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MOTLEY CRUE "Dr. Feelgood," Elektra ***:***** Great Balls of Fire:**** Knockin' on Heaven's:*** Good Vibrations:** Maybe Baby:* Ain't That a Shame

September 17, 1989|Jonathon Gold

The aerospace boom is over. Michael Milken is having a bad year. Movies aren't better than ever. But L.A.'s hottest growth industry--bad heavy metal--continues apace, and the four members of Motley Crue, who bear the approximate relationship to lightweight metal that Henry Ford did to cars, have survived lawsuits, gnarly car wrecks and a near-fatal OD of their bass player to put out their strongest album since "Shout at the Devil" half a dozen years ago.

Of course, things have changed. People used to accuse the band of incompetent musicianship. Today, compared to, say, Faster Pussycat, they sound tight as Toto. When they emerged on the local club scene in the new wave summer of '81, lipstick and codpieces were something of a novelty. They might have been one of the first bands with umlauts, too. Their lyrics, while still raunchy enough, seem like Judy Collins or something next to Slayer's or even Guns N' Roses' now, and their party-hearty attitude has abated a bit since all four Cruuesters kicked drugs and alcohol earlier this year. They even played at the peace 'n' understanding fest in Moscow a couple of weeks ago.

But of all the L.A. glam-metal bands of the '80s, Motley Crue has always understood both the Bay City Rollers kind of teen-dream appeal--they even sound like the Rollers on a couple of tunes on this album--and the importance of the riff: the pounding, shrieking, two-chord monoliths that have always powered the best hard rock. (Their guitar solos have always been kind of lame.) "Dr. Feelgood" has awesome riffs, the sort that half the 14-year-old boys in America will try to pick out on their brand-new Sears guitars. Therefore, it rocks-- hard.

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