Bloody hell, Motörhead have gone and made a new album. And it’s good! Alright, not their best ever, but it’s definitely a good ‘un – recalling hedonistic, biker rocking days of yore faster than you can air-guitar the Ace Of Spades riff.
With the greatest will, and the greatest respect in the world, we did not see this coming. We wanted to, of course, but it seemed too unlikely to be true. Yes, Motörhead are dinosauric champions of heavy metal, distortion and all things that say ‘black leather’ and ‘lashings of whisky’. But it seemed far from certain that they’d beat the odds of illness, excess and the like. Especially given the cancelled shows, and Lemmy’s increasingly hard-to-hide frailty.
But odds be damned! They may have aged and Lemmy may be inches from collapse, but they’re darned if they’ll let that stop ‘em. Sonically bolstered by long-time producer Cameron Webb, Bad Magic is pleasingly close to their 70s/80s sound. Opener Victory Or Die sets a vigorous, ‘riiight-let’s-be-’avin-ya’ tone, with Lemmy hoarsely crying “that’s the spirit, victory or die!” like a man in bold, blank denial of his ailing health (this is a man who switched from whisky to vodka, for health reasons…).
Their gloriously chunky, punky attitude frames the likes of Electricity. Phil Campbell pulls out some first-class solo flourishes. Evil Eye carries a menacingly voiced, blues-rooted hook, and Tell Me Who To Kill is magnificently riffy, fuzzy, fat-of-groove. Clever? Who needs clever when you’re this big? And on the lyrical front, what could wordy intellect possibly have over nuggets like “Don’t say it’s unfair/I’ll hit you with a chair”? Exactly. NOTHING.
If you wanted a radical departure, this ain’t it. But let’s be honest, they haven’t really changed their tack since 1975 – they were unlikely to do so now, and we’re happy for it. Yes it’s stodgy in places, and Lemmy becomes slightly tragic in Till The End, but as an album it comfortably holds its on.
Bad magic? Au contraire, this is the better kind. Who knows how much longer we’ll have them for – recently Lemmy had to cut a Salt Lake City gig short, after the altitude left him struggling to breathe. So the omens, while not set in stone, aren’t exactly great. But if this is the last thing they make, it’d be a great note to end on.