I think it was the razor tongued bass player of Welsh chart botherers, the Manic Street Preachers, Nicky Wire who summed it up best. “In Wales, we have an 11th commandment” he once said. “It is “Thou art Welsh, though shalt like Mötley Crüe.“” Seen from a distance, no one would quibble if you regarded this as hyperbole. However, let me tell you. As someone old enough to remember the 1980s and as someone who bought ‘Theatre of Pain’ on vinyl on the DAY it came out, let. me. tell. you. Mötley Crüe were the gang we all wanted to join, they were the wildest of the wild children. They were, even more so than Guns N’ Roses, the band that you could never, ever take home to meet the parents. For a moment they even made spandex cool. Yes they did. We loved them.
Time and tide haven’t always been kind to the Crüe. You don’t need me to tell you why- a simple and cursory read through Neil Strauss‘s exemplary biography of the band, the rightly feted “The Dirt” will give you everything you need. And then some. And yet. And Yet. Mötley Crüe have endured. They have outlived (literally) many of their contemporaries and they still (as their latest tour will attest) sell out arenas. In the rock dictionary, there is a snarling, still way cooler than you, picture of Nikki Sixx next to the word “Resilient”. Elsewhere, “mayhem” has a stick twirling, drum-riser-inhabiting Tommy Lee.
This latest greatest hits collection (their third if my fading memory serves) arrives as a decent revenue generator to coincide with their tour with Def Leppard and Steel Panther as well as a good idea for a stocking filler from your Aunty Kath- if the Crüe aren’t actually filling Aunty Kath’s stocking themselves, that is. This latest version, now with back catalogue rights firmly under the control of the band following a bucket load of record label wrangles is probably the most coherent collection of the band’s work to date- it’s certainly superior to the “Will this do?” 2009 effort and the ramshackle double that was “Red, White and Crue”.
So what’s it sound like? If you really need to ask, then you’re reading the wrong website but, for the genuinely uninitiated, this is a great place to begin with your Crüe education. In amongst the morass of hairspray, harleys and, ahem, hotties, you can sometimes be forgiven for forgetting just what a great bunch of songs Mötley Crüe have thrown our way over the years. They have an unerring ear for melody and chorus and have a greater pop sensibility than they have been given credit for. From the spunky and spiky ‘Too Fast for Love’ (now 30 years old, pop pickers) to the crunching and bombastic ‘Saints of Los Angeles,’ this is melodious hard rock and metal from the top drawer. At a personal level, I’m much fonder of their earlier records- ‘Shout at the Devil‘ remains as fresh and thrilling as when I first heard it and their cover of ‘Smokin’ in the Boys Room’ remains the text book way of, to quote that Irish TV pop judge, making the song their own. ‘Home Sweet Home’ is, let us not forget, a stone cold classic metal ballad and I will fight anyone who doesn’t agree that ‘Girls, Girls, Girls‘ represents the high watermark of glam metal. Never, in the history of rock music recording, has the sound of a motorcycle been so thrilling.
Because of the soap opera that has followed this group around over the past thirty years, it’s easy to lose sight of what this was all about. Mötley Crüe might have wanted to be the ultimate party band- and they’ve got a pretty decent argument to say they’ve achieved this- but, deep down, they also knew that they had to have the means to get there- they needed the tunes. “Greatest Hits reminds us, if we needed reminding, that, sometimes, you just can’t keep a good band down”.