Motorhead - Ace Of Spades
The timing couldn't be more right for this album: 1980 was, unquestionably, the year when kick-ass heavy metal was bigger than ever. Back In Black! British Steel! Iron Maiden's debut! And although Motorhead, together with AC/DC, were representing the 'old guard' rather than the newly-emerging British New Wave of heavy metal scene, they fit in perfectly with this, their biggest selling record ever.
And they actually deserved it. The decision was to pull all the stops, and that is exactly what happens. No slow bluesy numbers, no attempts at ominous moody depressing tunes, just butt-ripping rock'n'roll, fast, mean and dirty, all the way to the bank. Every single goddamn motherfuckin' song on here sounds so much the same that Back In Black seems like The White Album in comparison. Mark Prindle remarked that each of the riffs here probably took about 45 seconds to write, and he couldn't be more right. The chord sequences are idiotic, when there are chord sequences at all. But the speed, the tone, and the atmosphere simply can't be beat. You just can't argue with a record like this. You just can't. Actually, once the forty minutes of your parents' worst nightmare (and really, I can't imagine any record, apart from maybe all those Cannibal Corpse albums that are designed with the sole purpose of making you vomit over your boots, that could alienate a guy from his parents better than Ace Of Spades - hey, I'm pushing twenty six and I'd never dare put any of those songs on for my father, himself a big rock'n'roll fan), anyway, once the forty minutes of your parents' worst nightmare have spun in your mind for a bunch of times, you start noticing all the little vocal hooks and all the little intricacies in the riffs... you could have sworn they weren't there at the beginning, but they actually were, and like it or not, they are what helped initially draw you to the album. That's the power of Motorhead. That's the perverse charm of the Lemmster. God I feel sick, humiliated, whatsoever. Well, I don't really even know how to describe these songs. Ehhh... there are about four slower tunes and the rest boogie along at lightning speed. Proto-thrash at its nastiest. 'Ace Of Spades', the title track, must have been a real shock to everybody: apart from maybe Judas Priest, nobody in the metal/hard rock camp was playing that fast in 1980, certainly not AC/DC or Van Halen or any other guitar heroes. And they're actually not just going chunka-chunka-chunka like every mediocre thrasher does, there's actually a memorable descending guitar riff being played over the chuggin' bassline! And the lyrics? 'You know I'm going to lose, and gambling is for fools, but that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever'? Whoah! That's, like, the real Motorhead way of life! (Granted, Lemmy has since violated this rule, because at this particular joint seems like only a shotgun could take him out, but he is gonna die some day, isn't he? Unless he's the Son of God in disguise, and that would be a really sick joke on the part of the Father, I guess). All the other songs are just one big song for me. From 'Love Me Like A Reptile' to the apocalyptic calabash of 'The Hammer', everything that is left in my memory is broken bits and hanging straps and scraps and scrips of occasional hooks and suchlike. I know I'm not supposed to give out high ratings to albums where I can't even begin describing the songs, but Ace Of Spades is truly a unique case. I mean, I am sitting listening to the maniacal, absolutely devastating coda to '(We Are) The Road Crew' right now and I don't understand how these guys manage to do it. The wah-wah, the grinding guitar, the smashing bass, hell, even Philthy Animal's drums manage to sound all dirty and sleazy. And all this, without an ounce of self-indulgency. They're sincerely pushing for unadulterated rock'n'roll excitement, not for showing off their skills... which they don't have anyway. Heck, okay, Eddie Clarke is a skilled guitarist, but he's no other Eddie. He doesn't excite with his chops, he excites with how he's able to take the dirtiest Chuck Berry licks and make them ten times as dirty. Okay, so when you're all fed up with the three or four riffs that repeat themselves over and over, the new CD re-issue adds three bonus tracks, two of which sound exactly like everything else, but the third one is a curiosity - 'Please Don't Touch', recorded together with the all-female metal band Girlschool, is radically, very radically different from the classic Motorhead sound. It's more like slickly produced pop metal, and Lemmy's vocal sounds awfully shy when paired together with this female Girlschool growl, but it's still a good song. Catchy and well-flowing, and Eddie gets a great guitar solo as usual. Ooh well, anyway, anyway... to hell with the bonus tracks, this is an awesome album. Awesome. I will forever lose my reputation if I attempt to give it a perfect rating, and it really works as an "experience" rather than a set of individual songs, but that's an experience not to be missed. I certainly won't subscribe to the theory that Motorhead are the "perfect" rock'n'roll band, symbolizing the rock force more than the Who or the Stones, but one thing's for certain: few bands could rock out at such a dumb, dumb, dumb level as Motorhead and still end up sounding intelligent. Yeah, you heard me. If you have a minute of spare time, use it to analyze Lemmy's lyrics. They're hardly deeper than the Dead Sea, but they're neither overtly offensive nor overtly cliched. He's a cool guy, warts and all.