On Parole


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On Parole Review

by Dave Thompson

Recorded by the original Motörhead lineup of Lemmy, Lucas Fox, and Larry Wallis, On Parole is famous as the debut album that the band recorded in 1975 -- only to be shelved by a U.K. label that simply couldn't understand what all the noise was about. Produced by Fritz Fryer, a man whose past with Merseybeat-era heroes the Four Pennies should have guaranteed at least a little pop sensibility, On Parole contrarily turned in a bludgeoning blur of riffs and roaring, a bare-fanged threat to the order of things, a slobbering, slavering, three-headed monster that should have been strangled at birth. UA did the next best thing. They decapitated it. On Parole was buried, Motörhead were dropped, and, by year's end, the band had shattered. And there the story should have ended. But Lemmy was made of sterner stuff -- Motörhead not only had the temerity to return, they compounded their audacity by scoring hit singles. By 1978, Motörhead were arguably the biggest heavy metal band in the world. And On Parole didn't sound so distasteful any more. Countless reissues followed, and here is another one, released in 1997 as part of EMI's centenary celebrations. And that in itself is a bit of a joke -- the last time the label celebrated Motörhead, it was the day their contract went into the bin. This time, though, there's something to cheer about. Before the Fryer sessions, Motörhead tried out some demos with producer Dave Edmunds, a quartet of long-lost songs whose legend has so increased in dimension that, umpteen reissues of On Parole later, one would still trade one's first born for the chance to buy it one more time, with the Edmunds sessions appended as a bonus. Well, here's your chance -- and don't forget to pack up the diapers. The added songs themselves are familiarity itself -- "On Parole," "City Kids," "Leaving Here," and "Motörhead" reappear not only on the main album, but in various forms across so many other Motörhead and Larry Wallis/Pink Fairies recordings. But the arrangements are devastating, steeped in blues, drenched in booze, the highest octane pub rock of all. No matter how well you think you know Motörhead, still it's nothing like you're expecting. A true sonic symphony, this is Wagner with whiplash. Imagine Edmunds' own Subtle as a Flying Mallet if the mallet flew straight through your head; think of "Girls Talk" if Courtney Love started the conversation. Even more alarmingly, however, it makes promises that Motörhead themselves could never keep and posits a future so far from all that eventually transpired that the On Parole material itself sounds like abject surrender, or at least foul betrayal, by comparison. The Motörhead that people know and love threatened to take on the world. The Motörhead here would simply have taken it over. No wonder they got canned.

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