I’ve been at this blog about nearly 10 months now, something like that. I’ve done an album of the week almost every week, besides a few that I took off. While I’ve covered a wealth of stuff, from classic rock, hair metal, Britrock, death metal and points elsewhere, each album I’ve covered so far has a common thread – I like the albums. Every single one is an album I’ve played and enjoyed to at least some degree.
Today that changes. For the first time in my album of the week history, I will discuss a record that I honestly almost can’t stand the existence of. It has a few (very few) redeeming qualities, which generates enough interest for me to give it the AOTW treatment. It is a record that is infamous for being bad among the group’s fanbase, though like anything it does have its supporters. I’m not one of them.
Motley Crue – Theatre Of Pain
Released June 21, 1985 via Elektra Records
My Favorite Tracks – Home Sweet Home, Louder Than Hell
This isn’t a case of “well, everyone else hates this album so I will too.” It’s also not a case of “everyone hates this album so I’ll be contrarian and proclaim my love for it.” I never was able to get into this record and I’m not sure if I’ve played the whole thing through 10 or more times in all my decades of listening to the band. I’ve played the other 80’s Crue albums thousands of times each. I just don’t really like this one. The production is crap and most of the songs aren’t worth the time.
But there are a few worthy tunes here so I’ll have a go at running through them.
City Boy Blues
A decent but pretty uninspired album opener. It doesn’t set a great tone to start things off.
Smokin’ In The Boys Room
Here we have what became a massive hit for the group – a cover of a 1970’s Brownsville Station song that the Crue did up their way, made a funny video for, and laughed all the way to the bank. The song is performed well and is a highlight on the album. It’s also one of those that was overplayed to death in its era and I don’t seek out to hear on that basis. It’s something I liked but wasn’t looking to hear five times a day for a year straight.
Louder Than Hell
Up next we find a bit of civilization, it’s a proper Motley Crue song. It sounds like a leftover track from Shout At The Devil and in fact it is. The song works great despite the lame ass production. It would sound even better if someone turned the knobs more competently.
Keep Your Eye On The Money
This song is ok, it’s a cut above other things on the album but is still a bit down overall. Seems like the band was flailing a bit for ideas during recording.
Home Sweet Home
It’s new territory for Motley Crue – a proper ballad. Rather than go the sappy love route, the group composed this sweet yet somber tune. It was a drastic shift for a group that went balls out in the metal end of the pool for their first two records.
And it works magnificently. It’s easily the best ballad the group ever did and it’s the standout of this album. It sounded even better outside of the shoddy production of the album – both in the single cut that was sent to radio and the 1991 remix. But the band got the job done here and did so in grand fashion.
This would’ve been a decent EP if it ended here…
Tonight (We Need A Lover)
Mick Mars is really good on this. That’s about all I can find to say about it. The song does decently enough until after Mick’s solo where it goes into some bad territory for a moment.
Use It Or Lose It
A nice riff here but that’s about it, besides that the song is just fluff. It’s an ok rock tune but it’s also a few minutes of nothing.
Save Our Souls
Suitably heavy in the verses but the chorus is too much. Save my soul from the second side of this tepid album.
Raise Your Hands To Rock
Well, I raised my hands, where’s the rock? This is total fifth-rate hair metal filler. It also doesn’t even sound like a finished song, like they just threw some shit down and said “we’re good.”
Fight For Your Rights
Sure, I guess? A solid sentiment but there’s nothing going on with the song. A real dud of a closer on a second side that doesn’t have much of anything going on.
Theatre Of Pain would be a success for the Crue. It sold four million copies and its singles got significant airplay. It shifted the tone of music from a headbanging riot to a rock approach, something that would play out in force as the 1980’s wore on. The band morphed their own image from leather rebels to glam dolls to suit the style, something that became a calling card for the hair metal scene as image overtook musical substance in importance.
For me I found a few awesome songs, a couple that were ok and then a bunch of filler. Many of the tracks here just don’t have anything to them beyond some good guitar work. Again, this was not an album I played much at all. I’d get my Home Sweet Home fix from the Decade of Decadence compilation in 1991, and Louder Than Hell could be added to a mix tape or burned CD, then later digital playlists. My vinyl copy of this album is in pristine condition, played one time. I didn’t seek it out, either – it came in a box set.
Some might say it’s hard to argue with success, and Motley Crue did commercially well on the record and also shifted the music landscape. But that doesn’t make this a good album. It’s so uninspired that I don’t feel like bothering with the umlauts in the band’s name. The scene from The Dirt movie where Vince Neil tells Doc McGhee that the album sucks is spot on.