The Birthday Party


Enigma, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Quite possibly, Motörhead could be the kings of having commercial albums released which they never fully approved of. Their unofficial first disc On Parole, released three years after they recorded it and had found fame with a different label. What's Words Worth, a 1983 release of a 1978 benefit concert.

And then, there's The Birthday Party, a 1990 release of their 1985 10th anniversary concert at the Hammersmith Odeon (and the only live release featuring the lineup of bassist/vocalist Lemmy Kilmister, guitarists Wurzel and Phil Campbell and drummer Pete Gill). Featuring many songs which rarely – if ever – were heard performed in concert after 1985, and many performed at breakneck speed, this proves to be one of Motörhead's most energetic live discs – and, surprisingly, one of their best.

One has to remember that when Motörhead played this show, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Orgasmatron was still about a year away from gracing store shelves. So, when the audience heard songs like “Mean Machine,” “On The Road” (a precursor to “Built For Speed”) and “Nothing Up My Sleeve,” these most likely were tunes they had never heard before… but they devoured them, as will the person listening at home. (Admittedly, I don't like “On The Road,” only because I'm partial to what it became in time – but it's still not a bad effort.)

Lemmy jokes from the stage, “We may not be the best band in the world, but we're definitely the fastest!” Groups like Metallica and Slayer might have challenged that statement, but there is no denying that Motörhead puts the pedal to the metal on “We Are The Road Crew,” “The Hammer” and “Bomber,” performing these at whiplash speed guaranteed to break the neck of anyone foolish enough to try and headbang to them.

The only real weak points on this disc come into play when Lemmy invites special guests to perform with the band. It's not a problem when he invites the road crew to bellow the chorus on “We Are The Road Crew”… but Wendy O. Williams adds absolutely nothing to the performance of “No Class.” And having all past members of Motörhead join in (along with Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott, for good measure) on the show closer “Motörhead” just leaves this one to be a bit of a jumbled wreck.

The only other negative thing I can say about The Birthday Party is that the audio release doesn't do justice to the home video (which is criminally out of print at the time being – how's about getting this remastered for DVD and Blu-Ray to truly celebrate Lemmy's life?). From seeing Lemmy flip off an audience member during “Mean Machine” to seeing his drawings on all of Gill's drum heads, it's really an experience everyone should go through. It also includes two songs not featured on the CD, most likely due to time constraints.

Until the day this does return to home video, though, the audio portion of this show will do nicely, and if one can find a copy, it's well worth adding to your Motörhead library. Even if it would have incurred Lemmy's wrath at the time.

Rating: B+

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