Album of the Week 01-2012: Motörhead – 1916

Last week, Motörhead was played regularly at the Kevy Metal residence. Apparently, it was loud, rude, self-assured heavy Rock ‘n’ Roll that needed to be heard. And no one does that better than Lemmy Kilmister and his men. But Motörhead is also witty. And, if they want, they can definitely profit from a certain subtlety. And nowhere else in the Brits’ discography have all those sides to their collective identity been exposed as brilliantly as on the 1991 album ‘1916’.

As such, I like to see ‘1916’ as Motörhead’s most experimental album. And their most successful experiment as well. As much as I love the basic heavy R’n’R sound of the band, I have always liked them trying out something different. For instance, I think ‘Another Perfect Day’ is one of the band’s best albums, contrary to popular opinion and ‘Orgasmatron’ was interesting at least. However, there’s some kind of consensus about ‘1916’ and that’s probably caused by the consistently powerful songwriting on the album.

‘The One To Sing The Blues’ is probably the second best opening track on a Motörhead album (second only to ‘Overkill’), combining the noisy Rock ‘n’ Roll attitude with riffs that border on Heavy Metal, not unlike the bluesier bands of the NWOBHM. But Motörhead was never a Heavy Metal band and despite songs that are borderline (‘Make My Day’, ‘Shut You Down’), they prove so on this album. There’s some upbeat Rock ‘n’ Roll (‘Going To Brazil’, ‘Angel City’, ‘No Voices In The Sky’), a fitting tribute to a legendary Punk band (‘R.A.M.O.N.E.S.’) and an uncategorizable experiment (‘Nightmare/The Dreamtime’). Hell, even the ballads on the album are stellar, with album highlight ‘Love Me Forever’ containing the second best guitar solos the band has ever put on tape (again, second only to ‘Overkill’) and the title track seeing Lemmy experimenting with strings.

Blaming only the eclectic and carefree songwriting for the level of awesomeness displayed on the album would disqualify the actual performances of the band members. Although Mikkey Dee is a better drummer than Phil Taylor, I think the Lemmy, Würzel, Phil Campbell and Taylor lineup of this album is the best the band has ever had. First of all, two guitars is always better than one and Campbell and Würzel show on this album, feeding off of each other’s strengths and complementing each other. I don’t know who plays which solo, but they all sound impressive. Also, the “we don’t care, we’re doing what we like” attitude seems more present among these guys than any other lineup they have ever had.

‘1916’ should please Rock ‘n’ Roll, Metal and maybe even Punk crowds anytime. There’s no time to grow tired of the band’s basic formula, as they expand on it wildly on the album. But don’t see this album as an attempt to sell out – like its follow-up ‘March Ör Die’ may have been – it’s still all Motörhead. Loud, rude, self-assured, witty and sometimes subtle.

Recommended tracks: ‘Love Me Forever’, ‘Shut You Down’, ‘Nightmare/The Dreamtime’, ‘The One To Sing The Blues’

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