AFTER A five-year hiatus, the original crew of pierced, tattooed and strung-out '80s bad boys is back. But with the rise of alternative music and the wane of glam rock, who will be buying Motley Crue's latest album, "Generation Swine"?
Despite the initial urge to dismiss the Crue's latest effort as an experiment in time warp, "Generation Swine" is a surprisingly strong album. Perhaps a market will be found in closet Crue fans who blast "Decade of Decadence" when their roommates are out of town. More likely teen-age fans, who like the Crue now for the same reasons teen-agers liked them 10 years ago, will be the target audience. But those who were fans a decade ago may discover that the musical strength and rebel-angst appeal that took Motley Crue to the top of '80s music charts has resurfaced in "Generation Swine."
In 1992, Motley Crue broke up in a well-publicized rift, firing lead singer Vince Neil for his alleged alcohol abuse and penchant for car racing. In retrospect, Neil said the five-year separation was good for the Crue, which includes guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee.
"In a way, the vacation from each other did us some good," Neil said in a press statement. "Music seems to need a kick in the a-- right now. Believe me, we're grateful that we were able to influence a lot of bands. Now we're ready to shake things up again."
The album opens with the appropriately titled "Find Myself," featuring a growling chant: "I gotta find myself some love/I gotta find myself some drugs/I gotta find some liquid sunshine/I gotta find myself." While predictable, these lyrics indicate that Motley Crue found themselves more than 10 years ago.
Other songs include "Glitter," which deals with romance, Motley Crue-style ("I want your name on my tattoo"). "Shout at the Devil '97" is a pepped-up version of the 1983 anthem that actually works well. The '97 version combines the screech of a younger Neil with a more polished musical presentation.
In "Beauty," the music appears to be cut into layers -- sliding guitar riffs over basic drum beats and deep chanting lyrics complemented by sung segments. The lyrics are typical Crue, but this song, like many others on "Generation Swine," is indicative of the band's musical growth. It may be that the five-year break revitalized Motley Crue, but it remains to be seen if the Crue has returned to a world that still wants to hear to them. Rating: .
Heather Grody and Leisha Hailey began their musical careers playing together in the depths of the New York City subway system. As front women for the Murmurs, the two have came up for fresh air with their second album, "Pristine Smut," blending baby-girl voices with provocatively acerbic lyrics.
The Murmurs' music focuses on vocals, using instrumentation to support their harmonies. Produced by k.d. lang and Larry Klein, the music of "Pristine Smut" is mostly upbeat and danceable. But while tapping your toes to tracks like "Underdog" and "About Nothin," beware the sweet-sounding words that, on closer examination, offer brutal analyses of relationships gone wrong and their breakups.
Grody said the songs on the album reflect her state of mind while she and Hailey worked on it, particularly "I'm a Mess," which could be an anthem for a lost generation, set to happy music.
"I was depressed and stuck, unmotivated, feeling sorry for myself," she said in a press statement. "I was such a mess I couldn't write the damn song!"
Nevertheless, with the support of Hailey, she finished "I'm a Mess" and 10 other tracks. Most of the Murmurs' songs explore the difficulty of relationships, particularly between women, and the need for intimacy, no matter how one-sided. In "Squeeze Box Days," Hailey croons darkly about her obsessive need for a sexual relationship in order to feel content, even if her lover doesn't care for her: "I know we don't got much to talk about/just play with my hair and I'll be happy."
Despite the themes of romantic failing and pain that pervade the album, Grody and Hailey claim to be much happier these days, and catchy and quirky songs like "Toy," "Sucker Upper" and "Country Song" make this album a winner. Rating: 1/2 .
Pooling their talent on a New Jersey beach, Ween decided on a nautical theme for their latest album, "The Mollusk." Like many other objects that wash up on the shore, this product should have remained submerged.
Ween's stab at the bizarre on their fifth album seems contrived, lacking in underlying brilliance that make "weird" songs work, like those written by They Might Be Giants. The ocean theme appears in most songs, with references to the mollusk, polka dot whales, brine and tentacles, eels and an ocean man.
The song "The Mollusk" has a mystical, pleasantly lilting sound, which changes to a warped polka in "Polka Dot Tail." This illustrates the greatest strength of the album -- its musical variability. If it had better lyrics, "The Golden Eel" and "Ocean Man" could be Brian Eno songs. "I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot" is similar to a driving punk tune, and another sharp contrast is "The Blarney Stone," an unabashedly vulgar spoof of an Irish pub song.
Though some bands, like Cake, can carry off songs that make little or no sense, Ween works too hard at being off-the-wall. The song "Mutilated Lips" has a catchy, chanted refrain: "mutilated lips give a kiss on the wrist of the wormlike tips of tentacles expanding in my mind." The song moves onto other topics, such as the skull of Haile Selassie and an ugly girl, completely confusing the listener, perhaps intentionally.
Anyone can impose deeper meanings and profound interpretations on art -- certainly some Ween fans will believe "tentacles expanding in the mind" to be sheer brilliance -- but finding artistry in Ween's lyrics is a generous stretch, except in their mastery of the absurd. Rating: 1/2 .
MOTLEY CRUE Generation Swine (Elektra 61901-2)
THE MURMURS Pristine Smut (MCA D-11637)
WEEN The Mollusk (Elektra 62013-2)