Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Motorhead
Overkill


Released 1979 on Bronze
Reviewed by griddell, 24/01/2010ce


Motorhead - Overkill 1979 Bronze Records


No, Ace Of Spades ain’t on this album.
Yes, it’s a classic everyone & their granny loves.
But just forget about it for now, especially if you’ve just got the track on a play list and think ‘that’s all the Motorhead I need’.
Like their spiritual-music brethren the Ramones & AC/DC, Motorhead essentially never changed their sound, which leads to the same accusation/opinion that ‘all the album’s are the same’.
Of course that’s a sweeping statement, but for a casual listener there’s more than an element of truth. It doesn’t mean no album is worth investigating & all you need to know for now is - this is it.
It is the bona fide classic album with classic line up and perhaps most important of all, a classic producer in Jimmy Miller, the guy at the desk for just about all the Stones most crucial albums.
Although essentially metal and essentially of it’s time approaching the 80’s, Overkill ends up sounding timeless to these lugs, largely because every single fucking bit of production sounds just right.

First example of which is the drums that open Overkill.
This is isn’t a subtle introduction: it’s the band effectively hijacking your sound system so ‘Philthy Animal’ Phil Taylor can pummel some suitably demented sounding beats through it, then finding way of making it all sound even LOUDER.
In comes the treble-overdriven Rickenbacker trademark of Lemmy, in comes Fast Eddie’s flash guitar and the song’s pretty much an exciting & adrenalin inducing runaway train crash from then on. Bar a few good false endings that are exactly as the title suggests.
Not much let up in pace with ‘Stay Clean’, notable not only for a great riff, but some rock’n’roll spirit lyrics from the Lem (‘Don’t be scared, lived to win, although they’re always gonna tell you it’s a sin!’) and a rumbling bass ‘solo’. Which brings me to another point - yes, there’s some heavy metal silliness involved with Motorhead in general, but few other bands at that time crossed a boundary by being accepted by a punk audience if not by most of the media. The simple reason for this is that Lemmy’s approach has always been in the same tradition of Little Richard or the MC5: high energy rock’n’roll combined with more humour than you might think.
The next two numbers could be classed in that category. ‘I Won’t Pay Your Price’ contains some dumbly funny ’written in 30 seconds’ lyrics - ‘Can’t stop me, don’t you even try - gonna stick my finger in your eye.’ Music wise, it’s a bit throw-away but still highly enjoyable while the following ‘I’ll Be Your Sister’ inhabits the same MH territory. But what they do give is a bit of light & shade before the original ‘side-1’ comes to a close with an unadulterated epic.
‘Capricorn’ is probably fast Eddie’s show point so far. There’s some subtle chords in there (honest!), and a few flashes of Hendrix inspired sonics, underpinned by a low grumbling rhythm, Philthy deserving a special mention. All topped off by some apocalyptic gargle-with-JD, 80 tabs-a-day vocals: incredible.
‘No Class’ brings thing much more down to earth. It’s essentially ZZ Top’s Tush riff ‘burrowed’ and given a NWOBHM make over, yet it still keeps this album careering into the classic category - holy fuck, bass chords can sound incredible.
As with side one (alright, I’m listening to the vinyl while writing this up!), the next two; ‘Damage Case’ & ‘Tear Ya Down’ aren’t totally amazing songs in themselves, but cranked up loud enough they still keep the heart pounding, feet tapping and throat rasping in sympathy. And hearing them right now, ’Tear Ya Down’ is better than I remembered: from the Dee Dee Ramone-like counted German intro to the great kick-start rhythm and FE’s nifty sounding lead.
‘Metropolis’ on the other hand, is something else. It is an epic/futuristic wah-wah fest slow burner that once again makes me want to talk about Jimmy Miller’s production talents. How can a band sound so fucking HEAVY but leave space in the sound - answers on a postcard…..
On the face of it, ‘Limb From Limb’ is just a simple bluesy riff, slower paced than anything else on the album. Hard to convey in words that it’s actually a perfect way to bring Overkill to a crashing halt!
Partly because everything from the kit to the lead (swapped between Eddie & Lemmy), to the scorching bass sound utterly frigging fantastic, but mainly because of the OTT speed-up part half way through.
All of a sudden it’s 100mph Motorhead making the kind of noise a good rock’n’roll band should. ‘Nuff said.


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