generation swine

#611: Afraid

GETTING MORE TALE #611: Afraid

1989: A clean and sober Motley Crue take over the world. Dr. Feelgood climbs to #1 and the band rivals Bon Jovi and Def Leppard in the popularity stakes.

1990: Motley continue to tour and rock them all, while announcing their next album will be a “greatest hits”.

1991: Decade of Decadence is released, keeping Motley on the charts. The new single “Primal Scream” is well received.

1992: In a shock announcement, Vince Neil is fired from the band. Unfortunately Motley are not the only rock band to lose their singer at the beginning of the 90s.

1993:  Vince Neil’s solo debut Exposed is greeted by warm reviews.  Motley continue to toil in the studio with new singer John Corabi.

1994: Five years after Dr. Feelgood, the re-imagined Motley finally return with the self-titled Motley Crue.  Corabi blows ’em away, but the album fails to sell. Motley is forced to do a scaled down tour while the CD dropped off the charts.

This was the state of the Crue in the mid 90s.  They had released an incredible album.  Today, many fans rate it in the top three, or even at the #1 spot.   My near-legendary Record Store cohort T-Rev agrees.  “To me, they sounded more like a hard rock band than a hair metal band, because of that album.”

Absolutely true.  They stepped far beyond the preconceived notions of Motley Crue.  Guitars were detuned, lyrics were topical or personal.  Tracks like “Smoke the Sky” might have passed for Soundgarden.  On the other side of the coin, “Misunderstood” was an epic power ballad featuring an orchestra and Glenn fucking Hughes.  There wasn’t a weak track in the bunch, but plenty of variety.

Most fans didn’t embrace it at the time, and instead moved on to current bands.  Back then, nobody was interested.  No Vince, no Motley?  No way.  Corabi was absolutely the right guy at the right time.  Motley added his rhythm guitars and songwriting abilities, not to mention far more aggressive singing.  The band had only gotten better.  But by recording an uncompromising album with an unknown singer, they were indeed taking a chance.  It didn’t pay off.  When I was working at the Record Store, there was a giant pile of unsold Motley Crue CDs taking up space.  They sat next to an equally tall pile of David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth.  All the kings seemed to have been usurped.

At the Record Store, I first befriended the aforementioned T-Rev.  The fact that both of us loved the Motley album didn’t hurt.  T-Rev was the only person I knew who appreciated what they did.  He loved that huge overproduced drum sound.  Back in 1989, everybody had a Motley Crue T-shirt in the highschool halls.  In 1994, we couldn’t get anyone to listen.

Through 1995 and 1996, magazines reported that Motley were back in the studio, working on a followup with Corabi.  Bob Rock was back in the producer’s chair and the band wrote new songs such as “Personality #9”, “Let Us Prey”, “La Dolce Vita” and “The Year I Lived In A Day”.  Things seemed to be going well, but record company pressure was intense.  Bob Rock’s style was now passé and he was fired.  Engineer Scott Humphrey was promoted to producer, and electronics began to dominate.

The pressure was not only on Motley Crue, but focused directly on John Corabi.  Elektra records were eager to get Vince Neil back, a true “star”.  John was getting frustrated in the studio while this was going on.  Nothing he sang seemed to be good enough for Motley Crue anymore.  He was asked to sing like Oasis or the Sisters of Mercy.  John suggested that he just play rhythm guitar while they get Vince Neil to sing.  Somehow, this made its way into the rumour mill.  Before John Corabi was eventually fired, T-Rev and I had heard that Motley were considering this very same five-piece lineup.  What a glorious sounding thing that could have been.

Ultimately the band fired John and got Vince back.  They attempted to piece together the album that they’d been recording and re-recording and re-re-recording again.  Mick Mars was frustrated as well, as his guitar parts kept getting rejected and remixed.  In particular, Mars did not function well with Scott Humphrey.

