Ace of Spades

Band: Motörhead
Album: Ace of Spades
Best song: Either the title track or “(We Are) The Road Crew”
Worst song: “Jailbait” is dumb and very creepy.

Despite my job responsibilities, I’m really bad at Twitter. I mostly just tweet out stuff about wildlife conservation or random thoughts — of import to no one other than myself — about music, baseball, etc. However, my proudest Twitter moment is one that involves Motörhead:


It’s my one moment of cleverness, though it does pick on a band for its working-class, low-culture ethos. It’s no shock that everyone believed a Craigslist prank from last year about a woman getting impregnated — in a bathroom, no less — at a Motörhead show. Eveyrone believes people are fucking while “Love Me Like a Reptile” is played love. Motörhead is the country rock band of England; a Skynyrd without the acclaim or tragedy. So, yeah, I made fun of Motörhead fans for being simple.

No one’s ever argued Lemmy or his fans to be pretentious, you know?

My relationship with Motörhead isn’t a passionate one, but I have been listening to the band for a lot longer than a lot of bands I like a lot more. I got my first of their records in eighth grade and they were one of the reasons I got into radio, oddly.

The story is this: At my high school, the process by which one got a radio show — shows broken up by periods, thus you had to have a free period during the day, once a week — meant you had to make a demo tape and have a good idea. High school radio isn’t like college radio, as the impetus isn’t to foster new music. Rather, it’s to let the kids learn the ways of radio and communications. So, gimmicky ideas are the things you want from the kids.

My gimmick was “British music.” I couched it mostly in the then-sorta-popular neo-invasion Britpop stuff (Blur, Elastica, Oasis, etc.), but called it “London Calling” as a nod to my favorite band at the time. I played a lot of the Who, Clash, Beatles, Bowie, etc. However, I came upon the idea because I was listening to a Motörhead greatest hits compilation — they have many and I’ve since lost the cover of the record — with a Union Jack on the cover. It made me think “Hey, there are a lot of great British bands.”

I never got way into the band, as my upper-class upbringing makes me prefer more concept-type metal records and bands (Isis, Mastodon, etc.). Metal is a weird genre because it’s been fancified since its existence; Black Sabbath’s dark stuff and Led Zeppelin’s D&D/Hobbit nonsense is the stuff of nerds (modern definition of nerd being someone who gets way into something and doesn’t let go. As in, passionate people who value authenticity.). This translated into things like Iron Maiden’s obsession with British military history, then Metallica’s anti-war schtick. Reznor then channelled Nietzsche (as did Type O Negative), then bands like Isis channeled Foucault. Metal, despite its reputation, is not solely the avenue of people wanting to party.

(I’d argue that punk rock is really the place for stupid people. In the stead of metal’s often contemplative lyricism, post-Clash punk is mostly morons who only want to sing about personal mediocrity in terms of angst. It’s a childish genre for childish people.)

Nevertheless, Motörhead is the lowest of these things. As mentioned, Lemmy only wants to sing about gambling, sex and, uh, more sex? Also, fighting. After all, there’s a song on Ace of Spades called “Jailbait” that speaks to its title very well. In that it’s childish and very stupid.

Even so, no one can really hammer a riff into a sound like Lemmy can and few can sing with the whiskey and cigarettes voice like Lemmy can. “Love me Like a Reptile” starts with the band’s slowest great riff, tempo-wise, though it ramps up after the intro. After taking two verses into sped-up classic rock riffing, Eddie Clark’s two-part simple solo is the type of guitar work for which the band’s early work was known. It’s also worth noting that “Love me Like a Reptile” is a super weird concept, lyrically. Reptiles have weird sex that is, apparently, nothing how we have sex. Also, scales.

“(We Are) The Road Crew” is a recent love of mine, with its working class take on the touring band worldview; think of it as Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page,” but not terrible. The easy blues riff that opens the song/works the chorus — “chorus” being the band simply singing “We are the road crew!” — transitions into a pounding verse wherein Lemmy descibes life on the road:

Another town another place,
Another girl, another face,
Another truce, another race,
I’m eating junk, feeling bad,
Another night, I’m going mad,
My woman’s leaving, I feel sad,
But I just love the life I lead,
Another beer is what I need,
Another gig my ears bleed.

It’s simple — Motörhead is nothing if not simple — but effective song with a killer riff.

The title track — the band’s definitive, certainly — is a speed metal exercise in simplicity. Building off the cowboy theme of the cover art, it’s an ode to the Western gambler. “Ace of Spades” is the easiest of songs to sing, play and rock to; it’s infectiousness is unmistakable. It relies on simple rhyming or non-rhyming (“green” and “need” do not rhyme, Lemmy!) and a cowboy topic of gambling to speak to the “you can’t stop me” machismo that works so well in a testosterone-soaked genre like metal.

I don’t think Ace of Spades is a great record; it’s four or five awesome songs, surrounded by a bunch of nonsense. But, you know. It’s Motörhead, man. The hits are enough. What else can you expect from a band that produced “Killed by Death?”

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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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