Thursday, January 11, 2018

Motörhead - 1979 - Overkill


01. Overkill 5:12
02. Stay Clean 2:43
03. (I Won't) Pay Your Price 2:57
04. I'll Be Your Sister 2:55
05. Capricorn 4:12
06. No Class 2:42
07. Damage Case 3:03
08. Tear Ya Down 2:42
09. Metropolis 3:37
10. Limb From Limb 4:57

Recorded at Roundhouse Studios and Sound Development Studios December 78 - January 79.

Lemmy: bass guitar, vocals, lead guitar
Fast Eddie Clarke: rhythm guitar, lead guitar
Philthy Animal Taylor: drums

Bronze Records signed Motörhead in 1978 and gave them time in Wessex Studios in London to record Richard Berry's "Louie Louie" and a new song by the band, "Tear Ya Down." The band toured to promote the single "Louie Louie," which became a modest hit, while Chiswick released the Motörhead album in white vinyl, to keep the momentum going. In the Classic Albums documentary on the making of Ace of Spades, Gerry Bron of Bronze Records admits:

"..The first time I heard Motörhead was when I listened to a single that I put out without hearing, which is "Louie Louie," and when I heard it I was absolutely horrified. I thought it was the worst record I've ever heard, so it was a bit of a shock. The bigger shock was, having put out a record I thought was terrible, it went straight into the charts at #72. But I actually put the record out as a favour.."

Sales of the single brought the band their first appearance on BBC Television's Top of the Pops, which gave Bronze the confidence to get the band back into the studio to record a second album.In the 2011 book Overkill: The Untold Story of Motörhead, biographer Joel McIver quotes guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke:

"..We had so many false starts and disappointments by the time Overkill came around in 1978 we had stored up a lot of energy and ideas – and we were just waiting for the opportunity to show what we could do. Also we had a great following, and we always felt we owed the fans who had been with us from the beginning.."

Speaking to James McNair of Mojo in 2011, vocalist and bassist Lemmy concurred:

" the time of Overkill we were getting our sound together.."

Overkill was co-produced by legendary producer Jimmy Miller, who had previously worked with Traffic and the Rolling Stones, and recorded at Roundhouse Studios and Sound Development Studios in London. '"Damage Case" was co-written by the band and Mick Farren of The Deviants. In his autobiography White Line Fever, Lemmy claims that he wrote the words to "Metropolis" "in five minutes" after seeing the movie of the same name at the Electric Cinema in Portebello Road, and also claims that he always wanted Tina Turner to record "I'll Be Your Sister," insisting:

"..I like writing songs for women. In fact, I've written songs with women. I've been called a sexist by some factions of radical, frigid feminists (the kind who want to change the word manhole to personhole, that kind of crap), but they don't know what they're talking about.."

The title track is notable for Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor's use of two bass drums. In the documentary The Guts and the Glory the drummer recalls:

"..I always wanted to play two bass drums but I always said to myself, 'No, I'm not gonna be one of these wankers who goes on stage and has two bass drums and never even fuckin' plays 'em'. Not until I can play 'em. So I got this other bass drum and I used to get to rehearsals a couple of hours before the other guys and just practice, you know, just sit there going (mimes kicking with both feet) like running, or something like that...I was actually playing that riff, just trying to get my coordination right, when Eddie and Lemmy walked in, and I was just about to stop and they went, 'No, don't stop! Keep going!'...And that was how Overkill got written.."

Because if you can't get it up for "THE ONLY WAY TO FEEL THE NOISE IS WHEN IT'S GOOD AND LOUD", this band - or just loud guitar music in general - probably isn't gonna be your bag...

Terrific album that straddles the line between rock, metal, and punk like everything else Motorhead did to varying degrees over their career, before metal really became codified. Of course, it actually skews the most toward the former - some of the last traces of Lemmy's psychedelic past is here in "Capricorn", and in general the bedrock of their music is all those thick-ass rock 'n roll grooves all over the place, just played at locomotive speed. Take "Overkill": aside for the fact that it's the heaviest tune since "Symptom of the Universe", that main riff fuckin' boogies over that double bass groove; it just kicks so much ass that you almost don't realize it at first. Really, aside that That Line in the song (which might as well be something to fuckin' live by), that sums up what was great about Motorhead, and in particular how adept they were at crafting hooks without the songs feeling like they're completely in the service of them. Not to mention: the glorious fake endings of the song, and how Fast Eddie's bluesy solos sound like they're fuckin' melting after a certain point...

It's not just that song, even if "Overkill" is one of the greatest tunes anybody wrote and would justify the whole album's existence by itself. No, the rest of this album is fucking fantastic - "Stay Clean" is a little slower, a bit more groove and a lot of fuckin' bangage. Again, another example of how Lemmy's heart was always with rock 'n roll: that main riff shares more kinship with, say, 50's rock than it did later thrash metal; it's just performed in such an insanely ferocious manner. "Capricorn" is maybe the outlier of the record, an oddly space-out, psychedelic number that, as mentioned, is one of the last real stabs at such Lemmy and crew did, and it's surprisingly one of the highlights of the band's career - Lemmy's voice never sounded quite as assured as here (which is saying a fuckin' lot), and the little bluesy fills Eddie interjects into the chorus is some great shit. Special commendation also goes to "Limb From Limb", which starts out as this viciously menacing mid-paced number - that main riff being shades of Sabbath - constantly seeming like it's about to escalate, draws out this chord in the middle right before exploding into this raging quick basher of a song. There's a lot of albums faster than Overkill, even in Motorhead's catalog, but i'll be damned if the performances on this record don't make everything feel like it's going WAY faster than it actually is. Their sense of pacing was ridiculously fantastic too.

There isn't a song on here that's less than "good"; if anything it's their most consistently brilliant record. If you have to hear only one Motorhead album.. well, you should listen to most of 'em, but make it this one most of all.

1 comment: