Power to the Music
Til Death Do Us Part
Welcome to the Numb
Smoke the Sky
Droppin' Like Flies
Motley Crue without Vince Neil? This wasn’t what Elektra execs had in mind when they re-signed the band for $25m shortly before Vince walked – or was pushed, depending on who’s talking.
With new frontman John Corabi (formerly of LA rockers The Scream, and later to front The Dead Daisies), the Crue attempted a bold reinvention, dressing down and making a grunge-influenced record.
There’s some good stuff on Motley Crue. Boisterous single Hooligan’s Holiday and the atmospheric Misunderstood are strong modern rock songs. Corabi was a better singer than Vince. But within three years, The Dude was back.
"A lot of fans said ‘No way I was buying that record when it came out’", Corabi said later. "I think we had kind of a die-hard fan base when it came out, but a lot of the people were angry with Motley for getting rid of Vince, or Vince leaving or whatever happened.
“A lot of fans, once Vince came back, saw it, picked it up and ended up really enjoying it. It’s still trudging along and selling and doing its thing. The best thing to me is that it still sounds as relevant now as it did when it came out.”
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
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Other albums released in March 1994
- Beck - Mellow Gold
- Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
- Cheap Trick - Woke Up With A Monster
- Insane Clown Posse - Ringmaster
- David Lee Roth - Your Filthy Little Mouth
- Superunknown - Soundgarden
- Pantera - Far Beyond Driven
- Phish - Hoist
- Pink Floyd - The Division Bell
What they said...
"Motley Crue is a dense, dark and formidable record, bereft of thrills and spills it almost labours from the speakers. Corabi’s vocals are mighty, masculine in their venom, and there’s no denying his soul, but time and time again I hear myself saying, 'but is it Crue?', and of course I have to say 'no'." (Metal Forces Magazine (opens in new tab))
"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 philosophising and menacing to other bands; Motley Crue achieves what it sets out to do: keep the riffs coming and mean every word." (Rolling Stone (opens in new tab))
"Although many Motley Crue fans dislike the album because of Neil’s absence, no one can deny that it’s the band’s heaviest and most mature record – mature, of course, being a relative term where Motley Crue is involved. Lyrically, the songs are still littered with drug references and party themes, but musically, there’s a definite growth." (Something Else (opens in new tab))
What you said...
Alex Hayes: I've always been somewhat ambivalent about Motley Crue. I may be a bit of an 80s rock junkie, but the Crue have never been one of my preferred fixes. I can think of plenty of bands from that period that I favour over them. I have a similar lack of regard for Poison, probably more so in fact. Now, there's a band whose appeal I've never managed to figure out.
I can distinctly remember excitedly sitting on the school bus, homeward bound one Friday afternoon in either 1987 or 88. A schoolmate had copied the first four Crue albums for me across two C90 cassette tapes, and I was looking forward to spending the weekend getting acquainted with them.
I ended up disappointed. They were decent enough in places, but nowhere close to the expectations that I'd built up in my head. Even the 13 or 14 year old me immediately sussed out just how half-baked an album Theatre Of Pain was. The only album out of the four that I actually felt compelled to go out and buy was Girls, Girls, Girls. I still own that vinyl copy.
It wasn't until many, many years later that I availed myself of both Dr. Feelgood (actually, probably my favourite of the Crue albums) and this 1994 self-titled set. Put bluntly, I couldn't be arsed prior to that. That lack of motivation extends out to the groups latter day output, most of which I've never heard. I do quite like the title-track to The Dirt movie though. That's a pretty solid, high energy, modern day Crue number.
Motley Crue (the 1994 album) is pretty good overall, one of the band's more consistent records. John Corabi acquits himself well here, and the album benefits from a typically crunching, 90s era Bob Rock production. You can easily discern the influence of the 'black album' here, in the same way that Metallica's 1991 opus was itself informed by Dr. Feelgood. It's almost like the two bands were feeding off each other, production wise, for a while.
Thing is, the album hits an artistic peak early on, with Hooligans Holday, and never quite scales those heights again. I can't respect the creative intentions behind this album either. There was something deeply sad to me about the manner in which many glam metal bands attempted to reinvent themselves in the wake of grunge. No doubt there will have been industry pressure to do so, but it often came across as desperate. Gotta say though, the 1994 Crue album is one of the better examples of that.
Finally, this album always reminds me of a rather comical interview that Nikki Sixx gave to Kerrang! magazine at the time of its release. Throughout the interview, Sixx was so insistent on trying to 'spin' the Crue's then-current commercial decline into something positive that, at times, it almost bordered on self-delusion.
