Saturday, March 4, 2017

Ace of Spades

When you move past the music, the bombast, and the loudness, heavy metal is about attitude, a state of being that defiantly declares, "I am important to myself, and I don't care what you think."

Few, if anyone else, embodied that spirit better than Lemmy Kilmister, the late, legendary frontman of  Motörhead. Over the course of a 40-plus year run, that only ended when Lemmy died from cancer at age 70,  Motörhead cranked out more than twenty albums worth of in-your-face, sped-up rock n roll while touring almost non-stop. Trends came and went, other musicians changed their styles, and the mainstream all but shunned them, but  Motörhead could always be counted on to unapologetically deliver music that sounded like  Motörhead.

Ace of Spades arrived in 1980 and cemented  Motörhead's legendary status. No frills. No gimmicks. Just straight-ahead rock. Critics tend to group in  Motörhead in with heavy metal, but Lemmy always insisted what he played was rock n roll. Well, Motörhead could rock, and they rocked harder, faster, and louder than just about anybody else. Whether you call it rock or metal, their style kicked ass, and it never kicked more ass than it did on Aces of Spades.

The album leaps out of the gate with the title track assaulting the listener like a punch to the face. Less than three minutes in length, "Ace of Spades" the song is a sonic blast: fast, hard, driving, and full of swagger.

"You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools,

But that's the way I like it baby,

I don't wanna live forever."
Most of the songs can be described as blunt and to the point. Only one, "The Chase is Better than the Catch," climbs above the four-minute mark, while the rest remain in the two-three minute range. The loudness, speed, and distortion give them a metal coating, but from a rhythm standpoint, they're catchy rock.

Lemmy and cohorts "Fast Eddie" Clarke and "Philthy Animal" Taylor stick to the classic three-chord structure. The music is not complex, but the speed and intensity at which they play is face-melting. Lemmy lays down the fast, aggressive baselines, Fast Eddie blazes off the lightning fast guitar hooks, and and Philthy Animal pounds the drums like he's trying to kill someone.

Lemmy does not sing so much as growl. He's not crooning a soft, dewy-eyed love ballad here. He sings about sex, drugs, and rock n roll (you know, life's essentials). His voice sounds like he's gargling rusty nails. It's not clean or pretty, but you can't argue it. On the closer, "The Hammer," he declares:

"And I'm here to stay, it's gonna be that way.
Don't try to run, don't try to scream.

Believe me, the Hammer's gonna smash your dream."
With Ace of Spades, you can either rock out or get out.

Standout Songs
Ace of Spades - The song that defines Motörhead.
Love Me Like a Reptile - I want to sink my fangs in you.
(We Are) The Road Crew - A tribute to the roadies who make the band's work possible.
The Chase is Better than the Catch - A (somewhat) slower song that still drives a hard, catchy beat.

Favorite Moment
The opening measure of "The Chase is Better than a Catch." It's so menacing, it sounds like Lemmy on the prowl.

Album Cover
Decked out in Wild West regalia, Lemmy and company look like outlaws ready to blow you away. Fitting and cool.

Track Order
1) Ace of Spades
2) Love Me Like a Reptile
3) Shoot You in the Back
4) Live to Win
5) Fast and Loose
6) (We Are) The Road Crew
7) Fire, Fire
8) Jailbait
9) Dance
10) Bite the Bullet
11) The Chase is Better than the Catch
12) The Hammer

Lemmy Kilmister - Lead Vocals, Bass
"Fast Eddie" Clarke- Guitar, Backing Vocals
"Philthy Animal" Taylor - Drums

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