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
At first listen, Mötley Crüe’s “New Tattoo,” its eighth studio album, feels like an underwhelming effort. You might find yourself wondering what Nikki Sixx was thinking when, in “The Dirt,” he called it “the album that should have been the successor to ‘Dr. Feelgood.’”
“New Tattoo,” released in 2000, is the rare album that is front-loaded with its weakest material. But even though “Hell on High Heels, “Treat Me Like the Dog I Am,” the title track and especially “Dragstrip Superstar” have more than a few cringe-worthy moments and sound more like the output of a less talented Mötley Crüe imitator than the band itself, they show us a group ignoring trends and getting back to what it really is at its core—a rock band that defines its sound with Mick Mars’ guitar and writes songs about girls, drugs, fast cars and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The worst of “New Tattoo” easily trumps the best of its previous effort, the misguided “Generation Swine” (1997).
Working with producer Mike Clink (Guns N’ Roses) and with Sixx co-writing half the album with James Michael, Mötley simplified both its music and the process of creating it, resulting in its rawest-sounding album since its debut, “Too Fast for Love” (1981).
“There was no brain damage,” Vince Neil wrote in “The Dirt,” “no waiting two weeks to get a guitar tone or snare to sound just right. We went back to basics and finally accepted the fact that we are Mötley Crüe.”
“New Tattoo” is the first (and only) Mötley album minus drummer Tommy Lee, who decided to leave the band while serving time in jail in 1998 following an assault conviction. His replacement is longtime Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo, so there isn’t a noticeable dropoff.
The disc picks up with track five, “1st Band on the Moon,” a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tune that acknowledges the Crüe’s role as a trendsetter throughout its career and laments an American culture growing more conservative by the day. “Punched in the Teeth by Love” sports a strong enough “Looks That Kill” vibe that you might think it’s 1983 all over again. “Hollywood Ending” is the album’s second ballad and a marked improvement over its first. The strongest song, “Fake,” takes a pointed look at the hypocrisy in the music business; you can virtually taste the venom dripping from Neil’s voice. Another sign of the Crüe going back to its roots: its first cover song in nearly a decade, the album-closing “White Punks on Dope,” originally by The Tubes in 1975.
“New Tattoo” is about half of a great Mötley Crüe record, ranking above “Generation Swine” and “Theatre of Pain” (1985), and slightly below “Girls, Girls, Girls” (its position secured almost solely by “Wild Side” and its title track). Looking back proved to be a step forward. Though it was not a hit, selling only 200,000 copies in the United States, it was exactly the shot of life Mötley Crüe needed.