Motörhead: Bad Magic

No change of pace for Lemmy and co. on studio album number 22.

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If brushes with mortality are meant to slow you down, it’s clear Lemmy, 70 next birthday, didn’t get the memo. An album of reflective piano ballads this is not.

Bad Magic was written and recorded live in the studio for the first time in the Kilmister/Phil Campbell/Mikkey Dee era, with long-time producer Cameron Webb once more at the helm. It captures the band at their fast and furious best, rocking with a fuss-free propulsion that posits Motörhead, finally, as the British Ramones on a dozen shots of turbo-charged riff’n’roll.

As anyone who has seen Motörhead in concert recently can attest, Lemmy is starting to show his age and signs of the ill health that has hindered his career of late. But Webb bolsters his vocals with enough studio thunder to cover his tracks and make him seem like the invincible warty road warrior of lore. Yes, on opener Victory Or Die he sounds, on first listen, like a wheezing pensioner doing an impression of Lemmy, but so successfully does Webb “empower” him that you ignore that and revel in the noise.

Occasionally, as on Fire Storm Hotel, with its shades of an 80s hair metal anthem, he sounds at once energised and enfeebled and you find yourself willing him to reach the velocity of yore. But most of the time, you could play these tracks to an alien and they would struggle to tell them apart from Motörhead’s 90s, or even 70s, work.

Appropriately, the language is all death-or-glory with several fingers raised to the grim reaper and more than one cameo appearance from the devil. Thunder & Lightning hears Lemmy declaring, ‘I always wanted the dangerous life.’ Well, he got it. On Electricity, a terse two-minute burst, he barks, ‘Don’t tell me who I am - I don’t give a damn’ while on Teach Them How To Bleed he taunts, ‘Catch me if you can.’

There is one gear shift down, on Till The End, which is like a metal take on Johnny Cash’s Hurt, Lemmy reflecting poignantly on a life lived hard. But sentiment gets short shrift on Tell Me Who To Kill, Choking On Your Screams and When The Sky Comes Looking For You.

A version of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil closes the album, and although thematically it might fit, musically its loping gait is no match for Motörhead’s adrenalised hurtle – and besides, Lemmy doesn’t quite have Jagger’s diabolical swagger. He’s better on the similarly titled The Devil (featuring Brian May) where he’s ‘staring into the face of death’ with as much dignity as he can muster: bass slung low, legs akimbo, mic raised high and head tilted skywards. Remember him this way.

Classic Rock 214: New Albums

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.