Pop: They came to be blown away
Tuesday 20 October 1998
IAN "LEMMY" Kilminster is hardly your average fiftysomething. The man who once admitted, "My favourite drug is speed. It's not good for most people but my metabolism seems to have adjusted" is still up there leading Motorhead, the band that has based its career on being louder and faster and harder than any other. He certainly inspires devotion from those who speak the International Language of Loud. One man is yelling "Lemmy!! I lovvv you!!! Rock and roooolllll!!" Despite the temptation to say, "He can't hear you, mate", he's right. It is rock'n'roll. Crude, blunt, reduced to its absolute base elements, but identifiable.
Two decades after its formation Motorhead can still fill respectable London halls, possibly with the same audience as when it was at its commercial peak. Beloved by both punks and headbangers for their brutal power and speed, they remain reassuringly timeless, heavy as ever, breathtakingly loud, and surprisingly precise once you've adjusted to the pain. So very metal that dry ice billows across the stage while the road crew is at work, it's a solid, ballad-free zone for an hour and a half. From the unfeasibly fast "Bomber" to the immortal "Ace of Spades", nothing overstays its welcome, and there's not a hint of unnecessary musicianly noodling. Lemmy is a unique stylist, churning huge power chords from his bass, and still wearing tight hipsters with studs up the seams. The guitarist Phil Campbell, who does a fine impression of a California dude for a man born in Pontypridd, and the awesome drummer Mikkey Dee, match him manfully.
Lemmy's bark sometimes gets lost in the murky racket, but songs such as "Too Much Too Soon", "You Know Me" and "Killed By Death" are all catchy and concise three-minute pop songs at heart.
But no one comes to see Motorhead for the songwriting. They come to be blown away. Perhaps you could make a spurious argument that in an age where traditional industries no longer exist people want to experience a controlled environment as noisy as a blast furnace. Or, they might be like the fence-builders in Magnus Mills's novel The Restraint of Beasts, who listen to hard rock tapes in a pick-up truck.
At an age when he should be impressing his grandchildren with how he was once Jimi Hendrix's roadie, Lemmy is still living it large. Truly these are the parents our parents warned us about.
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