Recent setbacks like the dramatic drop-off in record sales, and the rapidly shrinking scale of live venues from arenas to theatres and then clubs, were all unconvincingly re-framed by Sixx into being part of a deliberate plan to consciously downscale operations, as opposed to the reality of them being forced on the band by changing tastes and poor ticket sales. Heh, if you say so Nikki. The K! journalist didn't buy it either.
That's probably the last article that I can recall ever reading in Kerrang! 1994 was the year that I finally ditched the magazine. It's editorial focus had shifted so radically by that stage that it seemed to have completely lost its sense of identity. Similar story with the Crue on this album, as enjoyable as it is.
Clive Boorman: With any band it's all about the vocals for me and having a much better vocalist raised this above the others.
Tony Bickerdike: Absolutely brilliant album. Whilst it’s not a traditional Motley Crue sound, the powerful production and vocals are superb. Hooligans Holiday on loud... there’s very few songs by any band that remains melodic but also wobble your innards.
Neil Wilson: Love it, the best musical excursion ever released under the Motley Crue name.... sadly, that's the problem for so many people, should have been a different band name!
Russ Blaine: By far their best album, but admittedly a completely different band. Powerful, angry, lyrical... you can tell Corabi kicked them in the ass in every direction. I still give this a spin a couple times per year.
Tony Fuerte: My favourite Crue album. I get that Crue had a distinct sound with Vince on vocals. With Crab on vocals It gave Crue a sound that could never achieve with Vince. Songs like Holligan’s Holiday, Power To The Music and Smoke The Sky leap out of your speakers while Misunderstood is an incredible ballad. I would have loved to have heard Generation Swine with Crab on vocals vs Vince coming back. I will probably be in the minority on this score. 10/10
Chris Downie: History is littered with hard-luck stories of albums which sunk without trace, long before they were given a fair critical appraisal. Some were victims of preconception, whereby a 'name' band attempted reinvention and/or relaunch with a new lineup, the underrated Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath being a fine example.
Unfortunately for Motley Crue, they not only had to contend with the thriving grunge scene, but attempting to reinvent themselves amidst the loss of an iconic frontman, whatever their vocal limitations. It is this combination of events which effectively doomed what is a hidden gem of 90's metal.
Musically speaking, this self-titled 1994 effort is pitched somewhere in between Metallica's self-titled black album and Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power (not entirely coincidental, given the former's Bob Rock returning as producer) and finds the band in the form of their lives; Tommy Lee's drums are superb throughout, both in execution and sound, while Mick Mars thrives on having a second guitarist to play off of.
New frontman John Corabi also sings his heart out, in addition to his impressive rhythm playing. His gruff style gives the heavier tracks such as opener Power To The Music and Smoke the Sky a then-contemporary edge that their peers sorely lacked, while he shows impressive range on the ballads like the Zeppelin-esque Loveshine and emotive closer Driftaway.
If there is one universal criticism that can be unanimously agreed on, it is that this is not, strictly speaking, a Motley Crue album, being so far removed from the sound that made them mega-selling stars. That said, those who level the criticism at Corabi neglect to mention that despite the return of Vince Neil, the band's record sales fell even further, starting with the poor experimentation of Generation Swine (depending on which report one reads, the songs were written for, even demoed by, Corabi prior to the switch) and their subsequent descent into nostalgia band and parody.
This may not be a Motley Crue album in the truest, crue-est sense, but it is arguably the best thing they ever did musically and, like the Martin era of Sabbath, may have benefitted greatly from going out under a different name. An album worthy of reappraisal, especially for those not impressed by their sleaze/glam sounds of yore. 9/10.
Brian Carr: Comparisons, preconceived notions and changing tastes - Motley Crue’s self-titled 1994 album probably had zero chance of success. By 1994, the Crue’s brand of hard rock was so hated by loads of music fans that the two words on the cover were enough to have the album shunned and dismissed without a listen.
Similar trend-following from Elektra, radio and MTV would essentially torpedo any level of promotion from those sources (and given de facto band leader Nikki Sixx’s abrasive attitude towards others, I imagine there were many in the industry that had sentiments of “good riddance”).
Which left the band’s hardcore fans to allow the album to swim or sink. Those fans were enough to send Motley Crue into the top ten and go gold, but then the comparisons kick in. The change in vocalists provide an obvious shift in sound, but the musical change is readily apparent as well: I can’t imagine Vince Neil singing most of these tracks. As I listened to Motley Crue through the course of this week (hello, spring break!), it occurred to me that this could have been Back In Black and still bombed, all things considered.
