Older, wiser, but just as Mötley as ever.
Mötley Crüe fans are a tough lot to satisfy. Give ’em a reunion tour with all four original members, and they want it to go on forever. Serve up a new song, and they want an entire album. After the commercial landslide of the Red, White & Crüe/Carnival of Sins global jaunt from 2005-2006, it seemed like all was well in Crüeville. But soon the rumbling started amongst the faithful. The Red, White & Crüe compilation’s two fresh tracks and cover version weren’t nearly enough to satisfy fans’ insatiable Crüe cravings.
Unlike the loyalists in the KISS Army, the Crüe contingent grew restless with a lengthy tour comprised exclusively of greatest hits. It was quickly forgotten that their band was one of the few left intact after nearly three decades of decadence, and still capable of selling out Madison Square Garden as the real Mötley Crüe. Gene and Paul draw crowds, but with fake Ace and fake Peter in tow. And forget Eddie and David Lee, they summarily replaced Michael Anthony with VH the Younger for their recent “reunion” tour.
Given all this, Mötley fans should rejoice for what they have, and not yearn for they what don’t. But the clamoring persisted for new Crüe, with no sign of stopping. And to the chagrin of many, hopes for a new album were apparently dashed last year when Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx indulged his creative side with the impressive Sixx AM side project. But that Sixx is a crafty one, and between his music and business ventures, he found time to write an entire Mötley Crüe album, the down and dirty Saints of Los Angeles.
If anyone thought the Crüe would go quietly into middle age, they’ll quickly find they were sadly mistaken. Saints of Los Angeles is a thudding blast from the past, with all the crushing rhythms, guitar hooks, and lyrical wind-ups that made the band great. Crafted as a quasi-autobiographical song cycle, the album charts the band’s early rise to prominence in and around the City of Angels. From start to finish, it’s a ride on the wild side, reminiscent of Mötley Crüe’s finest recorded efforts from 20 years past. Opening with “L.A.M.F.”, a rough bit of dialogue that sets the tempo, the Saints come marching in with the explosive “Face Down in the Dirt”. Listen closely, and you might recognize the riff as the foundation to Ted Nugent’s classic “Wango Tango”.
From there, the Mötley magic is generously spread over the remaining 11 tracks. Gritty and visceral, listeners get a sense of the travails the hungry young scrappers endured in the quest for stardom. In the Crüe’s case, “LA girls they paid the rent / While we got drunk on Sunset Strip / And all the cash they made we spent / On tattoos and cigarettes / We were born to fight / And we were getting high / Livin' out our dreams down at the Whisky”. Not a bad gig, if you can survive hand-to-mouth with the odds for success stacked against you.
In between recounting his band’s challenging early days, Sixx injects some wry humor into the set list. “Chicks = Trouble” is a hilariously terse chronicle of having a trophy wife and the pratfalls of matrimonial materialism. Yet as sharp as Sixx’s writing is, and how praiseworthy his creative efforts are, it would be a criminal oversight not to acknowledge the two-headed secret weapon he employed for seeing Saints of Los Angeles to fruition. Sixx’s collaborative partners, James Michael and DJ Ashba, contributed mightily to the album’s writing and production. Viewing the trio’s incarnation as Sixx AM as a comparative barometer, it’s no surprise that the sheen from that side project should find its way onto the new Crüe pressing. It is the threesome’s relationship as artistic equals that has generated results, as Sixx no longer finds himself as the lone lyrical meal ticket. How long he can perform double duty with Mötley Crüe and Sixx AM is yet to be determined, but there is a sense that the album’s closing track, “Goin’ Out Swingin’”, might hint at Mötley’s victory lap, with the Sixx/Michael/Ashba entity waiting in the wings to ascend the throne.
Whatever the future holds for Mötley Crüe proper, Saints of Los Angeles is the band’s first album together since 1997’s Generation Swine, and a far superior effort at that. For the band’s salivating fan base, having new tunes (and a support tour) from Sixx, Neil, Lee, and Mars should keep spirits up for some time, with the added benefit of knowing that their heroes are still alive, and still kickstarting their hearts.