Shout at the Devil

Shout at the Devil
(original cover)

(Alternate cover)
Band: Mötley Crüe
Album: Shout at the Devil
Best song: The title song is the best.
Worst song: To say the cover of “Helter Skelter” is bad is an understatement.

I’ve written this before, but there was something of a continuum for what passed for hard rock in the 1980s, popular variety. On one side, you had Poison and Def Leppard. No real shredding, lots of makeup, lots of hairspray. On the other side was Metallica. Lots of shredding, minimal image junk.

Los Angeles’ Mötley Crüe was more on the Poison side of the spectrum than the Metallica one, certainly, but to a pre-pubescent boy in the North suburbs of Chicago in the late 1980s, Mötley Crüe were the epitomy of awesome. I didn’t know what “Dr. Feelgood” was about, just that it was badass. “Kickstart my Heart” was about motorcycles and living the rock lifestyle, not about crank or drinking or whatever that song’s actually about.

Which is to say that I never fully comprehended how cheesy Mötley Crüe really were when I was a wee lad. It took me a while — basically, in high school, after Nirvana hit and I discovered punk rock in its forms — to realize just how ridiculous that kind of stuff was. Thankfully, I was born late enough to never have tried to look like those idiots. I have never put on a pair of leather pants. I have never tried to tease my hair, even when it was long.

Who the hell knows what “Shout at the devil” means, as a phrase? It seems like so much of Mötley Crüe is epitomized in the record: There are sections of worthwhile, Sabbath-esque riffs, some decent rhythm stuff — Tommy Lee was not a bad drummer — but, ultimately, it’s a facisimile of what hard rock should be.

In short, it’s not a shock that Mötley Crüe came out of Los Angeles while a band like Metallica came out of San Francisco. Los Angeles is a very image-conscious town and Mötley Crüe hits on those image notes more than anything else. The band’s first two album covers were tributes — The first to the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and Shout at the Devil to the Beatles Let it Be — and there’s hardly any substance in the lyrics of the title track.

But, oh, that riff.

Look, this is a band of dudes with problems. Vince Neil killed a guy. Nikki Sixx — a more ridiculous stage name I have not found — is a celebrated addict and serial marrier. Tommy Lee, you may remember, is most famous for having a giant horse penis attached to his pelvis. We all know this, of course, because he hollowed out Pam Anderson on camera. Mick Mars also has a ridiculous name.

But, for all of its shittiness, this album has some gems. “Too Young to Fall in Love” has a cool beat and some decent harmonies. “Looks that Kill” is similarly fun, albeit less so. The title track has a monster riff and a big-ass drum part. “Ten Seconds to Love” has a little thrash to it.

But, you know. It’s Mötley Crüe. I’ll leave you with a quote from Robert Christgau: “It’s hardly news that this platinum product is utter dogshit even by heavy metal standards.”

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  • By Dr. Feelgood | Albums That I Own on November 2, 2012 at 7:44 am

    […] my first favorite band when I was moving from listening to Weird Al songs as a pretty small kid. As I’ve written before: To a pre-pubescent boy in the North suburbs of Chicago in the late 1980s, Mötley Crüe were the […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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