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3.89 | 34 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1991

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. The One to Sing the Blues (3:09)
2. I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care) (3:15)
3. No Voices in the Sky (4:14)
4. Going to Brazil (2:32)
5. Nightmare/The Dreamtime (4:42)
6. Love Me Forever (5:29)
7. Angel City (3:59)
8. Make My Day (4:26)
9. R.A.M.O.N.E.S. (1:28)
10. Shut You Down (2:43)
11. 1916 (3:45)

Total Time: 39:47


- Lemmy / Vocals, Bass
- Philthy / Drums
- Würzel / Guitars
- Wizzö / Guitars

- James Hoskins / Cello on "1916"

About this release

WTG Records, February 26th, 1991

All songs written by Kilmister/Burston/Campbell/Taylor; 7, 11 by Kilmister

Produced and mixed by Peter Soller, engineered by Casey McMackin
3, 4, 6 Produced by Ed Stasium, engineered by Paul Hemingson

Thanks to UMUR, Unitron for the updates

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"1916" is the 10th full-length studio album by UK heavy rock/metal act Motörhead. The album was released through WTG Records (a subsidiary to Sony BMG) in February 1991. It had been four years since the release of "Rock 'n' Roll (1987)", which at the time was the longest time between the release of two Motörhead studio albums. The long waiting time was due to problems with the band´s former label and lead vocalist/bassist Lemmy Kilmister´s move in 1990 from the UK to the US (where he would settle in West Hollywood and live for the rest of his life at a close proximity to to his beloved Rainbow Bar and Grill). Motörhead initially started working with producer Ed Stasium (Living Colour), but they did not agree on how the album should sound and Stasium was fired (He is credited for producing 3 tracks on the album though) although he claims to have quit because he couldn´t tolerate Lemmy´s drug and alcohol abuse. The band hired producer Pete Solley to complete the album.

"1916" turned out to be a turning point in the band´s career. Since their glory days in the late 70s/early 80s (especially the release of "Ace of Spades (1980)" made them a household heavy rock/metal name), Motörhead experienced decline in record sales and problems with labels over the decade, but "1916" generally received favorable reviews and positive fan reactions, and the album even received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 1992 Grammys. They lost to Metallica's "Metallica (1991)" album (The Black Album).

Listening to "1916" it´s obvious why the album is widely regarded as one of the peaks of the band´s long and glorious career. They´ve simply taken everything up a notch here from the performances, to the sound production, to the quality of the songwriting. Most Motörhead albums feature a couple of standout tracks, quite a few good quality tracks, and a couple of fillers, but that´s not the case with "1916", which features a well constructed tracklist and a more varied songwriting approach than what we usually hear from them.

"Nightmare/The Dreamtime" is for example a dark an eerie sounding track, which doesn´t feature much of the hard rocking blues based heavy rock that is the usual style for the band, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." (which is a tribute to the legendary New York punk rock act Ramones), is a full on punk rock song, "Love Me Forever" is something as rare as a Motörhead power ballad, and the title track is something even more rare in the Motörhead catalogue as it´s a ballad type track (and a quite brilliant one I might add). All four tracks are among the highlights of the album, but hard rockers like "The One to Sing the Blues", "I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)", and "Going to Brazil" are definitely worth a mention too, but there are no fillers on "1916", and the remaining tracks on the album are also high quality material. Powerful and memorable rockers.

While there is more variation on "1916" than what is usual for Motörhead, the basis of the band´s sound is still intact. Hard rocking drums and blazing guitar riffs and solos, a rumbling distorted bass, and in front the unmistakable rusty roar of Lemmy. The latter delivers one of his strongest and most varied vocal performances on "1916". His performance on the title track is so honest and emotive, that it´s hard not to feel the impact of his words about the horrors of war.

Despite the change of producer a while into recording the album, the sound production turned out great. It´s an organic, clear, and detailed sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion "1916" is a high quality release by Motörhead and to my ears one of the peaks of their recording career. It´s no coincidence that this is the album which effectively put Motörhead back on the map of the heavy rock/metal elite. It´s simply such a high quality release that it cannot be ignored. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.
Vim Fuego
Motörhead’s “1916” came after four years of label problems, and other bullshit with the business side of music. That wasn’t what Lemmy was about. The man just wanted to play his own mutant version of rock and roll. The band’s previous album, simply called “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was not as well received as its predecessors, so expectations for “1916” were not high.

Fuck expectations. This is Motörhead. The band had occasionally dabbled outside the blues/rock/punk/metal mix. For example, “Orgasmatron” could be considered proto-doom-death metal, but most of their albums stuck fairly closely to the old formula. First track “The Ones To Sing The Blues” threw out the formula and shattered all preconceptions. Unlike a number of other Motörhead tracks, it’s not particularly bluesy, but thunders along, powered by Philthy’s legendary double kick drums. On “I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)”, the blues does raise its leery head, along with Lemmy’s clever, incisive lyrics. What seems like a song full of tall story bragging actually reveals his inspirations. “Going to Brazil” is a blues boogie road song which only Lemmy could write. It has a bit of a story behind it. The band recorded four songs with producer Ed Stasium. When Lemmy listened to a mix of “Going to Brazil”, he asked Stasium to turn up four tracks, and on doing so heard claves and tambourines added without the band's knowledge. Stasium was fired and Pete Solley hired as producer. And thank fuck for that!

