MOTLEY CRUE – Saints of Los Angeles (2008 Motley Records, Japan)
Man, if there was one band due for a comeback, it was the Crue. I mean, seriously! They went from the top of their game in 1991, coming off of Feelgood and Decade, only to have their lead singer abruptly leave. Then of course the awesome new album with the new singer flopped, because he wasn’t the old singer. Vince came back, Tommy left, and the band released the mediocre New Tattoo. After a hiatus, Tommy Lee returned again for a big successful reunion tour, and the Crue finally managed to put out an album. Saints of Los Angeles was better than expected, and did hearken back to the good old days.
You hear that a lot; “hearkens back to the old days”. Aside from the overly glossy production, this album sounds like the natural followup to Dr. Feelgood and “Primal Scream”. Of course, it was contrived that way. Nikki talks about this being a concept album following the the storyline of their book The Dirt, but really that is just an excuse to revisit the old (successful) Motley sound. Sure, why not? I’ll buy that.
Despite all odds, this album does succeed. From the opener “LA.M.F.” (which is an obvious homage to “In The Beginning” from the Shout album and “T.N.T.” from Feelgood) to the final track “Going Out Swinging”, there’s hardly any filler here. Just about every song kicks. No ballads, unless you want to count “The Animal In Me” (which I don’t). Hey, and think of it: Sharp fans will recall that Feelgood itself was originally conceived as a concept album with no ballads. Interesting.*
Guitar riffs are kicking, Vince is singing as good as you could hope, and all the songs shine. There’s even the odd female backing vocal, recalling the Nasty Habits. Only the production drags this down to a lower level, I simply find it too processed and glossy. Bob Rock would have added more thud, but that’s just my opinion. Song wise, winners include the title track and first single. Other highlights are the glam “Down At The Whiskey”, “Face Down In The Dirt” (see, The Dirt is in the title!), the swaggering “What’s It Gonna Take”, and the chugging “Just Another Psycho”. Those would be my favourites on an album of consistent song quality. All but “Welcome To The Machine”, which sounds like a transparent ripoff of Ace Frehley’s “Shot Full Of Rock”. I can’t believe I seem to be the only one pointing this out.
I was disappointed by one thing: look at those writing credits. Mick Mars has just one co-write, ditto Tommy Lee. Vince Neil: No writing credits at all. Instead, the album was mostly written by Nikki and his Sixx AM cohorts James Michael and DJ Ashba along with hired songsmith Marti Frederiksen. So, is this a Crue album or another Nikki Sixx solo album featuring Motley Crue? You decide. It sounds like Motley, but c’mon. Both Mick and Tommy were cornerstones of this band’s songwriting. It feels like Nikki just got his buds to write like Mick and Tommy.
There’s one item I’d still like to get, related to this album. I want to track down the CD single for “Saints of Los Angeles”, which lacks the CrueFest nobodies’ “gang vocal”. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that a bunch of nobodies from Trapt or Papa Roach need to be on a Crue album. So I’d like to hear that one.
Other than these minor complaints, Saints wins. When you’re listening you’ll forget who wrote the songs, and you’ll just dig the fact that Tommy is back on drums and Mick is playing better than ever. God bless Mick Mars — that man is a rock and roll machine. He is the MVP on Saints of Los Angeles.
OH! And the Japanese bonus tracks, let’s not forget those. The liner notes tell us nothing about where or when they were recorded, but they are obviously more recent. “Kickstart My Heart” is the first, and Vince Neil sings with that annoying habit of singing every other word. He lets the audience take lines when he can’t. “Saints” slams, though.
4/5 stars. Crue fans will love it.
*It’s true. According to a 1989 Hit Parader interview, not only were the band considering a concept album, but Nikki Sixx stated that he wanted Feelgood to be all hard rock, no ballads. The ballads they had collected such as “Rodeo” and the newer “Without You” were to be included on a second new album to be released in 1990 called Motley Crue: The Ballads. Bob Rock reportedly talked them out of the “no ballads” concept. Then the concept was recycled for what would become Motley Crue (1994). Before Vince bailed/was fired, Nikki said there were to be no ballads on the next Crue album.