Of course, Motley Crue (the album) is not Back In Black, but is it any good? Is it even possible to listen with objective ears? For me, the answers are ‘yes’ and ‘kind of.’ To my ears, Hooligan’s Holiday, Poison Apples and Welcome To The Numb were the only tunes that reminded me of 1980s Motley, but the entire album is solid hard rock.
I love the sound, the guitars and, as always, Tommy Lee’s drums. Knowing Vince Neil’s vocal limitations live, I kind of prefer Corabi’s voice. I like the album enough to rate it in the 7 to 8 range. I can’t go higher, though, because despite the fact that I like all of the songs, they aren’t necessarily memorable to me. Riffs, yes, hooks, not really. Fun spin through hard rock history, though!
Andrew Cumming: I was very disappointed with this album when it came out - because I wanted the follow up to Dr Feelgood - and this is a very very different kind of album. Coming at it fresh years later, I think it's a good album with good songs (Hooligan's Holiday, Loveshine, Poison Apples, Smoke The Sky), but it's not a Motley Crue album.
As others have said, if this was released under another bands name I think it would have been well received. It's a very solid 90s rock/metal album. I suppose there are echos of Hagar-era Van Halen here, where the band (both bands) essentially ditched the fun element and concentrated on making a solid rock album. Difference is a) Hagar vs Corabi as front men and b) 5150 was a very very strong and easy to engage with album, where this is dark and intense. But overall good album that has stood the test of time remarkably well. But not the successor to Dr Feelgood.
Brett Deighton: This will be interesting to see how other people feel. For me the only issue is the band name. If I had been played this album without knowing it was Motley Crue, I would have said it’s a damn good hard rock record. I loved the heavy sound, particularly Tommy’s drums. Smoke the Sky is a great example. But Corabi proves he could do the ballads too. I thought Driftaway was one of the better songs on the album. There are some songs that are more filler than killer, so I don’t think it’s a classic. I do think it’s underrated and worthy of many people giving it a second chance. Just don’t expect Shout at the Devil!
Pete Delgado: LOL… this is one of those albums people try to convince you is really a masterpiece. It’s not. It was in the cut-out bins at the time for a reason. It sucked… their best were the first two albums. That is all.
James Southard: Fantastic album. Shame they got rid of Corabi before they had him complete Generation Swine.
Shayne Ashby: Great album. Monster production. Got to see Corabi perform it start to finish in small club in Sydney a few years ago... in my top 10 gigs of all time. I loved all the early albums with Vince but wish Corabi had stuck around as their albums since have been below average.
I cant think of any 80s glam rock bands doing well in 1994. Whilst this album certainly isn't glam rock, I think the whole notion of bands changing to fit in the scene had left a bad taste in many peoples mouths. It's a shame as I rate this up there with Shout and Too Fast.
Tony Cruse: Never their best album. Good album but shouldn’t really be a Crue album. I even thought the underrated New Tattoo was way better than this.
Elad Winberg: Good and even great album, but their best musically? I think that Shout At the Devil and Too Fast To Love would like to have a few words with whoever wrote this statement. Even though the self titled album is very solid and has great songwriting, and I think that it's vastly underrated just because Vince Neil isn't the vocalist. Which is kinda sad when you think about it, because it's a good and unique album and it feels very refreshing in my opinion.
Nigel Taylor: Easily their best album musically and vocally. Great songs, great production, and did I mention great vocals? Sadly the world seems to prefer nonsense like Dr Feelgood though.
Steven Maxwell: Tremendous album! Just not a great Motley Crue album. Just like 5150: Great album. Just a shit Van Halen album. Plus, the 1994 Motley is probably the greatest sounding hard rock album of all time. The production is absolutely insane. Even if you hate the album and the band, you cannot deny the production on this fucking thing. Everything louder than everything else, enormous drums, a wall of huge fucking guitars. Just a dream sound.
Brian Hart: Musically, this album is far superior than any other Crue Album. The production is perfect and this album sounds incredible at top volume. Even with Corabi on vocals, musically this was a bit of a left turn. Although we did get a taste of a harder, new direction when the Crue released Primal Scream on the Decade Of Decadence retrospective.
