Boxset Review: Motley Crüe – Crücial Crüe

Boxset Review: Motley Crüe - Crücial Crüe
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Crucial as the adjective denoting something as being very important. I mention this as, over the years, Mötley Crüe have shown themselves as being anything but. This decline began sometime in the 1990s, when Vince Neil was out and former The Scream singer John Corabi took over for the divisive self-titled 1994 offering.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Mötley Crüe the album; it was of its time, bringing in alternative and Grunge influences and will, hopefully, one day, be revisited and appreciated for what it is.

A few years later and Corabi was out and Vince back in for Generation Swine, followed by the equally anachronistic New Tattoo for the millennium, though the eight year gap between it and the last new album, Saints of Los Angeles, did seem to let the band produce something of a saving grace to their recorded legacy.

But it’s always seemed that the Crüe are less about the music and more about the lifestyle. Read The Dirt, watch the film, see Pam and Tommy and it’s almost as though the day to day of being a bunch of musicians got in the way.

Yet there was a time, back in the 1980s, before Vince’s departure, that Mötley Crüe were relevant; they were the standard bearers for the LA scene, where hedonism and excess ruled the streets and clubs. It was a different time, certainly, when the band were in their twenties – except for Mick Mars, of course – and full of raging hormones.

To commemorate Crüe’s decade of decadence BMG are releasing a five-album boxed set, the classic quintet of those first records, with each disc arriving on coloured splatter vinyl.

The debut, Too Fast for Love from 1981, is presented in a white and black splatter and features songs that still feature in Crüe’s live set to this day. Live Wire and Too Fast for Love need no introduction but it’s the deeper cuts that show the origins and influences.

Come on and Dance is rough and ready. Basic production here and on tracks like Piece of Your Action and Starry Eyes give the debut a distinctly Punk orientation. Mick’s guitars revel in the rudimentary attention, whereas, devoid of theatrics, Tommy’s drumming of solid and functional.

Now, I’m not saying Vince’s vocals are in the Rob, Ronnie or Bruce league, but songs like Merry Go Round and Take Me to the Top are a fine fit for what is a solid beginning.

Two years later and 1983’s Shout at the Devil – here in a yellow and black splatter vinyl - is where the Mötley Crüe story begins in earnest. From the jet-black pentagram album sleeve to the shocking gatefold images of the four members, this was the moment Mötley arrived.

There isn’t a ounce of fat on the sophomore album, with each track contributing to the whole; whether that be the spoken word intro of In the Beginning or the choral voices of God Bless the Children of the Beast. It’s here you’ll find live staples like Looks that Kill, Too Young to Fall in Love and Red Hot. Even the deeper cuts like Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid, Bastard and Ten Seconds to Love do their share of the heavy lifting.

Of course, the gold standard here is the slow, ominous plodding of the title track, still one of the Eighties’ defining Rock moments.

Boxset Review: Motley Crüe - Crücial Crüe

If you pardon the pun, but it seems devilment is behind the inclusion of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter, especially when it’s considered the Los Angeles home of the band and the infamous Manson murders committed in that city around fifteen years previous.

Production is fatter, the guitars fuller and sharper; Nikki’s bass more prominent and Tommy’s hit’s more effective. And, once again, the Neal pipes rise to the challenge.

Such was the Crüe ’s currency by this point they were booked for the opening slot on the 1984 Monster of Rock show at Donington Park, a show that would also include Gary Moore, Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen, alongside headliners AC/DC.

The excesses of Theatre of Pain are presented in a hot pink, magenta and black splatter vinyl. By the time of the third album’s release the insanity surrounding Mötley Crüe was at its peek. Vince’s Vehicular Manslaughter charges following the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer, Razzle and the presence of substances was having an obvious affect on the band. That’s not to say Theatre of Pain isn’t a vital piece in the Mötley machine, but it is rather a departure from the previous offering, both stylistically and sonically.

City Boy Blues kicks things off with more of a dull plod than an inviting party anthem; the cover of Brownville Station’s Smoking in the Boy’s Room that follows means we’re three songs in before Louder than Hell.

Tonight (We Need a Lover), Use It or Lose It and Raise Your Hands to Rock are solid Crüe compositions, but there’s something a bit disposable about Save Our Souls and Keep Your Eye on the Money. Heard as a whole, Theatre of Pain is certainly the document of a moment in time, when a band channelled the zeitgeist. Back in the day it was the next Mötley record, but time has not been as kind to it as it has to the first two albums here.

I’ve deliberately not mentioned Home Sweet Home as there’s nothing left to say about this Crüe classic; it’s here, so enjoy or skip, whichever way you see fit.

It’s starting to become clear at this point that the Neil voice is showing the ravages of his lifestyle. The shrill high-pitched tone is starting to be replaced by a nasally enunciation that would haunt live performances later down the line.

Another two years and another Mötley Crüe record. This time 1987 and Girls, Girls, Girls, supplied in a cyan blue and black splatter colour scheme.

At this time of the Crüe’s career the madness was truly in control. Cancelled January European tours due to snow being on the rooves of venues just one of the examples of the insanity surrounding the band at this time.

It’s a wonder then that they managed to create something as consistently entertaining as the Girls, Girls, Girls record. Wild Side, the title track and Bad Boy Boogie should need no introduction but, again, it is some of the deeper cuts that warrant a revisit. The driving All In the Name of… and the sharp cutting edge of Dancing on Glass show there much more to this record than the initial promotional releases.

The obligatory ballad You’re All I Need remains this side of too cheesy, but only just, and the inclusion of a live version of Jailhouse Rock is a fun addition. For some reason, Time for Change is included on this album, rather than the following one but, as it’s a song I decided in 1989 I never want to hear again – EVER!!! – I’m going to admit to skipping it entirely.

With a fat sound and crisp production from Tom Werman, Girls, Girls, Girls is a return to form after Theatre of Pain, with even Vince’s vocals raising the occasion.

It was a cleaned up Crüe that hit the studio for the 1989 release of Dr Feelgood – here presented in a Coke bottle green and oxblood splatter – together with a pre-Metallica Bob Rock twiddling the knobs.

Just prior to Feelgood’s release Mötley had been a part of the Moscow Music Peace Festival, alongside Ozzy, Scorpions and Bon Jovi to commemorate the end of Communism.

After Girls, Girls, Girls, Dr Feelgood was something of a backward step. The title track is another Crüe classic, Mick’s string bends at the beginning of Kickstart My Heart and the proceeding chuggy riff is era defining and both Same Ol’ Situation (SOS) and Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away) are effortlessly engaging.

Elsewhere Slice of Your Pie, Sticky Sweet and She Goes Down are about as subtle as their titles suggest; Rattlesnake Shake can’t really hold a candle to the Skid Row’s song of the same name from the same year and Without You is slightly more palatable than Time for Change. Just.

The band did make it across the Pond to tour the album and I saw them at the NEC in Birmingham, a fine show, with Skid Row and White Lion in support.

Regardless of what is going on with Mötley Crüe today – or what your opinion of their split and reunion and the Stadium Tour due to reach Europe in the Summer – a band needs to be judged on its music.

For me, revisiting these records was another trip down memory lane – after having done something similar with Dokken a few weeks ago – and I still have all five of these records on their original vinyl. If all you know of Mötley Crüe is the band of today then do yourself a favour and get on these discs as soon as possible; if you were there back in the day but haven’t listened to the band in a while, remind yourself why Mötley Crüe were one of the seminal bands of their era.

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