Review Summary: Play that guitar just like ringing a bell!
Just a year after the unrealized ambitions of 1992’s March or Die, Motorhead returned with a different direction in mind for Bastards. While the album’s more grounded approach would suggest a back to basics rock ‘n roll style, the songs here are heavier than anything ever released under the Motorhead banner before it. Late 70s anthems like “Overkill” and “Stone Dead Forever” were certainly heavy for their time, but the band had never been this aggressive.
Much of that aggression can be directly attributed to the recruitment of drummer Mikkey Dee. In contrast to the often-sloppy performances of past timekeepers, his technique is both tight and hard hitting while still allowing for plenty of groove. It’s understandably not as technical as the work with King Diamond that established his reputation, but speed metal scorchers like the appropriately titled “Burner” would’ve been literally impossible without him. I dare wager that Mikkey Dee played a more important role in the Motorhead sound than anybody but Lemmy himself.
Thankfully this heightened musicianship is matched with some fantastic songwriting. Most of the songs are upbeat as “Death or Glory” and “I Am the Sword” offer blistering tempos while “Born to Raise Hell” and “We Bring the Shake” have some commercial remnants in their hard rock singalongs. On the flip side, “Liar” puts that heaviness to slower use with a grinding riff set and some of Lemmy’s most vicious growls ever. There’s even some room for psychedelia as the warped grooves on “I’m Your Man” would be quite potent in the hands of your local stoner doom group.
But like 1916 before it, a tragic ballad proves to be this album’s biggest curveball. “Don’t Let Daddy Kiss Me” is a jarring song both musically and lyrically; its sudden transition to soft acoustic strums from “Born to Raise Hell” party rock is enough to give one whiplash and its child abuse theme is heartbreaking but not overwrought. Its placement in the middle of the album and Lemmy’s vulnerable vocal performance make it an uncomfortable listen, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t what the song set out to do in the first place!
Overall, Bastards may be the most underrated Motorhead album ever. In addition to serving as a strong bounce back from the misguided March or Die, the album is just as good as the band’s best-known efforts and set a new standard for everything that followed. The songs are some of the band’s catchiest ever and its heaviness would only be matched on the subsequent Sacrifice and 2005’s Inferno. Thankfully it gets more appreciation these days than it did upon its initially obscure release and I can only hope its greatness will discovered by more fans with time.
“Death or Glory”
“Born to Raise Hell”
“I’m Your Man”
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com