Personally speaking, I lay these problems at the hands of Scott Humphrey.  I read the book The Dirt, and that’s certainly where the band lay most of the blame.  Have a look at Humphrey’s credits though.  Lots of records loaded with electronics, like Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and Tommy Lee’s solo stuff.  Humphrey started out as a keyboard player and programmer, and I think that high-tech style does not work with Motley Crue.  That’s my personal opinion, never having met Scott Humphrey.  I did, however, have a customer at the Record Store who knew Scott Humphrey, who is actually from Kitchener Ontario.*  “Motley Crue were the problem,” he told me.  “They were messed up on drugs.”  They were also unfocused musically.

On January 27 1997, the reunited original Motley Crue performed on the American Music Awards.  Mere months after being teased by a similar Van Halen reunion on the MTV Awards, I was relieved that Motley were playing a song rather than just standing there.  But what the hell song was it?!  Some strange, techno-y version of “Shout at the Devil”?  It was strange, unexpected and underwhelming.  Hey, cool, it was a fresh spin on an old classic.  But…why?

We soon found out.  The album Generation Swine came out on June 24 1997.  As usual, T-Rev and I got it a few days in advance.  “It sucks!” he warned me.  Of the first single “Afraid”, he said “It sounds more like Def Leppard than Motley Crue.”

“Afraid” is the best song on the album, which does frankly suck.  In a single stroke Motley went from one of their best albums, to one of their very worst.  It was astounding how desperate they sounded, trying to incorporate these influences that have nothing to do with Motley Crue.  The loops and samples and effects ruined many of the songs, but some just weren’t that good to begin with.  This considered, it was an even bigger surprise that Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were singing lead vocals too.  Sixx’s silly opener “Find Myself” was a nauseating faux-punk novelty song.  Generation Swine was also unfocused in the extreme, and the muddying effects didn’t help.  The electronic treatments on the drums rendered them limp, compared to the massive sound of 94’s Motley Crue.    Absolutely everything on Generation Swine was inferior to Motley Crue.

Three CD singles were released for “Afraid”, which was remixed so many times trying to get it right, that they used some of the various versions as bonus tracks.  The album version is fine enough, and in this one instance, the electronics enhance the song.  I’d rather hear “Afraid” with the effects than without.

What did other fans think?  When Generation Swine was new, one of my customers wanted to hear it before buying.  “I saw that Vince Neil is back.  Have you heard it?” he asked me, and I told him the truth.  He was sceptical of my review, but changed his mind upon hearing it.  “It doesn’t sound like them,” he said, and he’s right.  I then cajoled him into listening to the 1994 album.  He didn’t want to, because it didn’t have Vince Neil, but agreed to give it a shot.

Guess which album he bought?  Motley ’94.

At least there’s some redemption, if only temporarily.  During the Christmas season of 1998, T-Rev once again called me up to tell me about Motley Crue.  There was a new compilation out, called Greate$t Hit$ [review coming tomorrow].   This time, there were two new songs:  “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill”.  Both were produced by Bob Rock.

“The new songs aren’t bad,” said T-Rev.  “A lot better than Generation Swine.  Not as good as ‘Primal Scream'”

Right again, T-Rev.  Not bad.  An improvement, but not as good as what they did the first time out.  That was enough for me to buy the CD.  Not for Trevor, though.

I think Motley Crue were on the right track with “Enslaved” and “Bitter Pill” after the failure of Generation Swine.  They obviously knew that album didn’t work, so they went back to the last thing that did.  Both songs are growers, and still raise a smile to hear.  Unfortunately Motley Crue blew it again.  Tommy Lee and Vince Neil had a dust-up at an airport, and Lee split.  He was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer, Randy Castillo.**

Fans like T-Rev and myself always supported the 1994 album, and today we’ve been justified.  More and more fans have realised the quality of that CD, and increasingly hold it in high esteem.  There’s something about that CD, and I’m afraid that Motley Crue never came close to touching it since.

