Motorhead – Bad Magic (2015)
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote this in late 2015, only a few weeks before Lemmy passed away. I have left it unedited since then, as a tribute to memories of a better time when he still walked and rocked this earth. Godspeed.
I’ll freely admit something: When I picked up my copy of the latest Motorhead record, I skipped straight to the end, to the band’s cover of “Sympathy For the Devil,” because I really just wanted to hear a metal band I’ve loved and respected since high school jam out on my favorite Stones song. Lemmy and friends did the song justice in loud power trio format, emphasizing the heavy rhythm congas, downplaying the “woo-woos” in the verses, and stepping up on the wah-wah pedal for the solos. An integral, Motorhead-style take that makes me wish they began the album with this cover! I hope it inspires even more metal bands to embrace this spirit of covering past songs that they loved growing up.
And it’s a good thing that cover is not the only highlight here, because the twelve Motorhead original writings on Bad Magic are some of their most solid and consistent songwriting in the back half of their career. The joke may be that Motorhead albums all more or less blend together and sound the same so you can’t go wrong with any of them, but that cannot be said of the individual songs, especially on Bad Magic. Lemmy and company are far from just dialing it in here. It has all the excitement, big finishes and mood shifts of a live Motorhead show…just in 2015.
1. Victory or Die
2. Thunder & Lightning
3. Fire Storm Hotel
4. Shoot Out All of Your Lights
5. The Devil
7. Evil Eye
8. Teach Them How to Bleed
9. Till The End
10. Tell Me Who to Kill
11. Choking On Your Screams
12. When the Sky Comes Looking For You
13. Sympathy For the Devil
Predictably, the songs here that most feature the classic Motorhead sound seem to garner the most excitement: “Victory or Die,” “Thunder & Lightning,” “Tell Me Who to Kill” and “Electricity.” All are deserving entries in Lemmy’s laborious lexicon of beer-guzzling, headbanging songs. But Motorhead’s iconic frontman has not forgotten his other influences. The even more interesting songs on Bad Magic include blues-boogie mode (“Fire Storm Hotel”), straight-up thrashing and power drumming (“Shoot Out All of Your Lights”), acoustics and clean(er) singing (“Till the End”), and even some attempts at death growling (“Evil Eye”). Brian May of Queen guest solos on “The Devil.” And “When The Sky Comes Looking For You” is one of the funniest songs Lemmy has ever written.
Yes, it’s about a UFO invasion…but we know exactly what Lemmy would be doing, aliens or no aliens…mixing himself another strong Jack and Coke before taking the stage (or maybe vodka these days, because “it’s healthier”).
Like my other favorite entries in the Motorhead discography, Bad Magic has a diverse, meaningful and relevant set of songs. It easily exceeded my expectations of “another solid Motorhead album.”
Sadly, the most recent Motorhead tour was most marked by genuine concern for Lemmy’s health. But as two fellow headbangers and I dodged in and out of traffic on our way to what would be the only Motorhead show in the New York area, we had Bad Magic cranking. By tradition, my two friends almost never listen to the band they’re going to see on the way to a show, but they made an exception because the Bad Magic songs were going unfeatured on the tour setlists. Usually, we call out songs we want to hear so the car DJ riding shotgun can blast them. But with this 22nd Motorhead studio album, we all just looked at each other and said, “Fuck it, man. Just push play and let’s hear em all!”
If a band can still sound this good forty years into its career, we are living in a beautiful world indeed.
Phil Campbell (“Philip Augustus Campbell III”)
Written by Matt P