Article By: Kira Schlechter ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
The legends that were Motörhead always did cover songs, so ‘Under Cöver,’ an album serving to cement the band’s legacy in the wake of bassist/singer Lemmy Kilmister’s untimely demise, is no surprise. It is a supremely effective exercise in showing both how they influenced, and how they were influenced, throughout their career.
If Judas Priest never did “Breaking The Law,” Motörhead could have easily originated it, the transition is that seamless. The seminal track sounds even more sinister and desperate than the original, delivered with all of Lemmy’s world-weary gravel.
They always moved easily between punk and metal, arguably the only band both communities could agree on. With the wisdom of age in their favor, they give the Sex Pistols’ pissed-off-youth classic “God Save The Queen” a certain irony.
In the same vein, Motörhead always saw the Ramones as their American counterparts. With their take on “Rockaway Beach,” they blur the lines between 1950s youth in England and in America and further seal the bond between the two bands.
Rainbow’s “Starstruck,” sung with Saxon’s Biff Byford, is a perfect pairing, gritty and raw and bluesy. Motörhead had done their versions of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” and Ozzy’s “Hellraiser” back on 1992’s ‘March Or Die,’ so they are natural inclusions here. The latter especially since Lemmy and Ozzy have co-written tunes together over the years. Twisted Sister’s “Shoot ‘Em Down” is another logical choice, deftly fitting into Lemmy’s lexicon of tracks vowing sweet revenge on the egotistical and entitled.
Two Rolling Stones songs, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (from 2001) and “Sympathy For The Devil” (2015), are examples of how that band profoundly shaped Motörhead. In this context, “Sympathy” is almost humorous, poking fun at both Lemmy’s own advanced age and his larger-than-life (and well-deserved) reputation.
And “Whiplash,” the Metallica cover that won Motörhead a Grammy back in 2005, pretty much shows Metallica how it’s done. It comes full circle, the influencers referencing the influenced, and proving how Metallica drew directly, almost slavishly, from Motörhead in their early work.
But it is David Bowie’s “Heroes,” recorded near the end of Lemmy’s life, that might be the finest track here. The song gains a new, wrenching poignancy, especially with the line, “we can steal time just for one day” – it’s a plea for more time, even in the face of imminent mortality. Lemmy sounds exhausted and resigned, but oddly hopeful at the same time. It of course gains even deeper significance since we’ve lost Bowie in the interim as well.
Motörhead ‘Under Cöver‘ was released on Sept. 1st from Motörhead Music.