Leading up to the March 22 release of “The Dirt” on Netflix, Live Metal is taking a look back at each of Mötley Crüe’s studio albums.
Review by Greg Maki
The original version of the song “Too Fast for Love” begins with the line “When you’re young and crazy, life goes on.” Who in their youth was crazier than Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx, the “bad boys of rock ’n’ roll” collectively known as Mötley Crüe?
The year was 1981, and even in its infancy the Crüe was turning heads up and down the Sunset Strip—and beyond—with theatrical live performances and aftershow parties that would become the stuff of legend. “We were young and we were out of our minds,” Sixx said in the liner notes of the 1999 reissue of “Too Fast for Love.”
When people look back at the early days of the Crüe, they often gloss over or leave out altogether one key ingredient, maybe the most important of all—the music. Though it is essentially a self-produced demo, “Too Fast for Love,” nearly four decades later, remains one of the best hard rock albums of the 1980s, possessed of an innocence and energy the Crüe’s many followers and imitators never matched.
The songs—10 on the version self-released on Leathür Records, but only nine on the original Elektra release—are straightforward, to the point, molded from the punk rock that had emerged during the previous decade, the hard rock sound and larger-than-life personas of bands like KISS, and tempered with strong pop sensibilities. No hidden, deeper meanings here—Sixx’s songwriting is brilliant in its simplicity. “That album is the essence of ‘right now,’” he said in 1999. “Right here. Right where we stand. Right in this studio. Right in this moment with this drink in my hand.”
It could be argued—and probably not strongly disputed—that the band members’ musicianship at the time would not have allowed for anything more complex. Neil’s thin, high-pitched voice has nothing resembling range. Sixx has gone on record saying he did not think he was a good singer when he first heard him; what he admired was his ability to work a crowd. Sixx’s bass does little more than rumble down at the bottom end, accompanying Lee’s frantic drumming, which at times might be a little too hyper for its own good. But listening to the recording as a whole, you don’t hear flaws. You hear a band with a colossal chip on its shoulder completely dedicated to itself and the music. It’s so in the moment that nothing else could ever matter.
It’s all held together by the one element that has defined the Mötley Crüe sound more than anything else over the years—the guitar playing of Mick Mars. He does not have a single songwriting credit on the album, but the tones produced by the spooky, scary Mars give the music its bite and bark. Think of the record’s best songs—“Live Wire,” “Piece of Your Action,” the title track—and what do you hear in your head first? The riffs. Overshadowed by the tabloid-fodder lives of his bandmates, Mars never has gotten the credit he deserves.
“Live Wire” has been a live staple throughout the band’s career, but the band virtually ignored the rest of the album for many years until the 2005 reunion. During their hiatus, the band members wrote their memoir, “The Dirt,” possibly leading to them rediscovering their first album and reintroducing songs like “Too Fast for Love” and “On with the Show” to their set lists.
The Crüe undoubtedly produced more polished and accomplished works as they grew as songwriters and musicians. But the purity of “Too Fast for Love” makes it a special record. Sixx sums it up best: “It was a magical moment that I think every band has.” Few have moments this magical.