Thursday, January 11, 2018

Motörhead - 1979 - Bomber


01. Dead Men Tell No Tales 3:06
02. Lawman 3:57
03. Sweet Revenge 4:15
04. Sharpshooter 3:18
05. Poison 2:56
06. Stone Dead Forever 4:57
07. All The Aces 3:26
08. Step Down 3:43
09. Talking Head 3:43
10. Bomber 3:50

Bass [& 8-String Bass], Vocals – Lemmy
Drums, Percussion [Human Leg, Etc.] – Philthy Animal Taylor
Guitar – Eddie Clarke

Recorded at Roundhouse Recording Studios and Olympic Recording Studios between July 7th-August 31st, 1979.

By 1979, Motörhead had been together for four years and had amassed a loyal following in both punk and heavy metal circles. After recording an album for United Artists that the label shelved, the band released its eponymous debut LP in 1977, but it was with 1979's Overkill that the band hit their stride. The title track landed in the UK Top 40 and, after appearing again on Top of the Pops, the band returned to the studio that summer with legendary producer Jimmy Miller to record what would become Bomber. However, the band did not have the opportunity to work up the songs on the road, as they had with their previous album. Joel McIver quotes singer and bassist Lemmy in his book Overkill: The Untold Story of Motörhead:

"..I wish we'd played the songs onstage first, like we did with the Overkill album, if we could've played them for three weeks on the road it would have been less slick.....Listen to the way we play them live and compare that to the album.."

Nonetheless, Bomber would peak at #12 on the UK albums chart, their strongest showing up to that point.

During the recording of this album, Jimmy Miller was increasingly under the influence of heroin, at one point disappearing entirely from the studio and being found asleep at the wheel of his car. Ironically the album features the band's first anti-heroin song – "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Miller had produced some of the Rolling Stones most heralded work from 1968 to 1973 but, after struggling through the sessions for 1973's Goats Head Soup, had been shown to the door. In the documentary The Guts and the Glory, drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor marvels:

"..We used to think that we were bad at being late, but he would be, like, half a day late, or even more late, you know, and his excuses were marvellous.."

In his autobiography White Line Fever Lemmy states:

"..Overkill was supposed to be something of a comeback album for Jimmy Miller, which is exactly what it turned out to be for him. He had got very heavily into heroin (which likely began when he was working with the Stones) and he had lost it for a couple of years...but months later, when we were working with him on Bomber, it was sadly clear that he was back on smack.."

The band returned to Roundhouse Studios in London with additional recording taking place at Olympic Studios. This album caught Lemmy at his most ferocious, hitting hard at the police in "Lawman," marriage and how his father left him and his mother in "Poison," television in "Talking Head" and show business in "All the Aces." This album is the first to have a picture of the band on the cover, which all three members are inside a plane. The title track was inspired by Len Deighton's novel Bomber. On one track, "Step Down," Eddie Clarke is featured on vocals. In his memoir, Lemmy reveals that:

"..[Clarke] had been bitching that I was getting all the limelight, but he wouldn't do anything about it. I got sick of him complaining, so I said, 'Right, you're gonna fucking sing one on this album'...he hated it, but really, he was a good singer, Eddie.."

During the recording of Bomber, Motörhead played the Reading Festival, performing alongside other acts like the Police and The Tourists.

The single "Bomber" was released on 1 December 1979, five weeks after the album; the single's initial pressing of 20,000 on blue vinyl was soon sold out and was replaced by black vinyl. The album was released on 27 October 1979 and like the single, was initially pressed on blue vinyl. The Bomber Tour followed, for which a 40-foot (12 m) aluminium-tube "bomber" was made; this had four "engines," whereas the plane depicted on the album sleeve (which bore a resemblance to the Heinkel He 111) had two. This lighting-rig could move backwards and forwards, and side-to-side – the first to be able to do so. The album cover features art by English commercial artist, Adrian Chesterman who was also responsible for creating cover art for, amongst others, Chris Rea for his 1989 The Road to Hell album.

In White Line Fever, Lemmy calls Bomber "a transitional record" but admits "there are a couple of really naff tracks on it, like 'Talking Head.'" In 1980 interview with Sounds, Clarke compared the LP unfavourably to Ace of Spades, stating "Bomber felt wrong. It wasn't all there".

