Motörhead’s Aftershock: The God That Never Fails
You can get all you really need to know about Motörhead from their first few albums. Their debut shows you their rawest potential, Bomber’s filled with the band’s signature day-drunk rock ‘n’ roll sneering, and Overkill and Ace of Spades are respectively a stellar representation of the band’s metal and punk halves. However, they haven’t been worth ignoring in the meantime; after all, their name (along with AC/DC and the Ramones) is synonymous with releasing slight variations on the same album while still being better than most bands. But with AC/DC’s now putting out records with Tool-grade scarcity and the Ramones almost entirely (and quite sadly) no longer with us, Motörhead’s consistency is more impressive than ever. And in a weird way, considering the miles the band has put around the Earth, it makes their latter-day albums sound more vital.
Aftershock, the band’s first since Lemmy’s documentary, Lemmy’s health issues, and 2011, is a bluesy punk nailbomb looking to get shrapnel in the chests of the guys in the back of the bar. It’s pretty much great front-to-back: Lemmy sounds more haggard and endearingly scuffed-up than ever, and that freight train drumbeat is omnipresent. The few sorta-curveballs the band throws (the sunbaked 12-bar of “Lost Woman Blues,” for one) don’t stray far enough from Motörhead to count as an anomaly. Motörhead won’t be done until Lemmy is at the end of that bar with video poker up in the sky. Given the events surrounding Aftershock, we needed a solid reminder that everything was still fine. The album provides that definitively.
Part of the reason the aforementioned curveballs don’t wind up in the dirt is that Aftershock has a wonderful flow. Granted, this isn’t surprising: who knows how to make a Motörhead record better than Motörhead? You can’t blame them for flaunting their prowess in this department. “Lost Woman Blues” comes only 3 songs in and follows the killer momentum started with “Heartbreaker” and “Coup de Grace.” But like a good album should, when the woozy guitars and blunt bass line open “Blues,” it’s perfect timing. Same goes for “Dust and Glass,” a world-weary ballad smack in the middle of Aftershock. Unlike the ‘90s—before Lemmy learned to pass his schmaltzier material to other people—Lemmy sounds convincingly worn out. It adds a layer of earnest grit to what most bands consider a perfunctory exercise. He’s still hard as nails, but there’s rust caked on the outside.
But why in the hell am I mentioning balladry when the best parts of Aftershock are Motörhead being fucking Motörhead? It’s predictably packed to the gills with cowboy boots, Marlboro Reds, and whiskey shots for brunch. “Going to Mexico” opens with a bass line that sounds incredibly close to “Ace of Spades,” but gives way to a song that doesn’t resemble it. Mid-paced bruisers like “Silence When You Speak to Me” and “Keep Your Powder Dry” sound like the kind of music that should be coming out of every biker bar in America (instead, it’s Hinder or whatever). Aftershock opens with the bloody scuffle of “Heartbreaker” and closes with the barreling insistency of “Paralyzed.” Everything in between plays its part. It’s a war machine constructed with Swiss watch accuracy.
Motörhead haven’t lost a thing since their boozy inception, and really, the only thing about Aftershock that shows the band’s age is knowing Lemmy could be close to leaving this mortal coil. Everything sounds as snarling and nasty as it always has and always will be. Maybe it’s the best of theirs not named Overkill or Motörhead. Except 1916. Or maybe even Motörizer. Or until the band comes back and drops the same thing in our laps in 2-3 years, which will be as great as Aftershock is. God willing.
…which is all a long-winded way of saying, “It’s new Motörhead. Of course it’s fucking great.”