Mötley Crüe

Red, White & Crüe

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Despite not having had a hit since the late '90s, Mötley Crüe remained impossible to ignore. Tommy Lee's high-profile romances, court dates, and television appearances -- he got his own reality show -- kept the group theoretically active well past their creative due date, and Vince Neil appeared on VH1's Surreal Life, where he shed tears with MC Hammer and endured a celebrity "makeover" complete with a face-lift, while the rest of the band chronicled their decadent heydays in the best-selling tell-all book The Dirt. The two-disc Red, White & Crüe is a far better companion to that book than 2003's exhaustive two-installment, eight-disc retrospective, Music to Crash Your Car To (was it really necessary to hear three versions of ex-vocalist John Corabi's "Hooligan's Holiday"?), and despite the addition of three new cuts (only one, the blistering "Sick Love Song," manages to recapture the group's original intensity), it's the most definitive collection yet. At their best, the Crüe were the audio equivalent of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. "Live Wire," "Looks That Kill," "Kickstart My Heart," and even the monstrous "Walk This Way" rip-off "Dr. Feelgood" showed a group that not only loved the scene but lived it like Vikings storming a sleepy village. When they were hot they were smoldering, and despite the occasional embarrassing lyric like "forward my mail to me in Hell" ("Wild Side") and misguided attempts at jumping on the punk revival bandwagon ("Anarchy in the U.K.") and the nu-metal gurney ("Planet Boom"), Red, White & Crüe serves as a crystal-clear window into a blurry world that only the Crüe could have constructed.

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