Late in their careers, many musicians end up making music that either steals from or vaguely sounds like their glory days. R.E.M. accidentally used the same chord progression in the band's 2001 single "Imitation of Life" that they did in their classic "Driver 8." In the late '90s and 2000s, David Bowie, after a long period of experimentation, embraced making rockers that recalled his hits - like "Slow Burn," which brings to mind the riff from the sublime "Heroes." Even Paul McCartney's new album "New" remixes several elements of music from The Beatles' heyday.
But no high profile rock band has so absolutely, so unflinchingly and deliberately repeated itself like Motorhead. At this point in the group's career, their level of repetition is approaching art status - someone should call Yayoi Kusama, who became famous by painting polka dots over and over again, and tell her that her title is in danger. Motorhead makes the same album every time and even this fact has been pointed out in every review of an album the band's released for the last two decades. The music is so same-sounding that it's pressed every critic into helpless repetition.
And here's the funny part: for a frontman who has made a career out of building an image as a ruthless womanizer, this practice shows a stunning lack of ego. Think about it for a second: why do bands change their sound? Usually because of artistic ambition. They don't want to be pigeonholed as only the guy who wrote "Cinnamon Girl," so they make "Tonight's the Night." And like in Neil Young's case, sometimes that works out. But like in Lou Reed's case - he infamously released an album called "Metal Machine Music" that consisted of mostly just feedback and sound effects - sometimes it doesn't.
Motorhead has been churning out albums since 1977. The band’s recently-released 21st album is “Aftershock.”
Lemmy doesn't have this problem. He knows what he is: a badass, snarly bass player with a scratchy voice who wants to pummel you 90 percent of the time and occasionally make you feel his blues or serenade you (if "Whorehouse Blues" counts as a serenade). And he has no problem being that until he's blue in the face. His self-assured stance makes bands like Metallica appear even sillier than they make themselves look. Why pretend that rock 'n' roll is art? Why not just play a few chords as tightly and furiously as possible and be done with it? And by doing that, Lemmy has made one of the most sound rock 'n' roll statements in the history of the genre.
This, finally, brings me to the album at hand, "Aftershock," which, as many critics have already said, is a cut above the band's recent efforts like "Motorizer" and "The World is Yours." "Heartbreaker" is one of the best Motorhead songs I've heard. And I really think the key difference here the expert use of the bridge between the breakneck verses and the quick climax of Lemmy roaring "Hearbreaker." There's no clumsy melody, just a brief, effective hook and then more shredding.
The album has its flaws but not like "Motorizer," where Lemmy tried to force blues in too many places it didn't belong. There's blues here but it's real blues like "Lost Woman Blues," which again proves that Lemmy feels the blues better than most rock stars. I'd like to see Megadeath pull this off without sounding like an '80s metal band trying to feel the blues.
"Aftershock" is closer to "Inferno," Motorhead's last great release from 2004, in quality, but sounds more like '70s Motorhead in style. And who's going to complain?