For the most part, I’ve not been the biggest Motörhead fan. Obviously there was admiration and respect for the insane groove of “Ace of Spades” but otherwise I kind of just acknowledged there existence and listened to other things. To me, they – and of course by “they” I mean Lemmy and whoever the hell he was playing with – were just one of the landmarks of metal that simply existed eternally.
Lemmy’s death changed that, for obvious reasons.
What it also changed in a not so obvious way was what I came to think of his band and his body of music in the wake of his passing. I had to just to let myself experience a little of this man’s music that had – evidenced by all of the tributes posted on social media and in magazines – touched so many people.
What I found was that hidden underneath the façade of that landmark were many albums of solid music, some leaps and bounds more sonically adventurous and full of sonic fury than their calling card “Ace of Spades” embodied.
The most surprising thing I found after going through the band’s catalogue album by album is how fresh and energized their last few albums were. Sure, at the end of the day they were all Motörhead albums and Motörhead albums aren’t going to set the world on fire for originality and sonic experimentation – but they were also nowhere near the stale and repetitive stock-in-trade that some elder statesmen bands might have put out during their twilight years.
From 2008’s Motorizer through 2010’s The World Is Yours, 2013’s Aftershock and finally 2015’s Bad Magic, Motörhead sounded as powerful and energized as they did on their first four albums: Motörhead, Overkill, Bomber and the ubiquitous Ace of Spades. Add to that the fact that somewhere along the way Lemmy’s playing was as solid as ever and perhaps at the highest level he’d ever achieved.
All of which is a shame considering that these albums were out there for YEARS before he passed away, and I’d missed them. Just when I’d become a fan of the band, there was no more band – and yet that’s where the album this review is supposedly about comes in.
Despite there being no new Motörhead possible, the May 27, 2016 release of Clean Your Clock gives us a gift of the next best thing.
Clean Your Clock features music recorded during two concerts filmed in Munich barely one month before Lemmy’s death, on November 20 and 21 of last year.
The album itself consists of both a 16-track album and a video – with either or both available separately or together in both physical and digital formats. As for the music and performances that make up the album, the passion and newfound energy present on their last four studio albums are in evidence on every song. Of course, as one would expect in a concert filmed just a few weeks before the passing of the lead singer, there are moments where the power of the music seems to outstrip Lemmy’s own energy levels and you can almost physically see how he leaned on the sonic punch of his bandmates to carry him along until he’d gotten his wind back.
We’re talking about a man just weeks away from both his 70th birthday and death, however, so the fact that he is as strong and solid as he is throughout the concert is a blessing I’m not going to question.
So I’m left here at a loss for words how to express how wonderful a release this is for even existing – thank goodness someone had the foresight to record these shows – and yet a bit voyeuristic. And we know that the man singing loudly with his gnarled fingers flying over his bass guitar has no idea how short his remaining time is.
Granted, had he known, I think Lemmy would have said the hell with it, picked up a bottle and gone out and played his heart and ass off just as he ended up doing here.
If you were ever on the fence about Motörhead and wondering if the heavy burden that their legacy and one-hit wonder spectacle of “Ace of Spades” was worth checking out, they are. Lemmy and Motörhead were much more than that one song and his black leather and denim image. There are some damn good songs on this release and – more to the point – some damn good playing on this album.
I think Lemmy would have been proud of this release. David Bowie might have needed to plan out his farewell record as a statement to his fans but I get the sense that Lemmy put everything into his music already, so the live performances were always statements to his fans.
Let the music do the f*cking talking, he’d probably say.
Track Listing for Clean Your Clock:
“When the Sky Comes Looking for You”
“Over the Top”
“The Chase Is Better Than the Catch”
“Lost Woman Blues”
“Doctor Rock Pt 1”
“Doctor Rock Pt 2”
“Just ‘Cos You Got the Power”
“Ace of Spades”