Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Motorhead

  • Ace of Spades [Mercury, 1980] B
  • No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith [Mercury, 1981] B+
  • No Remorse [Bronze, 1984] A-
  • Orgasmatron [GWR/Profile, 1986] A-
  • Rock 'n' Roll [GWR/Profile, 1987] A-
  • No Sleep at All [Enigma/GWR, 1988] A-
  • 1916 [WTG, 1991] A-
  • March or Die [Epic/WTG, 1992] *
  • Bastards [ZYX, 1993] *
  • The Best of Motorhead [Roadrunner, 1993] **
  • Snake Bite Love [CMC International, 1998] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ace of Spades [Mercury, 1980]
Punks have never bought his leather jacket and indie connections because Lemmy Kilmister's grizzled-biker-born-to-rock is metal without the heavy--no preening solos or blow-dried bullshit. I recommend the bit where he promises to get fast and loose with his latest receptacle as soon as he finishes the song about it (not her, of course not), and note that his writing is more one-note than need be, wit and all--fucking for the hell of it can drive anybody into a rage, and tuneless fucking for the hell of it is really pointless. Anthem: "(We Are) The Road Crew." B

No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith [Mercury, 1981]
Vic Maile's power-packed definition obliterates my bias against live recording. Remakes of white lies like "No Class" and "Stay Clean" and calling cards like "Bomber" and "Motorhead" save valuable shelf space. So what if it gives me a headache? Sometimes a headache comes as a relief. B+

No Remorse [Bronze, 1984]
The critics who used to call Motorhead the worst band in the world had a point, which may be why Lemmy's high-speed metal has now turned into the thinking person's headbang. The stuff is so pure it's almost rarefied: no operatic declamations, no schlocky guitaristics, no satanism or medievalism or sci-fi or sexist s&m. Just aggression, violence, noise. Lemmy doesn't even bellow--his voice is more a hoarse, loud, one-note roar. This tasteful two-disc best-of-plus-four (new and definitive: "Killed By Death") is the first Motorhead product praised by Headheads since No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, eight of whose eleven songs it includes (the eight best, too). Unless you've got an extra Y chromosone or beat your meat till it bleeds, you likely don't need it on a regular basis. But it'll sure come in handy at those precious moments when you want nothing so much as to smash somebody's face. A-

Orgasmatron [GWR/Profile, 1986]
I admire metal's integrity, brutality, and obsessiveness, but I can't stand its delusions of grandeur--the way it apes and misapprehends reactionary notions of nobility. One thing I like about Lemmy is that he's proud to be a clod, common as muck and dogged in his will to make himself felt as just that. Add that rarest of metal virtues, a sense of humor, which definitely extends to the music's own conventions, as on the lead cut of his first album in three litigation-packed years: yclept "Deaf Forever," a good enough joke right there (especially for Sabbaf fans), it turns out to be a battlefield anthem--about a corpse. And then add Bill Laswell, who was born to make megalomania signify: where most metal production gravitates toward a dull thud that highlights the shriek of the singer and the comforting reverberation of the signature guitar, Laswell's fierce clarity cracks like a whip, inspiring Lemmy, never a slowpoke in this league, to bellow one called "Built for Speed." Result: work of art. A-

Rock 'n' Roll [GWR/Profile, 1987]
Though he's shed Bill Laswell's sonic entourage and rehired the lovable Philthy Animal Taylor to beat skins, Lemmy's brush with perfectionism seems to have transformed his recording philosophy. That layer of grunge is just gone, excised by the sharp vocal and percussive attack that made Orgasmatron the onslaught they'd promised for so long. Songwriting's still there, too, though "Eat the Rich," which ends up with Lemmy's rig on the menu, is the closest it comes to transmuting metal the way "Deaf Forever" did. Guest divine: Michael Palin, who prays for trousers. A-

No Sleep at All [Enigma/GWR, 1988]
Ten hunks of meat tossed to a horde of ravening Finns, and if six of them surfaced all too recently on Nuevo Motorhead's two studio albums, that doesn't stop me from scarfing down this live one the way Old Motorhead's cult devoured No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith. No remorse, and no excuses, except to remark that Nuevo Motorhead has songwriting down. Further evidence: the very underground smash "Killed by Death" (if you want one, Lemmy says he has 10,000 of them in his house) and the never-before-recorded "Just Because You Got the Power," which rages against the moneyheads without kidding anybody about capitalist hegemony. A-

1916 [WTG, 1991]
Sonically retrograde and philosophically advanced, this is the testimony of a mad raver at peace with his lot in the world--but not with the world, not by a long shot. As Pete Solley muddies the mix back toward classic grunge, Lemmy rages against war--sometimes in so many words, sometimes by metaphorical imprecation, sometimes by standing tall amid the barrage. But an embittered artiste he's not--riding their iron horses into the sunset, tributes to L.A., Rio, and the Ramones prove he knows how good he's got it, and prove it full-throttle. A-

March or Die [Epic/WTG, 1992]
eternal rage ("Bad Religion") *

Bastards [ZYX, 1993]
but it's really great shtick ("On Your Feet or on Your Knees," "Born To Raise Hell") *

The Best of Motorhead [Roadrunner, 1993]
rendering No Remorse slightly inferior by stealing half of it ("Eat the Rich," "Stone Deaf in the U.S.A.") **

Snake Bite Love [CMC International, 1998] Dud