Clean Your Clock


UDR, 2016

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Longtime fans of Motörhead, myself included, were shocked and saddened when Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister died on December 29, 2015, a mere two days after announcing that he was suffering from cancer. But anyone who was following what was going on during what became Motörhead's final tour knew that there was something seriously wrong. The numerous cancelled dates. Lemmy being unable to continue a show just a few songs into it in Texas. The once thundering growls and fluid, powerful bass riffs both reduced to near whispers at times.

So, you can understand why there would be apprehension about listening to Clean Your Clock, taken from two of the final shows Motörhead would ever perform. And, even knowing that one is essentially listening to a man dying on stage, you can't help but be impressed by the strength that Lemmy took in his music, not to mention delivering it to an audience for whom too much Motörhead could never be enough. That being said, this isn't the kind of album I'd want to listen to over and over.

There is no escaping the reality of how frail Lemmy had become at this point. Often, it sounds like his bass is mixed lower in the overall sound to try and mask the fact that he wasn't pulling off the kind of rhythmic leads he had become known for on the instrument – indeed, during his solo on “Stay Clean,” it sometimes sounds like he's having problems holding down the strings on the frets. The vocal growl and strained high notes he was once known and loved for now just sound strained; his vocals are hard to hear on newer songs such as “When The Sky Comes Looking For You” and “Lost Woman Blues,” and the sinister growl we came to expect during “Orgasmatron” is all but vanquished.

The video from these shows seals this – and, in all honesty, is very difficult to watch when we know what the final chapter reveals. Lemmy is indeed a shell of himself, rarely moving from his microphone stand, his arms shaking when he's not playing the bass. And the lighting effect the band normally uses on “Orgasmatron” to make Lemmy look sinister instead reveals the sad truth: were it not for his absolute love of the fans and his music, he should, by all rights, have succumbed to his disease. Simply put, it is heartbreaking to watch.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This isn't to say that Clean Your Clock is a trainwreck by any sense of the word. Indeed, it seems like this could well have been the final act of strength that Lemmy had left in him, and he comes off in this recording as determined to pour it all out for the fans he loved so much. Hearing the show opener “Bomber” shows just how much power Lemmy still had inside, and he surprises even the harshest critic of Motörhead's touring at this point in their career by delivering an excellent version of the 1979 classic track. Likewise, “No Class” – always a welcome inclusion in their set – “Overkill” and “Ace Of Spades” all maintain just enough of a vocal sneer to remind everyone just who is delivering these lines.

Of special note is Phil Campbell's guitar solo – while one could argue that “The Chase Is Better Than The Catch” is not the ideal song to lead directly into after such an effort, Campbell delivers a powerful but understated performance, suggesting that he was an underappreciated asset to Motörhead for the 31 years he was a member of the band. (And I have to admit: I love the light-up guitar that he uses on a few songs.) As for Mikkey Dee's solo – well, was there really ever any question as to what he brought to Motörhead's table? With all due respect to “Philthy Animal” Taylor (to whom Lemmy pays tribute during this show), Dee shows quickly why he was referred to by Lemmy as the best drummer in the world. (I'd still argue that Neil Peart deserves that accolade, but Dee was the best drummer for Motörhead, and remains one of the best drummers today.)

Clean Your Clock is indeed a triumph for Motörhead, who overcame more adversities than any one band should encounter at the end of their touring career to deliver a surprisingly entertaining show. Yet, one simply cannot escape the sadness of knowing that, in just a few short weeks following these dates, Lemmy would no longer be with us. And for anyone who followed Motörhead for any length of time, despite how well-delivered this show was, it still is only marginal when it comes to the total power that the band was able to put forth in their live show during their heyday.

Is it an accurate portrayal of who Motörhead was at the coda of their career? Yes… and, despite what some people may think, it is indeed proper for this show to have been released. (This admission is coming from someone who thought, prior to listening to the disc, it was a bad idea.) But one cannot escape the fact that this is a band saying farewell in this show, and that alone makes this a disc I personally can't listen to or watch on a constant basis… and one would tend to think that other Motörheadbangers would share in this sentiment. Still, it would be wrong to deny this final chapter in Motörhead's storied career, so this remains an important, if heartbreaking, release.

Rating: C+

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