Motorhead - On Parole
It's rather funny that upon hearing this, the very first album recorded (but not released) by the Godfathers of thrash and speed metal, the initial reaction is somewhat like 'sheez, I kinda understand why their record company turned this down'. On Parole was indeed recorded in 1976, but was deemed unsuitable for release by the band's record company; it was only released officially three years later, as the band's career was picking up steam and the public screamed for more Motorhead. The exact reasons of why the album was shelved for so long are not quite clear to me, but I can actually guess: the album sounds pretty sterile and feeble when compared to 'classic' Motorhead releases. On the other hand, it also presents the band as a gutsy, raw, unpolished outfit, which might be pleasing for those rock purists who'd never want their rock'n'roll overproduced or overslick; particularly for those who hate Motorhead as a show-offey, exaggerated, near-comic outfit reveling in sexist and satanic imagery.
True, there's enough dumb sexism in the debut album as well (whaddaya want from an album whose very third song sports the title 'Vibrator' and is completely dedicated to extolling the eternal virtues of the aforenamed object?). But cock-rock and machismo aside, the essence of Motorhead is in power, rebellion and simplicity, aka standard punk values, except that Motorhead are far more densely rooted in tradition, blues and bluesrock than any given punk band. (Could we just make a nice generalization and say that heavy metal usually finds its roots in the blues while punk usually finds its roots in pop and pop-rock? I KNOW it's not a hundred percent true, but I just love making dubious generalizations). And there's enough pleasure to be found in the album as such. For one, Larry Wallace, the band's first guitarist, is a great player, ripping out simple, but effective and energizing solos on most of the fast AND slow rockers, while Lemmy Kilmister contributes phat bass runs and grumbly grizzly vocals - you know, jes' da thing to have. 'Motorhead' is obviously a minor classic, and a perfect way to claim the legacy of Steppenwolf: 'Motorhead, remember me now Motorhead, alright...'. Same with the title track, which eventually evolves into a solid, tight jam that really threatens to blow the roof off (apparently since the roof in question wasn't all that high, considering the acoustics of the album). Bluesy rockers like 'The Watcher' have every inch of menace that is supposed to be contained therein preserved, and even the cover of the old R'n'B standard 'Leaving Here' kicks some moderate ass. That said, the percentage of filler is still way too hard for the album to receive anything higher than the rating I gave it. The supposedly 'glorious' bike anthem 'Iron Horse', for instance, sounds as if they were recording it underground (why are the guitars mixed in so poorly?), and due to lack of that same polish that some of ye purists might lament loses any kind of impact. Same goes with the supposedly glorious outcast anthem 'Lost Johnny'. In all, I'm kinda torn - part of me wants to congratulate the boys for the rawness and sincerity, while another part cuts the appraisal down by pointing out the awful production. The pessimistic part eventually gains that battle, because there's the added argument of subpar songwriting: not that Motorhead were ever excellent songwriters, but these here songs certainly don't qualify as their best. Apart from 'Motorhead', of course, and 'On Parole', which are acclaimed classics an' righteely so. The CD re-issue adds a couple alternate takes to beef up the running time, but so far I haven't figured the differences from the originals and I don't have any more time left to do that. Maybe in a hundred years. Oh and, by the way, most of these songs were actually re-recorded later for the band's 'official debut', the self-titled Motorhead, which is for extremely perverse reasons missing from my MP3 collection. Guess they thought it was a compilation or sumpthin'. Too bad - it's usually considered to be highly superior.