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Rank and File

Rank And File: Motley Crue

For a band that has only dropped two albums in the past twenty years, died out after the ‘80s, and gets a lot of hate from the metal community, Motley Crue sure are a hot topic as of late. Between The Dirt hitting Netflix, all of the Vince Neil memes, and now the band regrouping and touring again, it’s almost impossible to get away from them. Could there really be a better time to talk about this group of trouble-makers? More importantly, Indy Metal Vault’s glam-head has returned to discuss another discography, one that isn’t as large nor overbearing as other classic acts. I’ll admit from the start that Motley Crue are an easy band to make fun of. Despite all of that, they have some total gems and even a few albums that I would consider to be underrated. Today I’m going to take the opportunity to look closely at each record, and as you guessed, rank them.

9) New Tattoo (2000) “There’s a problem with the girls here on Earth, they stopped acting dizzy wearing miniskirts

That lyric should really be all you need to see to figure out how much of a joke New Tattoo is. Meant to be a throwback to the glam metal glory after all of the ‘90s weirdness that the band went through, it fell flat and hard on its face. For starters, the songs are entirely too safe. Not in the vein that they avoid sex and drugs, no. Not safe for kids. I mean, they’re so dry and run-of-the-mill that I can’t even find any real standouts. The title track is a solid enough tune thanks to its ballady acoustics and smooth layering, but absolutely nothing else holds up. Titles like “Treat Me Like The Dog I Am” or “Hell On High Heels” are a fine example of why trying to be young again hardly works. An unflattering album full of soulless rhythm passages is all that this is. 

Final Grade: F

8) Saints Of Las Angeles (2008) “It’s the thing in you that feeds the animal in me

Very similar to the predecessor (almost a decade before it), Saints Of Las Angeles is also a pretty dull record with little that I’d call inspiring. It is saved by two tracks that I’ll allow myself to call great: the title track, and “Animal In Me.” The first of those two has a lot of life to the riffing, and the gang chorus is extremely promising. The second of those is beautiful; it’s full of emotion, written well, unique, and hits a platform the band hasn’t landed on in eons. The rest? Decent to bad. “Down At The Whiskey” was a fair attempt at reflecting on the younger days. Songs like “Motherfucker Of The Year” and “This Aint A Love Song,” on the other hand, are just more of the cringy, forced, silliness that the band attempted on New Tattoo. Dig up the gems and move on.

Final Grade: D

7) Generation Swine (1997) “Nothing’s ever right, she’s so afraid of life

I like to compare Generation Swine to albums like Testament’s Demonic, Megadeth’s Risk, etc. Albums that took a significant turn from the norm that fans slam, while I have a soft spot for. Granted, Motley Crue had already made a shark-jump with Motley Crue, but Swine used far more dangerous tools. Yes, this is indeed a very corny effort, but a bold one that I can find a fair amount of satisfaction from. With alternative rock and nu-metal ingredients, songs like the opener “Find Myself” have a lot of energy and offer new ideas entirely. “Afraid” is a chorus-strong number that works very well, and I even dig the closer “Brandon” sung by Tommy Lee about his son. Corny, but soothing. “Glitter” has the energy of a power ballad but is more fitting for the late ‘90s. This isn’t great by any means; the production is rough, there isn’t much depth, and it’s quite tacky. But far better than what it’s credited for, and anything that came after it.

Final Grade: C+

6) Theatre Of Pain (1985) “Some like it louder than hell!”

It’s not particularly an unpopular opinion to view Theatre Of Pain as Motley Crue’s worst album of the classic run. Simply put, it contains just a bit too much fluff, and it probably didn’t help that this was the album that toned down the darkness following Shout At The Devil. Thus, people would start tagging them with the glam label. The big obvious songs here are the monster piano-driven ballad “Home Sweet Home” and their rendition of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ In The Boys Room.” The former will always be a classic, but I’ll admit that the latter is overplayed. The brightest and most overlooked gem here is “Louder Than Hell,” a melodic piece that rides on solid riffs. “Tonight (We Need A Lover)” also hits a soft spot, and I’ll even give some praise for “City Boy Blues.” The rest isn’t horrible but not particularly great. As a whole, this is a good representation of ‘70s rooted rock with ‘80s glitter.

Final Grade: B-

5) Girls, Girls, Girls (1987) “This love that I tell, now feels lonely as hell, from this padded prison cell!”

While not too far-off from its predecessor, Girls, Girls, Girls would see Vince Neil and co. amp up the attitude while they get closer to their peak success. Despite how sleazy it is, I view it as a step up. The title track and “Wild Side” will give that away quite quickly, being the super-giants of this disc. “Dancing On Glass” is a heavy banger that invokes some of the greatest melody, one that I think is better than the two hits. What blows all of this out of the water is actually a ballad, “You’re All I Need.” Though the guitars are heavy, it’s piano cladding, and extremely emotional vocals are what hold the most weight, finished with one of Mick Mars’s simplest yet greatest solos. Easily one of the greatest songs they ever wrote, and the lyrics are littered with tragedy. What keeps this album from being great is that some of the filler is way too obvious. “Five Years Dead” is as minimal as you can get while using the same chorus pattern as the title track. The “Jailhouse Rock” cover is loads of fun, but let’s be real; was it needed for any reason beyond space consumption? Overall solid record-holding some beautiful tunes with some potential held back. 