And next, a big step sideways. Judas Priest had faced a civil suit in 1990, around the time Lemmy was writing songs for this album, and one of the accusations levelled at the band was that they had hidden subliminal messages in their cover of Spooky Tooth’s “Better By You, Better Than Me”. Always one who stuck up against injustice when he saw it, Lemmy deliberately filled “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” with backmasked vocals and music, which were far from subliminal, giving the song a truly eerie vibe. And what did he actually say? Even that’s open to interpretation, perhaps proving once and for all that backmasking is rather an inefficient way of conveying a message.

“Love Me Forever” is a power ballad from an era when power ballad were ubiquitous, but it’s far from typical. For a start, it’s not weepy or self-loathing, instead showing both sides of love and relationships, a black/white, all/nothing contrast.

“Angel City” is a filler when you don’t write fillers. Like the “Going To Brazil” road trip, it’s a fun descriptive song of life in L.A. at the tail end of the glam era. It’s followed by another good time rocker in the form of “Make My Day”.

Lemmy was asked why he wrote the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” The answer? “’Cos I like The Ramones”. Best answer ever to a stupid question. The Ramones liked the minute and a half long song so much they covered it themselves. Basically, it’s The Ramones put through a Motörhead filter.

“Shut You Down” is an “I’m outta here” break up track, in a fashion only Motörhead could pull off, like a metal “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”.

These ten tracks would have made a very good Motörhead album, showing some new musical facets, and more energy and drive than the previous album. But this is Motörhead. Expect the unexpected.

“1916” is unlike any song ever recorded by this or any other metal band. First, it’s not metal. Second, it is such a visceral, heart rending tale, it is more an accompanied epic poem than a song. Musically, it is part hymn, part sombre march, with simple orchestration, cello, a military snare, and Lemmy’s voice quavering with more sensitivity than you might think possible. While it is a song about World War One, it is so thought provoking and emotionally wrought it could come from any war, where young men think they are heading off for a great adventure, only to be dehumanized, ground up, and spat out by an unfeeling, unstoppable war machine. Like no other song, “1916” vocalises the true stupidity, futility, terror, and waste of human life of war.

It seems Lemmy understood how deeply emotionally and psychologically damaging war could be to those caught in the fighting. My own Grandfather fought in the Pacific Islands during World War Two. In the 26 years I knew him, he spoke of the war to me only once, and then only to relate a funny tale of having to run flat out from tent to surf when going swimming, in order to avoid mosquitoes. In his last few lucid hours, he suffered nightmares and flashbacks to those days six decades before. Even though this song is of a different war, now a century past, it still makes me think of my Grandfather and the terrible things he may have seen and experienced, which are beyond my imagination and recognition. It took a special kind of bravery to have faced a mortal enemy, who was probably feeling very similar emotions and terrors, and then to return to civilization and lead a productive life, all the while keeping those horrors locked away. It may not have been the intention of this song to cause this reaction, but it does.

And so the song “1916” elevates the album “1916” from the realms of very good into great. It also secured Motörhead’s future, both financially and musically. The band finally had a decent record deal, and had explored some new musical avenues which opened new frontiers for the band to explore for the remainder of its existence. Albums like “Ace Of Spades” and “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” established Motörhead’s legendary status in rock and metal. “1916” cemented it.
Motorhead don't do bad albums, but that doesn't mean every one of their releases was a classic. 1916 is a solid album of Motorhead-style rock 'n' roll - that's what Lemmy always called their music at gigs, and in some respects the production and compositional approach on here really teases out that side of their sound - this is perhaps best audible on the triptych of I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care), No Voices In the Sky and Going to Brazil. That's cool if it's an aspect of the band's character you're particularly keen on, but if you can take it or leave it the album can feel a little lightweight next to monsters like Bomber or Overkill.

After this set the album begins to get bogged down; Love Me Forever is a slow ballad which mostly illustrates why people tend not to think of slow ballads when they think of Motorhead, whilst Angel City seems unusally vapid by Motorhead standards. Closing number is a serious-minded tribute to the dead of World War I, which by itself is an interesting number, but it's both very uncharacteristic of the band and doesn't really seem to fit the rest of the album, feeling incongruous as a result.

In short, the album is a bit of a mixed bag. Were it all like the rock-and-roll focused material of side 1 I'd probably give it three stars, since it's in a style I'm not keen on but which is clearly competently done, but as it stands the patchy second side drags it down another half star.

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