“Power to the music in the streets,” demand the Crue on the kickoff tune of their new album. But they’re really celebrating the power of the Zeitgeist, the minute changes in the musical winds that have kept the band aloft all this time — from its origins as the only metal outfit beloved of punk-dominated Los Angeles to pretentious poseurs and meat-and-potatoes hard rockers heavy on the riffs and light on the introspection — without drastically changing its sound. This seventh effort’s major innovation is the loss of singer Vince Neil and the arrival of his welcome replacement, John Corabi, formerly of the Scream (me neither). Hiring a relative unknown to front a hugely popular 13-year-old group is not a decision tight-pantsed dummies would make. It recognizes that supergroups are invariably less than the sum of their chubby parts, and it wins the band a game, workhorse musician with everything to prove.
The Crue’s best quality, aside from their now mislaid sense of humor, is that old metal mainstay: chops. Each of the 12 songs here stars a whomping chord progression determined to imprint itself on listeners’ skulls. The band chugs, noodles and finger picks soulfully, raising visions of Metallica on the hardest tunes (“Uncle Jack,” “Poison Apples,” “Welcome to the Numb”) and Guns n’ Roses on the fast and slow ends (“Hammered,” “Misunderstood”).
If the music seems samey — which it does, being sequenced for maximum sustained headbang rather than overall cadence — Corabi keeps it fresh. He has an impressive high-range yowl that’s never nasal, and he bellows his heart out on the clichéd lyrics as if he has just thought of them. But the Crue have always left the philosophizing and menacing to other bands; Motley Crue achieves what it sets out to do: keep the riffs coming and mean every word.