Tommy Lee, John Corabi, Nikki Sixx & Mick Mars

* Fun fact! T-Rev’s mom dated Scott Humphrey!

** In a very sad turn of events, Castillo never got to tour with Motley Crue.  He became ill and died of cancer on March 26, 2002 at age 51.  His replacement, Hole’s Samantha Maloney, did the tour and resultant live video.

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Gallery: MOTLEY CRUE – Generation Swine (1997 Japanese CD)

A short while ago, Jon and I were discussing the Motley Crue “reunion” album, Generation Swine (review here).  I told him that I was still looking for the original Japanese edition, which had a bonus track called “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”.   Even though I already knew the song from Nikki’s side project, 58, and didn’t like it, I still wanted Motley Crue’s version for my collection.  I found one on eBay for just over $30 which is the best price I’d ever seen.  I bought it, it shipped.

Then Jon told me:  “The bonus track ‘A Song To Slit Your Wrist By’ wasn’t a Crüe song at all, it was taken from Nikki Sixx’ very underrated sideproject 58.”

Rats!

See, for me as a collector, that sucks for two reasons.  If the song is by 58 and not Motley (and he’s exactly right, that’s indeed what it is), then it gets pushed way out into a far orbit of my collecting priorities.  Second, I already had the damn thing a long time ago on the 58 album Diet For A New America!

I knew it wasn’t a pristine copy and the packaging had yellowed, so no big deal.  The plastic outer case has also got a bit brittle and a piece cracked off in shipping.  Again, no big deal, last time I saw this CD it was a lot more expensive, and didn’t have the obi strip.  It comes with a really cool generous booklet (in Japanese unfortunately), exclusive to this release, so that helps to make up for the lack of an exclusive bonus track.

Gallery below.  Enjoy!

REVIEW: 58 – Diet For A New America (2000)

58 – Diet For A New America (2000, Americoma Records)

58:  Nikki Sixx and Dave Darling with Steve Gibb (son of Barry) and somebody called Bucket Baker.

It’s a tell-tale sign when a member of Motley Crue names an album after a Vegan health book! This album has no teeth. It also has no songs to speak of.  I guess Nikki and Darling took a random approach to the record, to be really experimental, and that’s cool.  It doesn’t mean the results were any good to listen to though.

It’s been…man, probably close to 10 years since I sold this CD. I did give it a try. I was exploring all kinds of music at the time from Zappa to Prodigy to Miles Davis but this is just loaded with non-songs and electro-techno-crapology.  There was only one song that I liked, which was called “Piece of Candy”.  It’s like…bad Beck, I guess.  I also remember a very lame spoken word thing called “El Paso” which sounded like an outtake from Alex Lifeson’s Victor album — but not as good lyrically or musically.

There are two covers:  Motley Crue’s “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”, a Generation Swine bonus track, and “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan.  I’ve never liked either song, especially O’Sullivan.  (Radio Station Girl loved that stupid song.)

I’ve read some people praising this album for being “different”. No, it’s not different. It’s different from Motley Crue. But, unfortunately, there were a hundred bands peddling this techno-rock-junk at the time.  One of my readers, Deke, says that he thinks Nikki chases trends.  Well, here’s 58 to add credence to his theory.

1.5/5 stars.

REVIEW: Motley Crue – Generation Swine (1997)

MOTLEY CRUE – Generation Swine (1997, 2003 Motley Records reissue)

It is hard to believe that the mighty Crue, who had released the record of their lives in 1994 (Motley Crue with Corabi on vocals) put out this bunk next. Such was the 90’s. Fans did not embrace Corabi as predicted, the album flopped, and immediate pressure was on the Crue to kiss and make up with Vince Neil.  So that’s what they relectantly did. 

