Flush It Friday – 30 Years of Bastards
A look at Motörhead‘s biggest smallest record.
Some 30 years ago, in November 1993, Motörhead released their 11th studio album Bastards. My older brother got it pretty soon after that, so it’s been a part of my life for about as long. For most of this time, I’ve taken its qualities for granted, its songs having about the same status to me that “Ace of Spades” has for the wider metal community: the kinds of classics you’ve heard so often that you barely give them a second thought. My recent (and ongoing) exploration of the Motörhead discography has re-contectualized the album as one that is not just great on its own, but a somewhat seminal release for the band, as together with its 1995 successor Sacrifice, it arguably forms the basis for the entire second half of the band’s career.
Bastards marks an end and a beginning, looking forward as well as back. The introduction of Mikkey Dee as the new permanent drummer would prove invaluable for the band going forward, and the unprecedentedly powerful sound of Bastards helps to catapult them out of the pit that many still consider 1992’s March ör Die to be. Spurred on by 1916‘s nomination for a Grammy (and likely Lemmy’s realization that he had made more money writing a few songs for Ozzy than he ever had with Motörhead), March ör Die took a shot at wider mainstream appeal, and pretty swiftly fell on its ass. Thus, Bastards marks not only the end to the lineup changes that had plagued the band in one way or another for a good decade at this point, but also the end of a thankfully shorter period of uncertainty as to what the band wanted to be.
Where the previous effort had pretty firmly established what Motörhead were not (i.e. Ted Nugent covers and stadium rock ballads with big name features), this one wastes little time getting to what they are and would be from here on out. After the briefest of intros, “On Your Feet or on Your Knees” kicks down the door in a way that must have assuaged many a fan’s fears: they are indeed Motörhead, and they do indeed play rock’n’roll. Both musically and lyrically, the album is almost entirely focussed on what the band does best. Lyrics span the tried and true themes of war (“Death or Glory,” “I am the Sword”), religion (“Liar”), and being horny (“Bad Woman”), while the music draws on everything from the no-fucks-given rock that originally made them popular to the anthemic melodies previously explored on tracks like “All for You” (“Devils”) to the raw brutality that so greatly influenced the burgeoning extreme metal scene some 15 years before (“Burner”). All of these would prove to be staples found to some degree on forthcoming records (and no doubt contribute to detractors claiming that every Motörhead album sounds the same).
Why Bastards doesn’t quite occupy the same eschelon as Overkill or Ace of Spades is a more far-reaching discussion, but a contributing factor and the reason I called it the smallest record is the unfortunate decision to release it on German label ZYX Music. Germany was an important market for the band, but they had not foreseen just how little the label would do to promote the record anywhere outside of the country. Until the 2001 re-issue via Steamhammer, most international fans would have had to import it. If you’re one of the unfortunate folks who got shafted back in the day, or if you’re wondering what good Motörhead could still do after their early and most influential phase, or if you’re simply looking for an entry point to their discography, use this time between the years to check out Bastards.
After you check out this week’s contributions to the bowl, of course.
Iron Goddess delivered unto us the gurgles:
The Boyz reviewed a year of Toilet Radio, featuring several of their favourite Guys:
Bees love jazz. Megachiles loves jazz. Narzissus loves jazz. JAZZ:
Some real stinkers this year. 365‘s here with the always delightful Worst Album Art of the year:
What other albums had anniversaries this year? What else didn’t get its due when it was released? Let us know in the comments, along with your Goods, Bads, and Uggos.