Motörhead – Bomber (1979)
I’m told that the members of Motorhead consider themselves a fairly straight-ahead, if loud and aggressive rock band. If you only had Bomber to go by, you might understand; compared to most of Motorhead’s output this is actually fairly slow and blues-oriented at times. Formative years stuff, perhaps, but it’s a side of the band that most of the listening public doesn’t hear (“What? You mean Motorhead has songs besides ‘Ace of Spades’?”).
Either way, the key to Bomber is allegedly that it’s more varied than usual for Motorhead. This album definitely has variety – obviously in tempo, a small amount in key, and so forth, but it’s still all incorporated pretty cleanly into the stereotypical Motorhead sound. Seasoned band listeners might find some of the downtempo content on this album particularly interesting if only for the novelty of hearing Motorhead slow themselves down. However, it’s important to realize these guys don’t place a premium on virtuoso musicianship or extended songwriting – they’re very workmanlike for better or worse.
When you get down to the level of simplicity and directness that Bomber showcases, a certain level of refinement and chops are necessary to keep your music from sliding down into banality. Motorhead, however, goes beyond that in several forms. For instance, the lyrics here are (while simple and direct) well written and sometimes showcase a sort of blue-collar approach to social problems and the experience of being a touring musician. The words to “Talking Head” and “Lawman” particularly come to mind here. Frontman Lemmy Kilmister’s delivery of these lyrics is also a high point – his influential gruffness belies his useful tonal and emotional qualities. To be fair, he had quite a bit of musical experience prior to beginning his career with Motorhead – most notably as the bassist and occasional vocalist for Hawkwind, who performed a style of music rather more ornate and theatrical than what’s on display here. Despite sounding rather different, Motorhead does inherit Lemmy’s practiced instrumental skills, which helps hold this album together.
I guess the most interesting thing about my own experience with Bomber is my choice to keep it in my listening rotation despite my general preference for more “complex” music in many cases. Much has probably been made of how Motorhead concerts bring metal and punk fans together, and much of Motorhead’s reputation comes from their pioneering role in mixing the genres’ tropes. Bomber proper is notable for focusing more on the band’s blues/rock influences, which occasionally means you can slot in some tracks here on your local FM radio station turned decaying, advertisement laden corpse if it has enough affinity for classic rock.
Highlights: “Sweet Revenge”, “All The Aces”, “Bomber”, “Over The Top”