The Crue were already in experimental mode when Corabi was still on board. They had already said that this album wouldn’t be produced by Bob Rock (a shame, that was) and that it would be more “raw” and “heavy”. Then, as time went on, you started hearing things like, “The new album is Motley Crue meets Sisters of Mercy with the intensity of Nine Inch Nails”. Bands that have nothing to do with the Crue’s roots. In the end, the band was spinning tires so fast that Corabi couldn’t handle it anymore and Vince was brought back. All of this is well documented in the latter half of Motley Crue: The Dirt.  A five-piece Crue with Neil singing and Corabi on rhythm guitar was briefly considered (damn! that would have been sweet!), but it was the original four-piece sans Corabi that became the next Motley Crue lineup.

And what they made together was just…what the fuck is this?  Remember when Crue showed up at the AMA’s and lip-synced that new techno-y sample ridden version of “Shout at the Devil”?  What the hell was that?

I place the blame squarely on the head of producer Scott Humphrey. Humphrey was actually from around here.  People who know Humphrey personally have said he’s always been a tech-head.  Just listen to his records with Rob Zombie.  That’s fine.  But here, Humphrey uses all his techno-wizardry to suck the life out of Motley Crue, no mean feat. The band must also share the blame, as they should have stopped the directionless proceedings before it got too far. In the end though, Motley Crue continued on with this sound, even over Mick Mars’ very strong objections. Mars was sidelined in the recordings, but it turns out Mick was right about Generation Swine.

Generation Swine (formerly: Personality #9 while Corabi was in the band) is the most confusing, un-Motley disc ever recorded. The drums are processed and sampled to the point where there may as well have been no live drummer.  It may as well be a computer rather than Tommy Lee, for what it sounds like.  The guitars, also sampled, squeezed, processed and spat out by a computer, show little of Mick’s spark and feel. I can see why Mick was pissed off.  Vince’s return was hardly worth bally-hooing, as he’s barely able to wheeze out a passable melody here. In fact, both Sixx and Lee take lead vocals, too. What kind of reunion album is that?

The real shame of it is that these songs could have turned out quite well. Check out “Let Us Prey”. It is easy to imagine what this sounded like when Corabi was singing it. In fact he insists that his vocals are still intact in the mix, and that you can hear him scream on the choruses. Corabi also says his rhythm guitar parts on the album are intact too.

But I digress. The point is, songs like “Let Us Prey”, “Generation Swine”, “A Rat Like Me”, and “Anybody Out There?” show enough of the original Motley spirit that this could have been a halfway decent album. However each of those four songs are choked to death under a muffled blanket of samples, sound effects, bells & whistles, and processed unnatural guitars and drums. It’s a shame because any of those four songs (the only solid hard rockers on this disc of slow paced dreck) had potential. Also decent was the single, “Afraid”, although it sounds more like Def Leppard.

To add weirdness on top of the confusion, the album closes with a track called “Brandon” sung by Mr. Thomas Lee Bass himself. “Brandon, I love you. I love her. She is your mom.” Yes, he actually sings that.  God knows what he was thinking when he wrote that lyric.  Nikki Sixx’s “Rocketship”, a hippy dippy ballad for his wife is slightly better, but why not get Vince, the singer of Motley Crue, to sing it?  Nikki’s not an especially good singer – that’s why he plays bass. Yet he insists on singing three songs, on Vince’s comeback record.  I still don’t get that.

People, do yourself a favour. It doesn’t matter that Vince Neil came back for this album (it was mostly finished before he came back anyway). Check out the 1994 album with Corabi, a truely heavy beast that will probably blow your head off if you’re not wearing a helmet. It is a beautiful record.  This is not.  And don’t worry about the bonus tracks on the reissue.  The demos are no better than the album tracks. Nobody needed a demo of “Confessions” with Tommy singing.

Excluded: A techno song only released on the Japanese disc called “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”. An expensive trinket.  I don’t own it myself.  The only time I saw it up close and personal was at a record show in London, and the vendor was asking $70 for it.

2/5 stars