Friday, November 14, 2008

Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood

This 1989 album is considered by most - including the band members themselves - to be the best Mötley Crüe record so far, and probably ever. personally, I think it's the only Crüe record worth a damn, which might go a long way to explain the complete absence of Crüe records in our collection up until this purchase.

This record came out approximately at the same time as I started listening to heavy metal, after a very good friend gradually introduced me to heavier side of music. He started with Doro (the former singer of German HM band Warlock), progressed via Lita Ford, Alice Cooper and Poison to Mötley Crüe, softening me up before exposing me to Iron Maiden, Dio, Running Wild and W.A.S.P. After that, there was no turning back.

The actual purchase of this record - as opposed to borrowing it from any of the many friends who already owned this album - occurred after I'd read "The Dirt", "Tommyland" and "Heroin Diaries", and so the backdrop for the songs was much clearer than it was when I last listened to this album in the mid-to-late nineties. This is THE album where they were clean, and when they at least semi-functioned as a unit. Never was much of a Crüe fan, but I used to like this album a lot.

Listening to it now, I still like it - especially the production - but there are some glaringly obvious flaws I really wasn't aware of back when I first heard it. First of all, Crüe by and large suck on their respective instruments. Well; Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee do minimalist work on bass and drums, respectively, so they're not really trying. Hardly groundbreaking. Vince Neil has overdubbed his vocals so much that it sounds full and on average within the target pitch, although with a wide spread. Mick Mars is an old-school bluesy minimalist who covers himself up by using gobs of distortion and Def Leppard-esque numbers of overdubbed layers. Dude plays slide on several tunes, and it's pretty obvious that he's more at home doing stock blues and chordal licks. The solos ain't much to write home about - Mars does attempt some basic tapping in order to speed things up on some occasions, like the solos to the title song and "Slice Of Your Pie". Have to admire the producing skillz of one Bob Rock, who introduced pitch and layering to Crüe and bass to Metallica. Still; where Nikki Sixx gets off dissing other bands like Poison for their musical performance is beyond me. Crystalline courage perhaps?

The style of music ain't hardly original either, despite Sixx's claims to the contrary. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for the amounts of distortion and processing, this would've been difficult to distinguish from classic/old school rock bands such as The Sweet, Slade, Status Quo or Nazareth. Blues-based, 4/4 and stock all the way. Some tunes, like "Don't Go Away Mad" even sound like a hybrid between Eagles and Smokie. Most of these songs are excellent for swing, which sorta' tells you they're not griundbreaking from a stylistic point of view. And it doesn't take a musical genious to figure out that "Kickstart My Heart" - an excellent party tune in it's own right - is a blatant rip-off of The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz". Oh well.

So the musicians haven't contributed anything new to the scene, and the songs are indistinguishable from older acts but for the amount of fuzz. So what's left is the lyrical content, right - the area in which Nikki Sixx swears he's top-notch? Weeelllll....let's just say that the more frequently you fill entire lines with "Oh baaayyybeeeeee", "No no no" and even worse; "No no yeah" (as in "SOS"), the less likely you are to be named in the same breath as lyricists like Springsteen and Billy Joel. Not to mention that artists typically known for their song-writing abilities don't usually write songs like "Slice Of Your Pie", "Sticky Sweet", "Same Ol' Situation", "She Goes Down" and "Get It For Free" and put them all on the same album. If anything, I personally think that bands like Poison, White Lion and Warrant write far superior lyrics to what Nikki Sixx has rattled off. On the song-writing spectrum of heavy metal, Sixx is way more likely to have Joey DeMaio of Manowar on speed dial than he is to have frequent talks with Dave Mustaine or Blackie Lawless.

At the end of the day, Dr. Feelgood is a great party album, but nothing more. Then again; not every album has to be about something or possess world-class musicianship.

4 comments:

Anders said...

...softening me up before exposing me to Iron Maiden, Dio, Running Wild and W.A.S.P.

After that, there was no turning back...


...untill one night in Bergen, where an introvert dude came on stage, put his Guild across his lap and grabbed a steel bar...

Wilhelm said...

...you better believe it

r0ck0n said...

eh, I don't think this was crue's best album. Its best-selling album, to be sure...its their most mainstream, but best? Hardly. Too Fast For Love and Shout both blow this album way out of the water. Their self-titled follow-up to Feelgood is also fantastic, but largely ignored b/c it doesn't have Vince on vocals. you should check it out. You gotta know, Motley never does the same thing twice, so even if you just have those 4 albums, you'll think you're listening to 4 different bands.

Secondly, I don't think the crue ever aimed to be groundbreaking or the most talented band on the planet...they just wanted to play good solid rock n roll, nothing fancy. And Mars has always maintained that he is a bluesman at heart. Frankly, thats why I like them, and I don't really see it as a reason to criticize them. They've got some solid hooks and good songs and they do what they do. I don't think Nikki criticized Poison for musical ability so much as for their overall cheesiness and fakiness.I'd agree with that...you really can't get more ridiculous than poison ;-)

I'd agree that this album doesn't have the best lyrics. I think Nikki either hits or misses...he can spit out some fantastic stuff, and he does so quite often. I tend to look at their catalog as a whole rather than just specific albums to get a real feel of what they're capable of.

anyway, that was interesting, thanks for helping me not focus on the paper I'm supposed to be writing!

rock on!
r0ck0n.wordpress.com

Wilhelm said...

eh, I don't think this was crue's best album. Its best-selling album, to be sure...its their most mainstream, but best? Hardly. Too Fast For Love and Shout both blow this album way out of the water. Their self-titled follow-up to Feelgood is also fantastic, but largely ignored b/c it doesn't have Vince on vocals. you should check it out

Let's agree to disagree on this ;-) I've listened to all three albums you mention here, and in my opinion, Dr. Feelgood is way better.

And Mars has always maintained that he is a bluesman at heart.

Absolutely - I've never seen Mars be anything but open about this. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee on the other hand, have been exaggerating Mars's guitar skills to the point of the ridiculous.

Frankly, thats why I like them, and I don't really see it as a reason to criticize them. They've got some solid hooks and good songs and they do what they do.

I would agree if it wasn't for Sixx's claims of Crüe being so much better than other LA bands...

anyway, that was interesting, thanks for helping me not focus on the paper I'm supposed to be writing!

LOL...you're welcome, or I'm sorry, depending on how the paper is coming along