Review Summary: An underwhelming blunder by Motorhead standards.
March or Die will always be remembered as Motorhead’s sellout record. The band didn’t ape any trends of the time, but they really leaned on their mainstream connections this time around. Lemmy’s participation in the songwriting for Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears likely left an impression on him, perhaps further fueling the desire for prominence that started getting traction on 1916. Unfortunately, this album doesn’t quite have the same focus as its predecessor.
While March or Die is more stylistically in line with classic Motorhead than 1916, this is a rather watered-down variation of that formula. Songs like the opening “Stand” are decently written and feature the bass drive and gravelly vocals fans know and love, but the executions don’t seem to hit as hard as they should. Other songs feel like retreads as “Jack the Ripper” has a bumpy groove in the vein of “The One to Sing the Blues” and the closing title track channels “Orgasmatron” without properly channeling its misanthropic menace.
These issues reach an early culmination on the rather misguided cover of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever.” Having the song be second in the track list is awkward enough and the band’s performance is frankly neutered. This song is tailor made for Motorhead’s signature sleaze, but the high-pitched vocals and uptight rhythms really don’t do it justice. This cover would’ve been so much stronger with meaner guitars and grittier vocals and it’s sad to see it not live up to what I can imagine in my head.
Oddly enough, those mainstream connections end up working in the album’s favor. A power ballad featuring a duet with Ozzy Osbourne seems disingenuous on paper (and makes me want to listen to Lita Ford for some reason) but, “I Ain’t No Nice Guy” may be the strongest track on here thanks to its surprisingly sincere performances and smooth buildup. I also enjoy the Motorhead take on “Hellraiser” even if I prefer the bombast of the No More Tears version and “You Better Run” makes fun use of the tried and true “Hoochie Coochie Man” rhythm.
Overall, March or Die isn’t a bad album but rather an underwhelming blunder by Motorhead standards. It’d be easy to blame it all on celebrity pandering, but the songs exploiting those cameos end up being the best while the songs that sound the most like the band’s typical work are ironically the weakest. I don’t think the writing is quite on par with the classics, but the effort really would’ve benefitted from more aggressive performances. There’s enough good here for hardcore fans to enjoy it but the band’s other works from this era are so much better.
“I Ain’t No Nice Guy”
“You Better Run”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com