Review Summary: A surprisingly diverse album that does an excellent job of highlighting sides of the band not often seen
Back in the early 90s, Motorhead sought to conquer the American market. It only made sense as Lemmy had relocated to Los Angeles by then to become a permanent mainstay at the Rainbow Bar and Grill while the band was getting endorsements from such mainstream acolytes as Metallica and Guns ‘n Roses. Fortunately, Motorhead wasn’t too watered down in the process. On the contrary, 1916 may have been the most experimental album they ever released.
I don’t think there’s any other Motorhead album with as much variety as 1916. An array of different styles is pursued as “Going to Brazil” goes full on rockabilly, “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” is a creepshow with keyboards and vocal backmasking, “Love Me Forever” is an all-out power ballad, and “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” is the perfect stylistic pastiche of its punk rock muse. Ideas like “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” and “Love Me Forever” really shouldn’t work with how far they take the band out of their comfort zone, but the strong songwriting helps see them through.
Of course, there’s still plenty of classic Motorhead to go around. “The One to Sing the Blues” starts the album off in a somewhat bumpy fashion, but “I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care)” and “No Voices in the Sky” make up for it with their dirty guitar charges and catchy choruses. These songs are still noticeably leaner and heavier than any of the band’s 80s works, but they’re comfortable listens for longtime fans.
But the album’s biggest wild card is its World War I-themed title track. In contrast to the band’s other famous war-themed slow burn “Orgasmatron,” “1916” is an incredibly subdued track. Lemmy narrates a tale of young soldiers killed too young in a crackling voice accompanied by funerary keyboard work and a lonely timpani rhythm. It’s such a jarring listen, especially when compared to the album’s more fun tracks, but its placement at the end has an incredibly haunting effect. Easily the band’s most effective closer and one of their all-time best songs.
1916 doesn’t quite have the legendary reputation of Ace of Spades or Overkill, but it’s a strong collection of tracks all the same. The album’s stylistic variety does an excellent job of highlighting sides of the band not often seen and I imagine the subsequent Grammy nomination was pretty nice too. It’s not only an essential listen for fans and casual listeners alike, but also an effort that’s fun to throw in the face of the hacks who think that Motorhead albums all sound alike.
“I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care)”
“No Voices in the Sky”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com