The 80s became the 90s, and the unstoppable steel battle beast called Motley Crue started going into engine failure. A new style of music was “in”, and it was antithetical to Crue’s. The days of rocking out and living large were over. The days of whining about mom and dad had begun. Then, in 1992, the band lost its singer (Vince says he was fired…the rest of the band says he walked out), and Motley Crue replaced him with an unknown vocalist from Pennsylvania.
John Corabi is one of the saddest chapters of the Crue story (excepting the people who actually died, I guess). He was a square peg in a Vince Neil shaped hole from the beginning. The band held on to the news that Vince had quit for as long as possible (it seems Elektra was advancing them $25 million on this album and they thought the deal would fall through if they announced a lineup change). John entered the band amid an atmosphere of secrecy and psy-ops.
His voice was a grave baritone, totally unlike Vince’s. He didn’t command that aura of rockstar excess that Vince wears like a cloak. His stage presence seemed limited to running around and yelling a lot. In all, he was never “the Motley Crue singer”, the idea is a sick joke. He accomplished little more than filling a space in front of the microphone while Vince was gone. And soon Vince would want that space back.
Motley Crue updated their sound a little here. It’s the usual “hair metal band goes grunge” shift, downtuned guitars, grittier singing, more raw and personal lyrics. That’s not surprising, at the time everyone and their brother was “reinventing” themselves to sound like they came from Seattle. What is surprising is that Crue mostly gets it right, and their 1994 self-titled sounds very good in most respects.
I skip the first two songs. “Power to the Music” is a Rage Against the Machine clone, except where RATM swaggers and stomps, this plods. What a boring song. “Uncle Jack” is the same story, kiddy-fiddling lyrics notwithstanding. The music is so dull it almost almost seems to flop out of your speakers.
By “Hooligan’s Holiday” the band has started to wake up. The song’s not a total classic like “Wild Side” but it sports lot of cool grooves and interesting riffs. “Misunderstood” is the best ballad ever written by this band, with John Corabi putting together some really heartfelt lyrics.
Then there’s a few not so amazing songs, although if you liked the fillers from Dr Feelgood you’ll like “Poison Apples” as it sounds a bit like “SOS” and company. I always go right to “Smoke the Sky” which is heavy enough to rival Pantera and Pro-Pain but has the attitude and catchiness of White Zombie. If the rest of the songs had sounded like “Smoke the Sky” we’d be talking about a legendary metal classic instead of just a good grunge rock album.
Nevermind all the changes and updates, if we’re talking quality then this is Motley Crue doing business as usual: 2-3 songs that sound amazing and then a number of others that do little more than manage to exist. The Crue can’t escape their nature: they’re a band remembered for their big hits rather than their consistent albums. Apples never fall far from the tree. Not even poison ones.