“The Age of Absurdity”

By Dr. Abner Mality

As I write this, Fast Eddie Clarke has been dead less than a day. He joins Lemmy and Philthy in the big bar in the sky and was the last of what most consider Motorhead’s classic lineup to pass away. But it was Phil Campbell who had the longest tenure as Motorhead  guitarist. He picked up the gauntlet from Fast Eddie and never looked back. He was and is a sorely underrated guitarist.

Now Phil is back on the job and joined by three of his own flesh and blood sons no less. The Campbell family knows how to rock the right way and for those who are experiencing withdrawal pains over Motorhead’s absence, this might help. “The Age of Absurdity” has enough of Phil’s trademark guitar grit to soothe old Motorhead fans, but there are some important differences as well. The vocalist here is a guy named Neil Starr and if you’re expecting gruff vocals ala Lemmy, you will be disappointed. This guy has a very smooth approach and to me sounds a lot like the kind of guy who would be fronting Shinedown or Finger Eleven or other such modern hard rock bands. He’s not a bad singer by any stretch but those vocals really change the otherwise gritty sound of “The Age of Absurdity”.

It’s a pleasure to hear Phil’s trademark guitar sound again and the opening song “Ringleader” is so much like classic Motorhead it hurts. That is, until Starr’s vocals kick in. “Dropping the Needle” and “Gypsy Kiss” are two more fast and raunchy rockers in pure Motorhead mode.  Other songs like “Welcome To Hell” (not a Venom cover) and “Step Into the Fire” sound more like a combination of ‘Head and modern hard rock. “Dark Days” and “Into the Dark” are a couple of very moody semi-ballads that have a heavy dose of the blues. I have to say the Campbell boys back up their Dad admirably and are a very tight unit.

I have reservations about Neil Starr’s vocals but then, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons are not claiming to be Motorhead reborn. If you can accept that, this is a strong hard rock record that extends the legacy of one of rock’s unsung guitar heroes.