Considering that drummer Tommy Lee was absent from the band’s last album “New Tattoo,” (2000) that singer Vince Neil basically dubbed over John Corabi’s vocals for “Generation Swine” (1997) and Neil was absent from the band’s self-titled CD, “Motley Crue,” (1994) in some respects Motley Crue’s ninth album “Saints of Los Angeles” (2008) is the first “true” Motley album since “Dr. Feelgood” (1989).
Loosely based on the band’s autobiography “The Dirt,” “Saints of Los Angeles” is a semi-concept album, the major theme being the lifestyle of rock n’ roll excess in the city of Los Angeles. Clocking in at 45 minutes, SOLA is a go-for-the-jugular, lean, mean, gritty album that, like “New Tattoo” sees the band, pardon the cliche, “return to their roots,” after the alternative leaning “Generation Swine” and the Soundgarden/STP styling of the self-titled album.
“Saints of Los Angeles” has a lot of things going for it. For one thing the band sounds great–never better, in fact. The Crue sounds totally energized and on fire. The songs themselves also manage to sound like classic, sleazy Crue, but also have a modern touch, as the production is terrific–so “Saints of Los Angeles” sounds retro, but doesn’t at the same time. The pacing of the album is also great–it’s pure straight-up rock that never drags, so you can listen to the entire album all the way through without having to skip a track. The album is thoroughly enjoyable, from start to finish.
But while the album and the band sound great, SOLA unfortunately doesn’t really have any truly great songs. While all the songs are definitely good–their isn’t a gem like “Kickstart My Heart,” “Primal Scream” or “Too Young to Fall in Love” to be found. The songwriting on “New Tattoo” was actually stronger than it is here, as those songs had more memorable melodies with stronger hooks. Perhaps next time Sixx should write most the songs himself, like he did in the past, and not rely on Michael/Ashba/Frederiksen.
While “Saints of Los Angeles” may not live up to the band’s earlier work like “Shout at the Devil,” (1983) “Girls, Girls, Girls” (1987) or “Dr. Feelgood,” it’s still a strong album, none-the-less. If you’re a fan of the band, you’ll definitely find something to like here.