Saints of Los Angeles
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Reviewed by David Medsker
Now look at Motley Crue. Glam rock has been, and will always be, a young man’s game, and there is surely no one more acutely aware of this fact than Vince, Tommy, Nikki and Mick. “I hope I die before I get old” isn’t just a lyric to these guys – it’s a battle cry…or at least it was at one point in their lives. Twenty-five years have clearly changed the guys’ priorities somewhat, and that is the problem with Saints of Los Angeles. They’re still trying to play the roles that they sold so well when they were fast-living degenerates, but since we all know that they are former fast-living degenerates, their attempts to get dirty or reflect on their dirty period looked forced or, worse, sad.
Which is a shame, because there are moments on Saints of Los Angeles where the band shows that they still have something left in the tank. “Welcome to the Machine” is a fast-paced rocker in the mold of “Live Wire” (which it briefly references at the end), and the title track has one of those vintage chain gang choruses that are tailor-made for shaking the rafters. Mick Mars, degenerative arthritic condition and all, can still shred when he feels like it, and Vince Neil’s voice has held up far better than many of his former peers (ahem, Joe Elliott).
Whose idea, then, was it to make a concept album about the city that birthed them? Even Vince had to be wincing when recording the hilariously bad spoken-word part of opening track “L.A.M.F.” (“This city, full of plastic angels, will seduce you,” gawd). The band waxes nostalgic on “Down at the Whisky,” but honestly, who wants to hear Crue sing a song about blowing all their money on tattoos and cigarettes? More importantly, who besides Crue can relate to that? Then there are the swear word songs, namely “Motherfucker of the Year” and “What’s It Gonna Take.” The former feels like forced controversy, while the latter, from the viewpoint of a struggling (degenerate) musician trying to get their break – sung by a band 25 years after they got their break – is just meaningless. We know how the story ends, guys.
There has to be a middle ground for Motley Crue, somewhere between pretending you’re still a dumb 23-year-old and acknowledging you’re a 40-something guy with failing health and questionable commercial prospects. They can clearly still play, so that isn’t the problem. No, the problem is that bands whose unofficial motto is “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse” deny themselves the option of aging gracefully. There will be no Bonnie Raitt-style autumn for Motley Crue, not as long as they make albums like Saints of Los Angeles.