Graded on a Curve:
Mötley Crüe,
Shout at the Devil

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Look, I’m gonna be straight with you; no way would I have reviewed this LP by hair metal legends Mötley Crüe if it weren’t for a snippet from a review from musico Robert Christgau in which he gleefully states, “It’s hardly news that this platinum product is utter dogshit even by heavy metal standards.” And who then goes on to mock the song “Ten Seconds to Love,” in which according to Christgau, “Vince Neil actually seems to boast about how fast he can ejaculate.

Vince Neil might have made a decent song about how FAR he can ejaculate—I once read, for instance, about how the late Beat poet Allen Ginsberg once left a friend’s bedroom with cum dripping from the ceiling—but instead he wrote an ode designed to console all of the world’s other premature ejaculators. I suppose we males should all say thanks to itchy-trigger-finger Vince for speaking out on such a taboo issue.

I have never been and will never be a hair metal aficionado—I’m too much of a pointy-headed, anti-populist intellectual—but what really struck me about 1983’s Shout at the Devil is just how far from utter dogshit it is. Sure, there’s some utter dogshit on it, but it also includes some hard rockers that (almost) allow me to ignore the ridiculous outfits, hair spray, and general low IQ of the band’s presentation. But who says a song has to have a high IQ? Sometimes a high IQ is a bad thing. Take Rush. And sometimes a low IQ can be a good thing; case in point Slade, whose utter inability to spell constituted half their charm.

Everybody—even geeks like me—knows the band. Vince Neil handled lead vocals, Mick Mars played lead guitar, Nikki SIxx manned the bass guitar, and the one and only Tommy Lee kept things interesting on drums. And the drama! Neil killed Hanoi Rocks drummer “Razzle” Dingley in a drunk driving accident. Sixx overdosed on heroin several years later and was temporarily declared dead. And his band mates’ behavior was hardly more sober-minded. Drugs, alcohol, women, and fast cars abounded. Why, I’m surprised they weren’t responsible for chopping the drummer for Def Leppard’ arm off with a battle axe. In short, amongst the lethally unruly hair band contingent, they were the worst offenders, which is really saying something.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. Opener “In the Beginning” is just musical atmospherics accompanying someone laying down some post-apocalyptic scenario. Snooze. The title track rocks hard, Neil’s scratchy vocals backed by the rest of the band crying, “Shout! Shout! Shout at the Devil.” It’s not terrible but I wish it were faster, like follow-up “Looks That Kill,” which may be a string of clichés but is guaranteed to make you want to drive way too fast right into a tree. “Bastard” opens with some Lee pyrotechnics, and then Mars does some showing off on guitar before Neil commences singing, once again joined by the band on backing vocals. It’s not the greatest song by any means, but I like Mars’ short guitar solo and the way it sounds like Neil is singing, “He leaves fast without his hair.”

The short and preternaturally dumb “God Bless the Children of the Beast” is pure Satanic hokum—if I were the Dark One, I’d sue every hair metal and hard rock band of the late seventies and eighties for slander—that opens with some oh-so-sensitive guitars that have the faintest tinge of Renaissance Faire to them, before the whole band sings the title of the song. Better is their cover of “Helter Skelter,” although to be honest I’ve never heard a version—including the one recorded by the Carpenters for their never-released The Carpenters Sing Songs Related to the Manson Family—I didn’t like. Mötley Crüe’s version isn’t among the best. Beyond Mars on guitar the band seems to be going through the motions, and it’s hard to believe that no one will probably ever top Wimpmeister-General Paul McCartney when it comes to delivering the goods on what is possibly the greatest Beatles song of them all.

“Red Hot” is okay, a fast-paced tune that goes above and beyond the call of duty, especially with Lee’s super-pneumatic drumming and Mars’ shredding guitar. “Too Young Too Fall in Love” borders on hair balladry, and I turn it off every time it comes on, missing Mars’ pretty good guitar solo in the process. “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid” chug-a-lugs along in time-honored hair metal tradition, and would only impress me if they speeded it up, up, and away.

“Ten Seconds to Love” boasts some great guitar and incredibly dumb lyrics along the lines of the Foreigner penis-thermometer analogy in “Hot Blooded.” Once again it’s too slow for my liking, and I have to admit that, despite the solos of Mars, one of which is played here, I have no idea what accounted for this band’s popularity. “I wanna hear your engine roar/Before I’m in the door,” sings Neil, and I’ll say it again: you have to hand it to a guy who is so up-front about an issue that most males consider their most closely held secret. As for LP closer “Danger,” it’s okay, although the band once again sounds too sluggish for my tastes.

No, Shout at the Devil is not utter dogshit. It reminds me of the Christmas my old Chinese pug Sister Ray ate an entire bowl of Hershey Kisses in multi-colored foils and spent the next three days depositing colorful little gifts on all of our neighbors’ lawns. Sure, they were dogshit, but they were nicely decorated dogshit. Just like Shout at the Devil. Wrapped up neatly in hair metal tinsel, its songs have their moments. But most of them are dogshit just the same.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
D+

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  • Robert Sharpe

    Funny you mention Robert Christgau, because when I saw Motley Crue for the first time, opening for Ozzy in 1983, just as this album was being released and until then never even having heard of this band, I literally thought (mimicking Christgau) that I had seen the future of heavy metal music. And I was right. Motley Crue was the s*it in the ’80s. As for this particular album, it was uneven, though in my mind deserving of a much higher grade.

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