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Saints Of Los Angeles

Mötley (2008)
Rating: 8.5/10

I think it’s fair to say that despite the soap opera lifestyles of the Mötley Crüe guys, this band has stood the test of time, from the glam metal era, right through to the hazy grunge invasion and to the modern. It’s also fair to say that Saints Of Los Angeles is probably the bands best record since the classic Dr. Feelgood in 1989.

It’s amazing just how many of these types of bands have managed to evolve with the times, especially when you consider how derided the so-called “hair metal” era was all those years ago. The mid-to-late 90s was a taxing time for bands that made their money in the 80s and everything had become so serious and bereft of image, but the true musicians shine through with great songwriting prowess.

Mötley Crüe 2008 is a truly metallic beast pumped up to the nines and taking no prisoners. This time round bass god Nikki Sixx has enlisted the help of not just fellow band members, but friend and all round great guitarist DJ Ashba (Guns N’ Roses), Sixx AM vocalist James Michael and songwriter Marti Frederiksen to stir this cauldron. The result is 12 solid balls of rock, fronted by the inimitable Vince Neil, whose nasal whine, although mocked over the years, has remained as distinctive and somehow charming as it almost cracks under the high note pressure.

Mötley Crüe have always had the songs, but at times lacked the camaraderie to be the respected band they have finally managed to be. Even so, the friction has somehow kept the band on their toes, and Saints Of Los Angeles is proof that nothing is better than an original Crüe line-up.

And so, after a brief intro (‘L.A.M.F.’) we’re hit full in the face by the bruising ‘Face Down In The Dirt’, which whispers itself across the floor under Vince’s hushed tones of: “It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it”, before we are molested by Mick Mars’ killer riff which walks hand in hand with Tommy Lee’s battering ram of a drum. Mick Mars is probably metal’s most underrated guitarist, a man who despite illness has churned out memorable riff after memorable riff over the years, backed by partners in crime Lee and the imposing Sixx.

One thing I immediately notice about this album is the raw energy and almost 80s-style lyrics. Maybe these were songs written in the 80s, as there seems to be a reflective feel to them, especially on ‘Down At The Whisky’ and the joyous bubblegum rock of ‘Chicks = Trouble’ which sounds like it’s been plucked from 80s.

Even so, despite the almost cheesy pomp of said tracks, the band shines most on the fantastic ‘What’s It Gonna Take’ which features one of the finest metal riffs I’ve ever heard on that chorus. Mars’ guitar just rolls from the speakers, as once again the lyrics are reflective, with Neil commentating on those early days when the band struggled to get a record deal. It’s an infectious track with a truly gnarly vocal, but it’s the mid-section of the album that cements Crüe’s place in metal history as such a formidable rock ’n’ roll act.

The title track creeps in on a menacing bass line and then rushes headlong into the bastard offspring of ‘Wildside’ from 1987’s Girls, Girls, Girls opus. Neil’s choppy raps lead to a chanted, anthemic chorus that sticks in the ears, but it’s the brutishly titled ‘Mutherfucker Of The Year’ that stands alone. It shuffles in on a grunge-infested guitar and Tommy’s wildebeest stampede of a drum before lurching into a staggering, arrogant chorus. Mars is truly electrifying on this, the album’s heaviest moment that drifts into what can only be described as a hair metal ballad for the modern day.

‘The Animal In Me’ is a dark, brooding masterpiece featuring some lustful lyrics which delivers with sleazy aplomb. “Lying in my bed with their hands tied up, I knew it all along that it wasn’t enough” sounds like the words of a serial killer, the track exploding into a crescendo of booming drums and sweeping guitars. ‘The Animal In Me’ seems to exist as the more menacing relative to the punkoid jerk of ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’.

The band shift effortlessly between darkness and light, always remaining ragged in between, especially on the maniacal chug of ‘Just Another Psycho’ and the more uptempo ‘Welcome To The Machine’ and ‘Goin’ Out Swingin’.

Saints Of Los Angeles really is a slab of a record, well produced by James Michael who gives it a polished feel. The glint of the guitar blinds the eye and it’s fair to say I’ve never heard the band sound so fresh. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next one, but what with Nikki Sixx’s various projects and the usual dramatics one would expect from a bunch of multi-millionaires, Saints Of Los Angeles could well be, like so many other Crüe records, the rumoured last word. If it is then it’s a storming way to go out, but I think they’ll be back because without Mötley Crüe, and countless other so-called “80s bands”, music just wouldn’t be the same.

Neil Arnold