By the turn of the decade, nearing the end of glam metal’s reign, Motley Crue would see some of the biggest success in their lifetime. Their most popular record to date, Dr. Feelgood was all over the radio, their Decade Of Decadence compilation album would follow this up, the band would do endless dates on tour, and ultimately close out the ‘80s with a bang. Unfortunately, the ‘90s wouldn’t be nearly as kind to them. After a much needed break from the blood and sweat of touring, they would hit the studio to cook up a successor to Dr. Feelgood. This eventually led to a falling out between vocalist Vince Neil and the rest of the band. Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, and Tommy Lee would decide to part ways with him, starting a new decade on the wrong foot. These complications would wind up causing a five year gap between albums, the result being Motley Crue, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth birthday!
In the middle of a time when grunge would rule the world, Motley Crue was in need of a singer that could bring them back to where they were a few years prior. Nikki Sixx was a big fan of a smaller act known as The Scream, and when vocalist John Corabi reached out to work with him on some music, Corabi wound up auditioning for Motley Crue. Just like that, Neil was replaced. Bob Rock was hired again to produce Motley Crue, thanks to the level of success he brought them in 1989. Not only did they have this to their advantage, but Corabi adding another guitar would allow for deeper innovation by Mars as well as a clean slate for different ideas.
But despite reaching number 7 on charts, Motley Crue actually failed to reach a substantial level of success, and they would wind up downgrading from the arena shows to club shows over time. The shift to a grungier take on heavy metal would isolate their previous fans. Moreover, 1994 was the end of grunge’s short run of glory, so it missed the mark anyway. On the contrary, younger metal goers would dig this up in more recent years (myself included), which contributed to a slight revival of this disc thus proving that it aged well.
The musical direction that Motley Crue was headed in still retained some of the maneuvers that were built into the band ever since the first record in 1981. The backing harmonics and ability to grasp the ear with hooks still reigned over most of this album. Tying this with longer and more meaningful tunes made for tracks like a personal favorite, “Misunderstood.” Clocking in close to seven minutes, this is a song that begins on the slower end, riding on acoustic guitars and multiple layers of vocal tracks, making for a fluid delivery that broke into harder kicks and a whiny solo. Moreover, you can hear the grunge influence as Corabi’s vocal work resembles Chris Cornell, especially when he hits the highs. On the other hand, blistering pounders like “Hooligan’s Holiday” ride on a crackly chorus and dropped guitars, which would be the foundation of a lot of the riffs found here.
In the past, Vince and co. failed to show Nikki Sixx off to a level equivalent of his ego and ability to act as a front-man. Tracks like “Poison Apples” would reel in bass rhythms that added so much depth to a song that you could actually feel the thickened presence in the air. That, with Corabi’s gritty vocal style would make the band more sinister than they’ve ever been before, save for maybe some songs on Shout At The Devil. Naturally, that gave them a rather threatening attitude, found immediately in the opening track “Power To The Music.” This catchy ditty was nothing shy of a reaction to the attacks in the music scene in the ‘80s, most notably the PMRC. The majority of the tracks were loaded with slower, doomy riffs that would greatly reflect what grunge was all about, but it wouldn’t stop the band from doing fast bangers like “Smoke The Sky.” If nothing else, that would help develop the uprising hard rock formula that bands like Skid Row and Guns ‘N Roses started which leaked into the 2000s.
As if Motley Crue wasn’t unique in its own merits, there were a few significant factors that made the gears turn the other direction even faster. The glam days focused on the life of partying, drinking, and all of the women they could get, but this release would back away from said territory. The aforementioned “Power To The Music” is a solid example lyrically, but “Uncle Jack” took far more serious issues into its hands, being about the evils of a child molester. Likely the shift could be traced back to the band’s agreement to avoid drugs and alcohol during the recording and writing of Motley Crue, and it evidently made a world’s difference. The ballad still made its way in. Record closer “Driftaway” rests entirely on comfortable melodies and acoustic guitars, keeping it clean for the entire duration and ultimately ending on a soothing note.
Motley Crue fell hard on their faces when this came out. Despite hitting high on the charts, many fans and critics were disappointed with what they got. But over time it would prove to generate a cult following, so the record is given more praise now than it received back then, helping it age well rather than rust away. Looking at it as its own release, the music is well written on all platforms, and had the band perhaps gone under a different name, it wouldn’t have tanked.
Motley Crue came out on March 15th, 1994 through Elektra records. It was released on CD and cassette with different versions, some using the yellow font and others using the red on the album cover. There was also one double LP pressing in Germany, but it’s very hard to come by and is worth over $100. All can be purchased over at Discogs.