The Crue even touch onto Zeppelin territory with the song Loveshine. Misunderstood might be one of the best Crue songs ever. Songs like Hooligans Holiday, Smoke the Sky, and Poison Apples are complete bangers. I think this album would’ve been much bigger had it been released under a new band name. I never understood why Nikki Sixx bags on this album.
Douglas Mackenzie: As an off/on Motley Crue fan, this one slipped by without notice after the sad advent of grunge killed off many great 80s metal acts.
So it's with great delight that i discover a hidden gem, which is, as many people have already said, nothing like traditional Crue, but more like a 'serious' rock band. In today's rock desert, it's great to discover a fantastic hard rock album that i missed first time round.
Mike Canoe: The self-titled 1994 release by Motley Crue appears to be the Motley Crue album for people who don't really like Motley Crue. My problem is that I do like Mötley Crüe, and although it seems like there should be a support group for this, I like Vince Neil as a singer. By his own estimation, Neil sounded like "Robin Zander (of Cheap Trick) getting his nuts pinched." I felt he generally conveyed the emotion of the song well and like other front men before him made the best with what he had.
But, this week, we come to bury Vince Neil, not to praise him. To get in the right headspace, I tried to think of this album as a lost jewel like previous club picks by the Sea Hags or the Four Horsemen. Thinking of it like that works well for about half of the album.
John Corabi's voice reminds me a lot of... a famous rock singer that's right on the top of my brain but I can't quite place. His rough, gruff voice works when the rough, gruff material works. In general, I like the upbeat numbers best like Hooligan's Holiday, Poisoned Apples, and Power To The Music, even as I realise the seething ballad Til Death to Us Part" is my favourite song, with the melancholy Driftaway coming in second. This is a very antiquated phrase, but I wouldn't turn off Misunderstood or Loveshine if they came on the radio.
While it's actually on the track Babykills from Quaternary, the argument that opens the track is pretty telling about where the band's head was at. Tommy Lee yells, "...we're not having fun!" Someone (Nikki Sixx?) responds, "We're not supposed to have fun! We're musicians!" In the mid-nineties, that seemed to mean dark and gritty, hence the off brand Alice In Chains of Uncle Jack or Droppin Like Flies.
While I am firmly on "Team Vince," John Corabi was dumped from the band in a way that seemed cruel and uncool even by music biz standards. In all, this is a better listening experience than I expected. For me, it doesn't compete with the first four Crüe albums - or the blink and you missed it New Tattoo from 2000, recorded without Tommy Lee and not missed by me. On that album they sound both like they're having fun and musicians. Of course, individual results may vary. Maybe I have to finally give Saints Of Los Angeles a spin next.
Evan Sanders: Such a strange album, as it sounds more like a combination of Metallica and Aerosmith than Motley Crue. This one might have been received better if it had been released under a different band name. By comparison, I think of what the reaction would have been if Robert Plant had released his solo albums under the Led Zeppelin name, or the difference between Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, who shared multiple members. 7/10
John Davidson: I'll be honest. I've never liked Crue.
I found their brand of sleazy singalong party anthems on MTV at odds with my recently acquired "adulthood" (how little did I know).
When I hear them now I can appreciate them for what they are without being a fan.
So.. listening to Motley Crue the 1994 album I was pleasantly surprised to hear a collection of more complex, lyrically rich and dare I say it reflective songs than I thought they were capable of.
Corabi has a much better voice than Neil. It's got a bit of grit and is much more expressive than Neil's nasal whine.
The fact that in addition Corabi filled the role of rhythm guitarist allowed Mars to express himself through more subtle and interesting guitar licks (evident on Power To The Music ).
Overall it is much closer to a classic rock album than the band's normal sleazy glam and while there are touches of grunge in places it's not a pastiche.
It's certainly not the glum poetry of Pearl Jam or the angry self-doubt of Nirvana. If anything it reminds me in places of Mother Love Bone (which straddled the west coast sounds) or Alice in Chains more melodic moments (particularly on Droppin like Flies).
At other times they sound like a roughed up Aerosmith or a less drug addled Guns N' Roses (particularly on Welcome To The Numb and Smoke The Sky).
But genuinely, freed of all expectations and preconceptions, it just sounds like a bloody good rock album.
If they hadn't been a bunch of self destructive idiots who fell out with MTV and their record label, they could perhaps have marketed this as a 'Crue grows up' album and maybe – just maybe – found a new audience because on the evidence of this they have the musical chops to deliver more.
Anyway. This was a revelation to me and I'm going to give it an 8/10. I'll probably buy the album.
Final Score: 7.30 (85 votes cast, total score 621)
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