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Class 6(66)

Motörhead: Motörhead

14/08/09  ||  Habakuk

Introduction:

Motörhead is a genus of plants belonging to the family Orchidaceae. This genus is named for Richard Motör, a German botanist who explored British Guyana during the 1800s. Species in this genus are either ephiphytic or lithophytic in their growth habit. According to the Royal Horticultural Society, Mot. is the official abbreviation for this genus.

What do you want to hear? They are Motörhead. They play Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Songwriting:

6. This is still a straight-forward rock album without any heavy metal hints like on the direct follow-up, “Overkill” – or the albums recorded in the current line-up, for that matter. The fastest song is the opener/title-track, and that one’s closer to punk than heavy metal and not exactly a speed freakout. However, the music on here keeps a-rollin’ along with a thick rocking groove to it that at least partly makes up for the lack of intensity in its pace. The 1990 Roadrunner re-release I have (and whose tracks are listed in the info section at the bottom) features the 1980 “Beer drinkers” EP that was recorded during the same sessions anyway, and the songs from that one (tracks 09 – 13) are actually very good and definitely add to the album.

Production:

6. Quite obviously a pretty low-fi production job, even by the standards at the time, but it does the trick. Surprise, it’s bass-heavy! However, everything sounds a bit hollow and subdued. The fact that they were only a three-piece helped getting all instruments aligned correctly though, and all the parts can be made out easily. Personally, I’m not sure whether it’s worth debating the production of a 1977 album much more, so I’ll leave it at that. Deal with it!

Guitars:

6. The guitars have a twangy sound with a tiny bit of crunch, which makes them sound pretty much trademark 70ies to my ears, just a tad heavier maybe. The riffs are in the same vein and “Fast” Eddie is not exactly living up to his nickname by today’s standards. He’s a skilled player though and pulls off a good number of cool, not exactly spectacular, but fitting solos. There’s room for improvement though. For examples please refer to “Bomber”, “Overkill”, “Ace of spades”.

Vocals:

8. I can’t get over the feeling that Lemmy was pretty drunk during the recording sessions. First of all because I can’t get over the feeling that he’s always pretty drunk, and secondly because his words do actually sound kind of slurred at times. He does sounds a bit younger than on the following albums, but he already has his trademark raspy half-singing shout that I probably won’t have to tell you much about, though. Consequently, he can be as drunk as he wants for all I care, it sounds pretty ace. Except for that strange reverb-effect on “White line fever”. You just don’t use effects with Lemmy’s voice.

Drums:

6. The drums sound rather thin (1977, mind you), but Phil Taylor is cool to listen to nevertheless. Obviously there’s no surgical precision to expect, instead we get energetic, fill-laden, hi-hat-openin’-and-closin’ Rock ‘n roll fun that’s backing up the music well, but in the end not doing much more.

Bass:

9. Lemmy’s bass sound has always been the shit, on their first as well as on all the other albums. It’s placed very prominent in the overall sound, is well-played and closer to the guitar licks than on some later outputs where Lemmy basically plays backing chords plus some herbs and spices. As the songs are a bit slower on here, he gets much more space to stray away from the basics, so there are a lot of little bass lines and fills that add a great load of details to the overall listening experience. There are even sequences where the bass takes the lead with backing chords by the guitar, and thanks to its wickedly distorted sound, these parts don’t sound weak at all but succeed at filling the gap to the fullest. Actually the bass outshines the guitar when both are playing the same riff at times and it’s responsible for any proto-heaviness that’s to be found.

Lyrics:

7. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll and combinations thereof. Half of the lyrics describe various drug experiences, a couple more deal with drugged-out sex experiences, we have a biker song, semi-anarchist punk songs and some hilariously sleazy stuff like “Vibrator” that doesn’t need any explanation. Lemmy makes even that work though, because he obviously already knew some fine playin’ with words back in ’77.

Fourth day, five day marathon,
We’re moving like a parallelogram,
Don’t move, I’ll shut the door and kill the lights,
I guess I’ll see you all on the ice,
I should be tired,
And all I am is wired,
Ain’t felt this good for an hour,
Motörhead, remember me now, Motörhead alright

When reading through some of this from today’s perspective, it’s a miracle these guys are still alive.

Cover art:

10. Snaggletooth in inverted colors on black background. There is a reason why almost all Motörhead covers are based on this image: It’s perfect. The t-shirt with that logo has even made it into the shelves at H&M not too long ago, so I guess it’s safe to say this is an iconic part of modern music culture, used and abused for over 30 years and still awesome. Kind of fitting, after all.

Logo:

8. I like the rounded shape and the font looks good, but the one they got afterwards is better.

Booklet:

6. Roadrunner’s re-release booklet is mainly pretty cool liner notes about the early days of the band, including that “If Motörhead moved in next door to you, your lawn would probably die” line that I probably don’t remember correctly.
Same goes for the definite answer to the question whether that booklet actually has the lyrics. I believe not.

Overall and ending rant

Quite obviously this has not much in common with today’s Motörhead, and there was still a lot more to come. No, really. At the time this album was recorded, they were dubbed “Worst band in the world” and if the lyrics only partly reflect the states they were in most of the time, that is actually understandable. The album itself doesn’t justify that name though, and although it doesn’t exactly sound modern, heavy or extreme, it’s still an enjoyable listen. None of the songs on here are anything I’d personally go crazy about – sorry, but this was re-released when I was four… – however I can appreciate they do have a lot of charm, and the fact alone that this is where a band that still kicks ass 32 years later started from makes this a more than worthy entry in Class6(66) and a great listen for anyone remotely interested in the band and its history.

6,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1977
  • Label: Chiswick
  • Website: www.imotorhead.com
  • Band
  • Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister: vocals, bass
  • Eddie Clarke: guitars
  • Phil Taylor: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Motörhead
  • 02. Vibrator
  • 03. Lost Johnny
  • 04. Iron horse/Born to lose
  • 05. White line fever
  • 06. Keep us on the road
  • 07. The watcher
  • 08. The train kept a-rollin’
  • 09. City kids
  • 10. Beer drinkers and hell raisers
  • 11. On parole
  • 12. Instro
  • 13. I’m your witch doctor