“But havent you already reviewed “Aftershock”?” I hear you cry. Yes, but that was last year when it was originally released and a lot has happened in the Motörhead camp since then – like cancelling several tours and live dates for the first time in the band’s lengthy career – so UDR Records have repackaged the album and put it out with a bonus live disc recorded earlier this year as a warm up to Motörhead‘s run of European festival appearances this summer, including a spot on the bill with Black Sabbath at Hyde Park a few weeks back. To be honest, my original opinion of “Aftershock” hasn’t changed in the ten months since its original release so there’s no point re-writing a review that says the same thing (for my original review click here) but for context, it’s a fine modern Motörhead album with some blistering tracks like ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Lost Woman Blues’ and ‘End of Time’ showing that there’s still some quality songs left in the old warhorses yet.
But the studio can be a deceiving place. It’s in the live arena where rock bands test their mettle (or metal) and there is probably no greater example of the live rock n’ roll experience than Motörhead in full flight. After all, this is the band who have basically been on tour since 1975 and only really stop every year or so to record a new album before heading out to the highways again, and over the years they have played some legendary shows that bring it all home what the rock n’ roll dream is all about – whiskey-soaked guitar riffs, tales of life on the road with a new woman every night, copious amounts of drugs and basically having a good time all the time.
However, the body can only take so much and it has become painfully obvious over the past year or so that Motörhead frontman and all-round rock n’ roll icon Lemmy Kilmister is as human as the rest of us, hence the cancelled shows, and “Lost Woman Blues – Live From San Francisco” shows this to very much be the case. It’s a very hard one to call because on the one hand, this is Motörhead live on stage and the sound that Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee wrangle from their instruments is immense and still puts most bands to shame in terms of power and volume – just listen to Mikkey Dee‘s precision foot-work on ‘Overkill’ and you can still feel a tremble go up and down your spine despite having heard the song played countless times.
On the other hand, though, Lemmy is 70 next year and the years of drink and drugs have noticeably taken their toll on his voice. Granted, he has always sounded like he was gargling with broken glass but there was always an attitude in that gravelly voice box that transcended what a ‘good singing voice’ should be, making his voice almost become an instrument in itself. Here, however, Lemmy sounds like a 70 year-old-man trying to clear his bronchitis and the rest of the band have had to drop the pace a bit to compensate. For example, ‘Damage Case’ is a song that normally bounces along at quite a rate – enough to make Metallica cover it – but the drop in pace here really doesn’t help it. The same goes for ‘Dr. Rock’ – which features a mid-song drum solo, no doubt to give the frontman a mid-set break – and ‘Going to Brazil’, two songs that are normally foot-to-the-floor ragers but not quite getting the blood going here, with Lemmy sounding particularly tired during the latter song.
It really pains me to say it because, as a life-long Motörhead fan, this is the band that always represented speed-driven hard rock/metal and a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude but it may be time for the band to start winding down and take a proper break. The level of musicianship in Motörhead isn’t in question, as Phil Campbell‘s playing seemingly gets better with age, Mikkey Dee is as impeccable as always – his ability to switch from bar-room blues to sub-thrash metal still amazing to hear – and Lemmy still wields a mean bass and is all over these songs as he should be, but his voice is shot to pieces; just put this disc up against the classic “No Sleep ’til Hammersmith” or the underappreciated “Everything Louder Than Everyone Else” – this line-up’s defining live statement – and there’s quite a difference.
To end on a positive, though, the set-list is pretty good, throwing in a few curveballs like the popular B-sides ‘Over the Top’ and ‘Just ‘Cos You Got the Power’ and ‘Rock It’ from 1983’s “Another Perfect Day”, along with some more modern tunes like ‘I Know How To Die’ (from 2010’s “The Wörld is Yours”) and ‘Lost Woman Blues’ (obviously – look at the title of the show!). There’s no arguing with the final triple-whammy of ‘Killed By Death’, ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Overkill’ – even when played with a little less vigour than usual – and, despite the short-comings of the live performance, having an excellent studio album and a complete live performance is still a decent package for fans to enjoy. As for the future, we’ll just have to wait and see…