One critic suggests that the album is well regarded by the fans, and packed full of essential Motörhead tracks, with "Dead Men Tell No Tales," "Stone Dead Forever" and the title track itself being phenomenally good metal songs, adding that, with the exception of the bluesy "Step Down," the tracks are full of the characteristic sound of the classic line-up of Lemmy, Clarke and Taylor, with Clarke’s solo in "All the Aces" described as "blistering" and Lemmy spitting out intentions to "poison his wife" in the life-reflecting "Poison" making it a sound of metal-dripping brilliance. Jason Birchmeier of AllMusic writes, "There are a couple killers here, namely "Dead Men Tell No Tales", "Stone Dead Forever," and "Bomber," but overall, the songs of Bomber aren't as strong as those of Overkill were. Granted, this is somewhat of a moot point to raise, as Bomber is still a top-shelf Motörhead album, one of their all-time best, without question." In 2011 Motörhead biographer Joel McIver wrote, "Some think that the effort of writing two killer albums in the space of a year was too much for Motörhead at this early stage, and that Bomber – released on October 27, seven months after its predecessor – couldn't hope to match up to Overkill".

A special double CD reissue of Bomber was released in June 2005 to coincide with Motörhead's 30th anniversary tour. The bonus tracks on the second CD, however, have all previously been available. In 2005, Bomber was ranked number 397 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time

Recorded in late summer 1979 and released by the end of the year, Bomber quickly followed up Overkill, Motörhead's landmark breakthrough album from earlier in the year. Bomber bears a lot in common with its fan-favorite predecessor. For starters, it features the classic Motörhead lineup: Lemmy (bass and vocals), "Fast" Eddie Clarke (guitar), and "Philthy Animal" Taylor (drums). Also like Overkill, Bomber features the production grace of Jimmy Miller, the man responsible for the Rolling Stones' late-'60s/early-'70s albums, including such masterpieces as Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. And the music here on Bomber explodes on song after song, thanks to the crazed performances of the aforementioned bandmembers as well as the well-overdriven, ear-rattling production perfection of Miller. Actually, there's only one marked difference between Overkill and Bomber that's worth noting: the songs. There are a couple killers here, namely "Dead Men Tell No Tales," "Stone Dead Forever," and "Bomber," but overall, the songs of Bomber aren't as strong as those of Overkill were. Granted, this is somewhat of a moot point to raise, as Bomber is still a top-shelf Motörhead album, one of their all-time best, without question. But it does fall just a notch or two below Overkill and Ace of Spades, the latter of which would follow a year later and catapult the band to further acclaim. Bomber kicks ass, in any event, and its best moments are as superlative as any Motörhead would ever record. The band was really on fire during this point in time and could seemingly do no wrong.

Because sometimes you wanna listen to something challenging, and other times you just wanna listen to something that kicks ass and boogies at the same time. Motorhead is the latter to a tee. I'll also mention that while the band was hugely influential toward metal as a whole, their essence was never entirely captured by later bands. The reason being is that, at heart, Motorhead were a rock band that just so happened to define a lot of metal's musical language, whereas a lot of their imitators kinda discarded the "roll" part of rock 'n roll.. if that makes any sort of sense, i'm kind of tired right now.

This is definitely the lesser of the two albums they cut in 1979 (the other being the immortal Overkill), but this is still an insanely solid record that has the key traits that defined the band. Rock 'n roll supercharged into metallic fury, with a healthy dose of old school punk nastiness & sleaze thrown in. Songs are shortish for the most part, cram about as many hooks as you could shake anything at, Lemmy's voice is as beautifully ugly as it ever was etc. One of the things about Motorhead's approach - and a big reason why they deftly avoided coming off as formulaic for a long time - is that there was a really strong sense of groove that underpinned a lot of these songs, and so while they were always reliant on verse/chorus structure, there's an organic, from the gut quality to their writing that really stood out. Again, the 'roll' part of rock 'n roll..

Lemmy's voice is as vicious as he ever got in "Sweet Revenge". Vicious & crippling slower jam, with that awesome main riff to boot. "Stone Dead Forever" and the title song are perhaps the other two main highlights; the middle being a midpaced song and - again - really showcasing that wonderfully nasty sense of boogeying groove they had, not to mention the raw heaviness of those riffs & Lemmy's bass just growling along. "Bomber" is a faster song and really fuckin' viciously quick for its time. I like how Eddie's guitars sound like they're about to start disintegrating into sheet metal during the bridge. Also worth mentioning is "Step Down", one of the few songs Fast Eddie ever sang with the band - a nasty, mean-spirited slow bluesy jam.

Honestly this review didn't need to be this long. It's a fucking Motorhead album from the 70's; of course it's worth listening to! Like I said, it's not as brilliant as Overkill (and i'd say Ace of Spades is a hair above it), but it's sure as hell worth listening to.

1 comment: