One of the most memorable lines from the ’90s classic The Sandlot came during an encouraging speech where Babe Ruth himself related to Benny that “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Since then, the latter part of that phrase has popped up everywhere, from songs to fitness t-shirts. While we tattoo “Legends Never Die” upon ourselves to try and cope with our own mortality, there is a living and breathing embodiment of that very phrase still walking this Earth, and we often overlook his importance. Enter Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, who, despite being nearly 70, is still kicking ass. In a recent interview with the Guardian, amongst stories of his past exploits and details of his new dietary regiment, Lemmy supposes his own invincibility. It’s hyperbole to be sure, but considering Lemmy’s history and his unbelievable ability to thrive as a musician, it’s something worth considering.
Take, for instance, Bad Magic, Motörhead’s 22nd studio album. Its release marks 40 years of Motörhead’s trademark biker brand of pure-blooded rock ‘n’ roll. Bad Magic is produced by Cameron Webb and features the Motörhead that we have known the longest, at just over 20 years, with Phil Campbell on guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums. It’s a Motörhead album through and through, and while it’s been said that once you’ve listened to one Motörhead record, you’ve listened to them all, there’s a reason why listeners return to the band’s records. Listen to Bad Magic once and the reason is clear: It’s Motörhead, man.
Arriving unannounced, Lemmy instantly takes control, shouting “Victory or die!” on the album’s opener of the same name. A moment later, Campbell bursts through the wall and begins laying down riffs, while Dee’s charging drums dictate the destruction of the entire establishment. The track is such an urgent shock to the heart that the following tracks, “Thunder & Lightning” and “Fire Storm Hotel”, can power through before you can even attempt to catch your breath. The fade-out on “Fire Storm Hotel” is a betrayal you should’ve seen coming, though; after one brief moment to check your surroundings, Dee ushers in “Shoot Out All of Your Lights” with a punch-in-the-gut drum fill that restarts the demolition without Campbell’s riffs faltering or Lemmy’s gravelly, swaggering vocals losing any steam. “The Devil” carries an appropriate menace and leaves Lemmy staring you straight in the eyes, daring you to “look into the face of death,” before grinning and growling “right now” into your ear.
With a face and persona almost more famous than the band itself, Lemmy’s rock god status is in no way undeserved. The only thing up for debate is whether he has used his power for good, evil, or (most likely) both. It’s this same anti-hero attitude that The Kilmister himself seems to lament on the album’s token ballad, “Till the End”. Where the majority of Bad Magic finds Lemmy, Campbell, and Dee raising royal hell, here the frontman relates his story and woes in some rundown pub on the outskirts of town. It also finds Lemmy coming to terms with who he is, and despite all his flaws, pledging to continue living as he has through the remainder of his life. And while the 70 years of said hell-raising show in the way he slightly slurs his vocals, he’s just as virile and robust as he was on Overkill. Hell, there’s even a point on “Choking on Your Screams” where Lemmy acquires this death growl. Combine that with Campbell’s near-thrash riffs accompanying, and the group sound like their prime.
Bad Magic feels ancestral; you can feel it in your blood and in your bones. Even for those new to Motörhead, the album will have the power to recharge your love for all things rock ‘n’ roll. As a band that’s been around for generations, Motörhead isn’t just hanging around trying to keep themselves relevant. They’re partying until the sun goes out and celebrating their own immortality.
Essential Tracks: “Victory or Die”, “The Devil”, and “Choking on Your Screams”