By the Great Sun Jester

(Welcome, Worm-fiends, to what we hope will be the first of many in-depth reviews of classic albums courtesy of The Great Sun Jester! For the very first edition, Jester sets his sights on MOTÖRHEAD’s pivotal 3rd album “Bomber”. Without further ado, I turn things over to him...Boss Mality)

The common belief, even held by Lemmy himself, is that MOTÖRHEAD’s second album “Overkill” is when his vision for the band’s music first came together. The blitzkrieg thrashing of Lemmy and guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke doubled its firepower when “Filthy” Phil Taylor addeda second bass drum to his kit for “Overkill” and nothing was the same. “Overkill” will remain a touchstone so long as there are bands out there embracing its ethos.

The third album, “Bomber”, consolidates those achievements and tosses in surprises along the way. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is MOTÖRHEAD burying a knee in your solar plexus and knifing you with a switchblade while you’re doubled over. The brawling uptempo pace set by the band brokers no quarter; listeners used to a breather when band’s take their foot off the gas pedal likely stop playing “Bomber” right here.

Stereotype teaches MOTÖRHEAD are at their zenith playing ninety miles a hour, go-for-broke hard rock. “Lawman” blows that stereotype into pieces. This rugged mid-tempo rocker boasts a near-archetypal Lemmy lyric with his unmasked contempt for authority burning bright. Slowing the tempo allows him a chance to toss off some of these lines with audible relish.

It’s a tale of two songs at this point on the album. “Lawman” fares far better than the droning “Sweet Revenge”. It isn’t a total loss, however; no MOTÖRHEAD song ever is. Clarke scatters buzzsaw guitar rave-ups through out the cut that stand out and Lemmy digs into his vocal phrasing for memorable dramatic effect. If “Sweet Revenge” represents even the smallest dip in quality, however, all is forgiven with its successor “Sharpshooter”.

It’s another rocker bristling with MOTÖRHEAD’s customary attitude. The band never opens the tempo full throttle, however, and it’s responsible for giving the song a different texture. Anyone who hears MOTÖRHEAD, even in these early years, as one trick ponies aren’t listening. It isn’t something these first albums trumpet and doesn’t go as far as later releases do, but Lemmy understood some subtle variations made for better work.

Scratch work. Music, just music. There’s nothing workmanlike or labored about “Stone Dead Forever”, a mainstay of the band’s setlist from this point forward. It’s no coincidence this aural pummeling opens “Bomber”’s second “side” – MOTÖRHEAD clearly constructed the album around these two tracks though they are far from “Bomber”’s only bright moments. “Step Down” is a rarity – Clarke takes over lead vocal duties for this one. It’s much more steeped in blues than what many listeners, particularly younger fans, are accustomed to from the band.

It’s one of its sleeper gems, however. Clarke’s voice is far from front material, but it lands well as a change of pace from Lemmy’s headlong bray. The finale and title track “Bomber” is classic MOTÖRHEAD that didn’t get nearly enough runs in the band’s setlists – noted World War Two buff Lemmy gives listeners a near conceptual piece, for all intents and purposes, cut with the same lean aggressiveness and laser focus defining much of the album.

It isn’t a perfect album. Everything MOTÖRHEAD put out is a warts and all proposition, for the most part. The 40th anniversary edition of the album includes a live show as well. The November 3rd, 1979 gig in Le Mans, France finds the boys ripping through a blistering eighteen song set. They pull from their first three releases, naturally, but wedge in some early live staples as well.

Their maniacal take on “Train Kept A-Rollin’” leaves blood on the stage. MOTÖRHEAD doesn’t so much as perform this song as they wrestle it into thrashing, snarling existence. It’s the sole cover. “Overkill” blasts opens your speakers to begin the recording; steamrolling everything in its path, and a ferocious “No Class” rates among the best you’ve likely heard “Metropolis” is one of the band’s unheralded studio peaks and “Fast” Eddie’s guitar playing, in particular, leave scorched earth in its wake.

Lemmy later complained that one of “Bomber”’s weaknesses, in his mind, is the band didn’t get to tour with the material before recording it like they had with “Overkill”’s songs. “Bomber” is well-represented at this show. The trio of the title song, “Lawman”, and “Sharpshooter”, especially, leave their mark on listeners. An early MOTÖRHEAD concert such as this in pristine condition is manna from heaven for the band’s admirers.

It has been said when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. You hear the backbone of that legend when you listen to “Bomber”. The drugs, whiskey, ribald tales of a rock and roll life aren’t nearly as important as the end result of it all. Let us never lose sight of the fact, not the legend, that Lemmy left it all for MOTÖRHEAD. Fatherhood, familial stability, and innumerable other things we know. Make of it what you will. The music, however, endures. The legend cannot exist without moments such as “Bomber”.