Motley Crue

    Too Fast for Love (Leathur, 1981)
   Shout at the Devil (Elektra, 1983)
    Theatre of Pain (Elektra, 1985)
    Girls, Girls, Girls (Elektra, 1987)
     Dr. Feelgood (Elektra, 1989)
     Mötley Crüe (Elektra, 1984)
    Generation Swine (Elektra, 1997)
    Supersonic and Demonic Relics (Motley, 1999)
    Live: Entertainment or Death (Mötley, 1999)
   New Tattoo (Mötley, 2000)
   Music to Crash Your Car To, Vol. 1 (Mötley/Hip-O, 2003)
   Music to Crash Your Car To, Vol. 2 (Mötley/Hip-O, 2004)
   Loud as F@*k (Mötley/Hip-O, 2004)
     Red, White & Crüe(Mötley/Hip-O, 2005)
    Carnival of Sins: Live (Mötley/Hip-O, 2006)
    Saints of Los Angeles (Mötley /Eleven Seven, 2008)
     Greatest Hit$ (Mötley /Eleven Seven, 2009)

The ultimate hair metal band, Mötley Crüe is in some ways the perfect embodiment of the rock & roll dream. Despite being only modestly talented and not especially attractive, the band nonetheless became rich and famous, not only surviving a life of excess and decadence but actually acquiring a certain celebrity through their relentless partying and porn-star dalliances. Most incredible of all, the Crüe actually made some decent music before descending into well-paid self-parody. For a moment, the band even managed to seem radical and vaguely dangerous. In 1981, when the quartet released its debut album, the glam-referencing Sunset Strip scene that would produce Guns N' Roses, Ratt, and Poison didn't quite exist, and the Crüe's fascination with makeup, attitude, and umlauts seemed genuinely edgy. Pity the music was crap. Too Fast for Love was originally released as an indie, and is nowhere near as ferocious-sounding as the leather-clad crotch shot on the cover would suggest. Indeed, its sound borders on the anemic—but there is a surprising melodic resilience to songs like "Come On and Dance," "Piece of Your Action," and "Merry-Go-Round." (Within a year Too Fast was licensed and remastered by Elektra; like the rest of the Crüe's albums, it has been reissued with bonus tracks on the band's own UMG-distributed label). Shout at the Devil aims for a heavier sound but doesn't quite achieve it; as much as the Crüe tries to cultivate its bad-boy image through titles like "Bastard" and "God Bless the Children of the Beast," the music is a distressingly mild-mannered distillation of Kiss and Aerosmith clichés. It's much the same story with Theatre of Pain, which, despite its beefier mix, doesn't get any tougher than a tepid remake of Brownsville Station's hoary teen-attitude classic, "Smokin' in the Boys' Room." But on Girls, Girls, Girls, the band's sound began to catch up to its image. The album, whose title tune became famous for its titty-bar-celebrating video, actually put some punch behind the leering lyrics, with such rockers as "Wild Side" and "Bad Boy Boogie" providing plenty of muscular guitar and relentlessly driving rhythm. Still, that was just an hors d'oeuvre compared to Dr. Feelgood. With producer Bob Rock behind the boards, the sound is snarling and ferocious, while the songs—from the brutally swinging, guitar-driven title tune, through the breathless surge of "Kickstart My Heart," to the insistent swagger of "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)"—never lets up. Even the ballads seem plausible. After several years of coasting and self-indulgence, the band splintered, with singer Vince Neil being pushed out and replaced by former Scream vocalist John Corabi. (Neil filed a wrongful dismissal suit, then cut a forgettable solo album.) Surprisingly, Mötley Crüe sounds tougher and more focused for the change, throwing real sparks with "Hooligan's Holiday" and unleashing a fearsome groove in "Welcome to the Numb." Corabi didn't click with the fans, however, and when the Crüe returned to the studio three years later, Neil was back out front. But apart from a hyped and slightly hysterical remake of "Shout at the Devil," Generation Swine is as limp as overcooked spaghetti. More turmoil ensued, and the band marked time by releasing Live: Entertainment of Death, a painfully accurate concert recording. Tommy Lee—who by this point had become more famous for canoodling with Pamela Anderson than for his drumming—had left, and was replaced by Randy Castillo, previously of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Oz. New Tattoo, the studio debut by this lineup, is largely pointless, but shows occasional signs of life through the likes of "She Needs Rock N Roll." Lee returned to the fold for a surprisingly successful reunion tour in 2005, chonicled on Carnival of Sins: Live. The set exclusively features their Eighties catalog—a sound they returned to on 2008's Saints of Los Angeles. Based on their bestselling memoir The Dirt, the album features autobiographical lyrics about gigging on the Sunset strip, snorting powders, screwing the wrong girls, and filing lawsuits. The tunes weren't bad, either, delivering glam guitars and arena-sized choruses on cuts like the nostalgic, wickedly catchy "Down at the Whisky" and generally rocking with the same sense of dumb, raucous fun as the old albums. The Crüe spent much of the 2000s mining the back catalogue for reissues. The best value for money is the fun-but-predictable Greatest Hit$ (which supplanted Decade of Decadence, a now-deleted best-of that had been released after Dr. Feelgood). Red, White & Crüe is a nice two-disc set with a couple of decent new tracks, while the leftovers/rarities compilation Supersonic and Demonic Relics is strictly for hard-core fans. Music to Crash Your Car To Vols 1 and 2 (their titles appear to be a stupid allusion to Vince Neil's having killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley in a 1984 car accident) are boxed sets that repackages the band's most of the band's catalog with a handful of minor rarities. They are docked one star for their title. As of press time, all four members of Mötley Crüe are still alive.

Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).

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