Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Album Review: Motörhead - Bad Magic
Some bands have the negative reputation of making the same album over and over again. When you think about it, however, it's a remarkably stupid criticism to have. If a band has their own style, and they're good at what they do, why should they change everything about who they are and do something completely different? That kind of radical change may sound 'artistic', but it also is a recipe for disaster, if it isn't something the band themselves desperately want to do. And then there's the fact that there are some bands that are so identifiable by a sound that you wouldn't want them to be anything else. Seriously, who wants Motörhead to be anything but Motörhead ?
Now on album number twenty-two, Motörhead are still playing the same music they were back when they formed. Over the years, little has changed, and honestly, that's for the best. Motörhead is not one of those bands that needs to tackle new territory. They are a pure, dirty rock and roll band, and that never goes out of style.
"Bad Magic" continues the run that the Lemmy/Phil Campbell/Mikkey Dee lineup has been on, establishing them as the best (although not the classic) roster the band has ever had. Since they've been together, they haven't had a misstep, and have occasionally made records that are as vital as "Ace Of Spades", even though they can never get that level of acclaim.
This time out, Motörhead is hitting short and sweet, heavy and hard, with only one of the twelve original tracks exceeding three and a half minutes by more than five seconds. Whereas some of the modern Motörhead records have tried to be heavier, or tried to branch out a bit, "Bad Magic" is raw rock and roll with little concern for anything but coming in with a riff and a chorus. It's a catchier record than the previous one, which may owe much to the fact that Lemmy sounds recovered from his health issues, his vocals stronger, although double-tracked in places.
The opening run of "Victory Or Die", "Thunder & Lightning" and "Fire Storm Hotel" are pure Motörhead , with bluesy swagger, a hint of boogie, and manic rock and roll energy. They're all catchy tracks, and well worth a Motörhead fan's time. It may be only my opinion, but I feel like Lemmy has gotten better at crafting his melodies as he has aged, which gives recent Motörhead records a better anchor for the songs to swing around.
"The Devil" is a song that should be a live favorite, with low-hanging guitars and a chorus that starts and stops in perfect head-banging time. If old Motörhead was all about speed, this is what new Motörhead is all about. And frankly speaking, I like this a whole lot more.
There is the curious case of "Evil Eye", a song I can't figure out. Instead of the usual Motörhead chorus, there's a section where Lemmy's vocal is an echoed growl placed oddly in the mix. It doesn't sound right, and the lyric gets garbled under the effect. It's easily the worst song here. But that is more than made up for by the album's curve-ball, the ballad "Till The End". This song finds the band playing an almost power ballad, with Lemmy stripping the grit from his voice as he sings about mortality. The chorus swells with beautiful aplomb, and it's hard not to think that this is what "Bad Magic" is going to be remembered for. It's one of the best Motörhead tracks in ages.
Going into a Motörhead album, you know what you're going to get. That's both the good thing and the bad thing about it. What you hope for is that the band is going to deliver a set of songs that play to their better tendencies. "Bad Magic" definitely does that. I can't say where it belongs in the hierarchy of their career, but I say it's a better album than their previous one, and it's another example of what Motörhead does best.