Roadracer Revisited Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I remember the glorious time I spent as a teenager getting into the British metal stalwarts Motorhead. As I searched for all their albums (at a time when imports were much harder to find; there was no CDNow), I treated each new one I found like I had discovered Montezuma's treasure.

Bomber, the 1979 release from Lemmy Kilmister and crew, was an album that contained some great, unheralded surprises for me. Now, 20 years after its release, there are still a lot of tracks that never got their fair shake with the crowds - though portions of this album are starting to show some signs of age.

Bomber will forever be remembered for two songs. Obviously, the title track became a live favorite, especially when a specially constructed bomber with lights and gadgets came down from the rafters during this song. (If you can find the video The Birthday Party, get it and watch it; you'll see the "bomber" in action.) The original studio version, to my surprise, sounds a little too slow, even though its tempo could hardly be called plodding. The other track, "Stone Dead Forever," is one that often is included on any of the greatest hits compilations. Each band member -- bassist Kilmister, guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke, and drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor" -- gets their own chance to shine on this particular track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the real diamonds in the rough await you if you listen to Bomber closely. "Sweet Revenge" is a bluesy number that gives Kilmister a chance to put his vocals through a meat grinder. If you don't have shivers up your spine at the end of this track when he shouts the word "revenge," you'd better check your pulse. Likewise, "Poison" is a fun track whose biting sense of humor carries the song through to new levels. Musically, it's great as well.

The one track on Bomber that I thought never got its due is "Dead Men Tell No Tales," something I'm reminded of the morning after seeing Motorhead perform in Chicago. Everybody talks about the band having to play "Ace Of Spades" or "Overkill," and those songs are fine and dandy, but when the opening riff for this one was played, I almost soiled myself with joy. The studio version of this track is incredible, and it makes me wonder why it's not held in the same esteem as some of Motorhead's other well-known songs.

Even Clarke gets a true moment in the spotlight as he makes one of his rare appearances as a singer with Motorhead. "Step Down" is a groove-based, bluesy track that is surprisingly good. (This one remained a favorite of mine for many years.) No slam against Kilmister, but Clarke was such a good singer (even if he wasn't note-perfect) that I wish he had taken more turns at the microphone. (Apparently, the band tried to get him to sing more, according to a quote from Kilmister on the band's official Web site; it's just that Clarke didn't want to do it.)

For all the greatness on Bomber, there are some weak moments. "Lawman" has never been a particular favorite of mine, though I'll write that off to personal preference. "All The Aces" and "Talking Head" are not of the same caliber of quality as many of the other tracks; chances are, on another album, they'd have been unstoppable. The bonus track on this release of Bomber, "Over The Top," is an okay song, but it really doesn't fit the mood or style that Motorhead was playing in 1979.

It should be noted that the latest re-release of Bomber has four live cuts from the EP The Golden Years, tracks which were tacked on to No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith when I bought the reissues in '93. So it's not that I'm forgetting to talk about them - in fact, when we reach No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, you'll hear a lot more about them.

Bomber is still not always the easiest of Motorhead's albums to find, and it might not be the most perfect of all their discs, but it's got enough unmined treasures to justify the search and purchase.

Rating: B+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Roadracer Revisited Records, and is used for informational purposes only.