Friday, April 24, 2009

April 24: Motörhead, "Ace Of Spades"

Artist: Motörhead
Album: Ace Of Spades
Year: 1980
Label: Bronze

Certain names demand respect across music genres and generations. When it comes to speed metal, THE most important figure can be named with one simple word: Lemmy. Lemmy Kilminster is the embodiment of everything that "is" rock and roll. Singing ruckus lyrics of women and drinking, being kicked out of former bands (Hawkwind), wearing the leather and jeans, and oh yeah, he was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, Lemmy represented everything that one wants in a rock frontman. His legendary trio, Motörhead, are almost solely responsible for the genre of speed metal, and paved the way for countless acts, from Metallica to Slipknot to Slayer. The band has released more than twenty albums over their career, but their 1980 release, Ace Of Spades, stands high atop the mountain of the best rock/metal albums of all time.

The title track of the album has become one of the greatest rock anthems in history. From television and movies, to stadiums, to video games, the song is instantly recognizable, and has truly withstood the test of time. The single spent over three months in the UK Top 20 and served as proof that a band did not need to "tone down" their sound or appearance to gain commercial success. The song remains the bands' "calling card," and it helped to drive the album into the Top 5 on the UK sales charts. Though the band has admitted that, after nearly thirty years, they are a tired of playing the song, Lemmy himself admits, "...we can't ditch Ace of Spades, it wouldn't be right. If I go to see Little Richard, I expect to hear "Good Golly Miss Molly," or I'd be pissed off..."

Motörhead truly created a new genre with their early records, and, along with its predecessor, 1979's Overkill, Ace Of Spades perfected the blueprint that countless bands have since followed. Taking the breakneck speed of punk and combining it with the gritty, heavy sounds of bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Motörhead helped to push the genre of heavy metal into the next generation of musicians and music lovers. The duo of Lemmy's bass and the blistering guitar playing of "Fast" Eddie Clarke rank among the finest rock combinations in history. The drumming of Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor is nothing short of stunning, he makes the punk influences the most clear, keeping the turbo-speed songs moving without any signs of slowing down. Again, at the core of Ace Of Spades stands the proof that a high energy live band like Motörhead did not have to sacrifice and of their live vigor simply because their were in the studio. Due to this refusal to alter their sound, the album jumps out of the speakers and refuses to let up throughout its thirty-seven minute runtime.

The songs found on Ace Of Spades are as stereotypically "metal" as you'll find anywhere. Lyrics about drinking, women, and general disorderliness, the album is a rock and roll masterpiece. Many of the songs are a bit "tongue in cheek," most notably, the rather risqué "Jailbait." Regardless of the lyrics, Motörhead's sound comes down to one fundamental element: the unmistakable voice of Lemmy Kilminster. "Rough" and "coarse" don't really cover the sound that comes from Lemmy. More "gravel" than "grit," Lemmy's voice is nothing short of the quintessential heavy metal voice. Though the pitch of his voice does change from time to time, on most songs, it sounds more as if Lemmy is speaking or shouting as opposed to singing. However, without hearing it for yourself, one cannot understand just how perfect the vocal styling of Lemmy fits with the music and lyrics he writes. Though countless artists have tried to imitate his sound and swagger, nobody comes close, and there is only one man worthy of the name "Lemmy."

As a band, Motörhead represents everything that is great about being a rock band, yet they never take these ideas to excess or to a point where they become cliché. The crushing guitar and bass over the ferocious drumming helped to create the genre of speed metal, as well as lay the groundwork for thrash metal. With lyrics of the general reckless abandon and the rock and roll lifestyle, delivered by the legendary voice of Lemmy Kilminster, Motörhead remain one of the most highly respected and most loved rock/metal bands in history. One truly cannot point to a "bad" record that was recorded by the bands' original lineup, Ace Of Spades also marks the beginning of the end of this lineup, as they would only record one more album together. With the legendary title track leading the way, Motörhead's 1980 release, Ace Of Spades, stands above their other records, and is unquestionably one of the greatest rock/metal albums to ever be unleashed upon he world.

Standout tracks: "Ace Of Spades," "(We Are) The Road Crew," and "The Chase Is Better Than The Catch."

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