Released: 2008, Motley Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In 2008, it seems odd that people are excited about the release of a new Mötley Crüe album. Maybe it’s because this is the first album of new material featuring the original lineup since the horrendous GENERATION SWINE eleven years ago. Maybe it’s because Nikki Sixx landed himself on the New York Times best-seller list with 2007’s year-in-the-life-of-a-drugged-out-rock-star autobiography, THE HEROIN DIARIES. Or maybe the retro nostalgia factor is still strong enough from the sold-out “Carnival of Sins” and “Route of All Evil” tours that took the band across the globe three years ago. Whatever it is, there is some serious buzz surrounding Mötley Crüe’s new album, SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES.
In truth, there hasn’t been much to get excited about in the Mötley camp surrounding new material since DR. FEELGOOD was released way back in 1991, so expectations are running pretty low but SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES certainly does the band and its fans justice. Acting as the soundtrack for the long-delayed movie based on the band’s 2001 autobiography, THE DIRT, the lyrics tell the tale of the band’s rise to fame, mainstream success and eventual demise following a cloud of lawsuits, inflated egos and changing musical tides. SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES sounds like a Mötley Crüe album, something sorely lacking on GENERATION SWINE, but doesn’t sound dated, either. This is a modern Mötley Crüe but still bearing the gritty essence of the band’s mid-eighties heyday. Slickly-produced and with a sizeable stable of contributing co-writers (why is it that Mötley Crüe, KISS, Aerosmith and Ozzy Osbourne seem unable to write their own material anymore?), SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES sounds like an album that would fit nicely in between GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS and DR. FEELGOOD—big on hooks, lavish production and with plenty of sing-along choruses. In short, this is a welcome return that will please new and old fans and fortunately avoids the sort of embarrassment the last reunion spawned with GENERATION SWINE.
As a possible nod to past album openers “T.N.T. (Terror In Tinseltown)” and “In The Beginning,” “L.A.M.F.” crackles with a foreboding omen of what is about to come. “Face Down In The Dirt” and “Welcome To The Machine” are as pure a Mötley Crüe song as the band has ever done. Mick Mars’ buzzing riffs, Nikki Sixx’s chunky bass, Tommy Lee’s hard-hitting drums and Vince Neil’s high-pitched wail over top of a driving melody—it’s all there. Like “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “Down At The Whiskey” and “Just Another Psycho” are edgy pop songs with killer, hook-filled choruses. The title track finds the band leaning towards it’s heavier, darker side. The gang-style shouted chorus (courtesy of current CrüeFest touring mates Trapt, Buckcherry and Papa Roach…*shudder*) and skuzzy lyrics (“Girl's passed out naked in the back lounge/Everybody's gonna score”) show the band has not forgotten it’s trashy roots. On the lighter side, “The Animal In Me” is a solid quasi-ballad that never sinks to the level of schmaltz of say, “Without You,” but don’t listen to closely to the insipid lyrics that read like bad high school diary entries (“I want to be your last breath/Before you suffocate/A kiss you can't forget /Like a wedding on a rainy day”). “This Ain’t A Love Song” is a bit awkward in its phrasing during the chorus but Mars really sizzles showing that, at age fifty-seven, he can still deliver ripping guitar lines and a smoking solo.
What brings the score down a few notches is the fact that besides Nikki Sixx, there is very little songwriting input from the other three members of the band. Tommy Lee gets a nod on “This Ain’t A Love Song” and Mick Mars has his hand in several others but essentially, all the songs on SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES were penned by Sixx, hit-maker Marti Frederiksen and Sixx’s hired guns from Sixx A.M.. Now, after hearing Methods of Mayhem, maybe it was wise to keep Lee away from the songwriting roundtable and Sixx always was the main songwriter but why not celebrate the return of the “real” Mötley Crüe by actually having members of the band write it? Also, the production is just a little too glossy. It has been well-documented that Vince Neil’s voice is not what it used to be (and it was never spectacular to begin with) but his multi-layered vocals are so obviously rigged in the studio that it makes Ozzy Osbourne’s latest foray, BLACK RAIN, sound like a click-track demo. It will be hard to pull this off live and after witnessing Neil’s solo debacle last fall, I’m even more skeptical.
The big question surrounding SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES is whether Mötley Crüe is still relevant in 2008. With an intense PR blitz and savvy cross-promotion in place, this just might be the Mötley Crüe album to successfully span the generations and separate the band from their peers. Let’s face it, no one wants to see their heroes hitting the casino/state fair circuit with nostalgia acts like Poison or eating crow with washed-up dinosaurs like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Aerosmith still clutching on to any shred of their legacy by pandering to soccer moms in minivans. This is not going to trump Crüe benchmarks like DR. FEELGOOD or SHOUT AT THE DEVIL but at the very least, SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES is good enough that it could very well return Mötley Crüe to the fringes of hard rock royalty.
KILLER KUTS: “Face Down In The Dirt,” “Down At The Whiskey,” “Saints of Los Angeles,” “Welcome To The Machine,” “Just Another Psycho,” “This Ain’t A Love Song”