Final Grade: B

4) Motley Crue (1994) “Oh life it’s misunderstood them, so they close their eyes and dream of better days

Ah yes, one of my favorite albums to talk about. The famous John Corabi album! Unlike Generation Swine, this record gained a huge cult following in the more recent years, and I call it the Halloween III of Motley Crue albums. Some will pass Motley Crue off as a grunge album, but it goes a lot deeper than what most grunge did. The earlier tracks like “Power To The Music” and “Uncle Jack” sound the most ‘90s, if you will. Dropped guitars and early rock rhythms are the name of the game. Corabi also has a very Cornell-esque delivery. Structurally though, the layers go quite deep, and a lot of the lyrics have something meaningful with them. “Misunderstood” and “Hooligan’s Holiday” are loaded with hooks and could have easily been smash hits, had it not been for the timing of this release, or potentially the name attached to it. “Driftaway” closes everything off on a soft note, one of the more beautiful ballads the band has dropped. You can see my full rambling about this album here, and for the skeptics, I can’t stress how much you should give this disc a whirl. 

Final Grade: A-

3) Dr. Feelgood (1989) “Hey pretty pretty with the sweet sweet eyes, order me up another slice of your pie

Dr. Feelgood has no business being as great as it is. Picture this to be what British Steel or Slippery When Wet was to Judas Priest or Bon Jovi. It’s an album loaded up with hooks, pop music, and radio hits that are known by just about everyone. Usually, these albums, as good as they may be, suffer from being too watered down. But Motley Crue somehow dodged that, and just wound up with a sleazy album that all but defines glam metal. The rhythmic build of songs like “Same Old Situation” or “She Goes Down” are crafted well, and maintain some level of heaviness. “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” consists of great chord-progressions, and the title track is a total banger in every way. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee do a solid job of working together here, allowing Mick Mars to bust out beautiful melodies. Closer “Time For Change” is a favorite of mine that doesn’t get as much love as it should. Many might complain about Vince Neil’s voice, but it fits the music. He especially fits on the tracks of pure fun like “Slice Of Your Pie” or “Sticky Sweet.” For those that won’t let a little hairspray tarnish well-written songs, this is a super strong release.

Final Grade: A-

2) Too Fast For Love (1981) “Cause I’m hot, young, running free; a little bit better than I used to be

The famous debut by the Crue is one of the two that almost every metal goer will admit to liking at least a little bit. Too Fast For Love is often referred to as a punk album, but nothing about this is punk at all. The attitude, the layout, the rhythms, none of it- nothing but the album cover. What it is, is a raw and ruthless heavy metal effort that screams inconsistency, but sticks together so well. The pretentious “Take Me To The Top” and borderline speed-metaller “Live Wire” pack in enough riffs to satisfy the heavy hunters while leaving a hint of accessibility. “Starry Eyes” and one of my favorites, “On With The Show,” are more focused on melody and sounding pretty, and they do that flawlessly. Songs like “Piece Of Your Action” and “Come On And Dance” pack in more of a punch but dial back the speed. And of course, you have the title track and “Public Enemy #1,” which are almost identical in makeup but still hold their own identities. The latter is criminally underrated. The only song with any problems at all is “Merry-Go-Round,” from the sole fact that the chorus is annoying and stupidly written. Otherwise, this is an untouchable disc.

Final Grade: A

1) Shout At The Devil (1983) “Consider that bastard dead!

And so we’ve reached the record that’s untouchable on all fronts, and the other Motley Crue album that’s seldom given any hate, the mighty Shout At The Devil. While it’s arguably one of the more simplistic albums, it delivers everything that one could ask for — fuming hot riffs, evil and gritty lyrics, snarling attitude, and loads of melody. They even managed to successfully make the Beatles classic “Helter Skelter” darker, and the tightness doesn’t soil it. And, “Too Young To Fall In Love” fits right in despite being a ballad thanks to its heavy rhythms. And speaking of heavy rhythms, “Red Hot” is speed metal but with cleaner melodies than any other, garnished with pummeling drums from Tommy Lee. “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid,” “Ten Seconds To Love,” and the vicious “Bastard” (God is that song ever immaculate) pack in just as much of that same energy, and couldn’t be more true to heavy metal aesthetic if they tried.

Of course, the hooks are what made it so well known. “Looks That Kill” and the title track are classics that ruled the world, but didn’t lose even the tiniest bit of attitude. Even “Danger” closes the album with an unsettling feeling while simmering the intensity. Opener “In The Beginning” and “God Bless The Children Of The Beast” are essential toppings that help everything transition smoothly, especially the latter going into “Helter Skelter.” Not a single note about this would I change. Essential hearing for any fan of classic heavy metal in general. Side note: if you get the re-issue with the bonus tracks, “Hotter Than Hell” is also spectacular. It was later changed and glittered up for Theater Of Pain and re-worked as “Louder Than Hell.” This version would have fit in nicely with Shout.

Final Grade: A+

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