In the recent best-selling, tell-all Mötley Crüe biography The Dirt, vocalist Vince Neil said of his former bandmate Tommy Lee: “Whatever is in, he wants to do that. He never stuck to what made him what he was, which was rock and roll. If hip-hop is in, he’s a hip-hopper. If punk is in, he’s a punk rocker. If Tommy had tits, he’d be a fucking Spice Girl.” Neil is referring to Lee’s Methods of Mayhem rap-orientated project, but in many ways, his comment is a pretty accurate description of the former drummer’s second post-Motley record, Never a Dull Moment.
I’m sure Lee cares more about when his former wife Pamela Anderson will remarry than he does about critics’ (or Vince Neil’s) reactions to his latest offering, but sadly, the contents of the album aren’t nearly as exciting as the lifestyle its title refers to.
In a genre full of talentless poseurs, Tommy Lee was one of the most technically gifted drummers of the hard rock scene, and although he has been continually surrounded by controversy down the years, music—rather than scantily clad Playboy models—has always been his prime passion. A serious solo career may have been inevitable following his split with Motley Crue, but perhaps it was also inevitable that Never a Dull Moment would reek more of perspiration than inspiration.
Lee has certainly tried hard enough. His chapters in The Dirt reveal he had been considering a solo career for some time during his last years with Motley Crue, and following his dalliance with rap on Methods of Mayhem, his rock roots do show their true colours second time around. Scott Humphrey, who helped produce 1997’s alternative-tinged Motley Crue record, Generation Swine, co-produces the album. Ironically, songs like “Sunday” and “Afterglow” sounds like they could have been taken from those same sessions.
Those are certainly two of the album’s better tracks, and indeed, when the melodies are present, when the familiar power of Lee’s rhythm section crashes in, and when the songs stick to what Lee is good at, then this album lives up to expectations.
The relatively restrained acoustic vibe of “Hold Me Down” and “Why Is It” prove how good this album could have been if Lee had stuck to this formula. The former is interesting as it stands as a real confessional from Lee, with the lyrics complaining that he’s unable to express himself freely. It’s unclear whether he is referring to his former bandmates, his former wife, his time in prison or the paparazzi that hound him, but it’s the clearest glimpse we get at the inner turmoil Lee suffers.
The album’s second single, “Ashamed”, is another surprise, sounding mature, yet modern with a Verve-style symphony sample flavouring the intro. Yet, conversely, there are moments of pure dross that almost rank up there with Lee’s song “Brandon” from Generation Swine (a personal song that should have stayed personal).
Among the chief culprits this time around are the appalling reworking of David Bowie’s “Fame”, and “Body Architects”, a tune containing the refrain “We rocks the party! / We rocks the party!” which Five or S Club 7 would have left on the studio floor out of embarrassment. Then the forgettable closing trio of “Face To Face”, “Higher”, and “People So Strange” are just plain bland and boring, no matter how intense the guitars might be.
There’s a modern vibe all over Never a Dull Moment far removed from Lee’s cock-rock days, and although he deserves credit for wanting to move on from his past musical endeavours, it still doesn’t alter the fact that most of this album loses its lustre too quickly.
Tommy Lee and his band have just been announced as the replacement for Drowning Pool on the Ozzfest tour following the tragic death of vocalist Dave Williams, which will introduce his solo project to just the kind of audience he wants to appeal to. However, given the patchy quality of Never a Dull Moment, I can’t help but feel that fans who saw Lee originally tour with Ozzy in 1983 got the better end of the deal.