vetoed because a clique of cloth-eared idiots from BBC light entertainment thought they didn’t fit the show’s format. If enough fans went out and bought the record, they got on. So we had Mötorhead on prime-time TV playing “Ace of Spades”, something which would be unthinkable now.

What’s very notable is the way the BBC marginalises genres like metal, jazz, blues or folk, despite their popularity up and down the country, in favour of various flavours of ‘indie’, which is all they think exists as an alternative to X-Factor pop. Yes, they might do the odd BBC3 documentary, but they tend to be very nostalgia-orientated, and don’t feature up and coming acts. Look at their festival coverage. For example, there was an eclectic mix of artists at Glastonbury this year, but you’d never have known it from the bands shown on TV.

Maybe genres have become so fragmented in today’s net-connected multi channel world that a crossover hit like “Ace of Spades” simply isn’t possible any more. But surely the best music of all genres deserves better than being trapped in separate musical ghettos?

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