The Last Great Motorhead Album?,
This review is from: Orgasmatron (Audio CD)
Motorhead, Orgasmatron (1992 CD, Castle Classics, CLACD 283)
I'm going to start this review by addressing the question of the album's production from an entirely different perspective to the relatively common complaint of Bill Laswell having been the wrong choice of Producer due to his background largely residing in Jazz, Funk and Hip-Hop.
I would argue the latter is not a fundamental problem. I believe Laswell was the wrong choice of Producer for no other reason than he was the wrong choice of Producer at this specific stage in the band's career.
Orgasmatron was the first studio album by the "new" line-up of Motorhead, so the band needed at that stage to be allowed to shine on their own merits, with those merits equally accentuated. Quite simply, Laswell's experimental (for Motorhead) style of production did not allow that to happen. It's so dominating and disruptive of the band's core sound that it almost becomes a band member itself.
I'll admit Laswell's mixing choices are interesting, and his touch may well have upped the ante for Motorhead on a later album such as Rock and Roll, but Orgasmatron was not the right time or place for tampering of that nature.
So if you have a complaint about Laswell's production of this album, bear that in mind. It's not so much the fault of Laswell that you may feel the album to be compromised, it's the fault of whoever decided to hire him before the band had clearly established their new sound on record.
On the positive side, the strange mix does make this an interesting album to listen to through headphones, revealing a number of subtleties which otherwise go unheard or are easily overlooked.
That aside, how's the music?
From a songwriting perspective Orgasmatron is probably the last great Motorhead album.
With a more sympathetic style of production it could easily have sat next to the band's well-respected initial three or four albums. Musically it maintains an originality common to that opening chapter of the band's career, and Lemmy's tongue-in-cheek lyrics are on equally fine form. The band themselves perform with fire and vigour, powering along on all cylinders from the off, revealing a tight and lively new sound, fresh but instantly indentifiable, classic rock and roll in spirit.
Within a year of this album being released Motorhead would relocate to the USA and that lively originality would be lost. Their lyrics would become a lot darker and nihilistic (at times to the point of Heavy Metal cliche), with the cheeky lyrical witticisms and jokey autobiographical nods all but gone, and the music gradually becoming far more generic and predictable with each new album.
Orgasmatron was the final cohesive blast of Motorhead as a musical unit sounding unlike anyone else.....and equally importantly, having fun whilst doing so.
Unless they can pull one final album out of the hat which returns to those values, in the process breaking from the template of recent years, Orgasmatron will be Motorhead's creative swan song.
Four stars out of five.