Album Review: MOTÖRHEAD Under Cöver
One would expect with the December 2015 passing of Lemmy being a fresh wound in most metal fan's memories that an eventual torrent of Motörhead vault raiding would be inevitable. So far we've had to settle for last year's Clean Your Clock, a live album recorded roughly a month before Lemmy's death and the last concert performance by the band to be professionally recorded. Finally we're getting a follow up to that in Under Cöver, a mix of newly available and previously released cover songs that Motörhead have recorded over the years.
With the original recording dates spanning anywhere from 1992 to 2015's Bad Magic sessions, the eleven tracks here represent the band at a range of highs and lows performance-wise. That inconsistency in album flow is somewhat offset by the sheer familiarity of the material, but for many these choices will seem perfunctory and too obvious. 1992's March or Die is one of the band's most loved mid-career efforts, and it's represented here by a pair of tracks: "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Hellraiser". The latter was co-written by Lemmy as well as Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde, and is only nominally a cover in the sense that Ozzy got to it first the previous year on his own album, No More Tears. "Cat Scratch Fever" is well-played and benefits from both Lemmy's whiskey-fueled howl as well as the muscled twin guitar attack of Phil Campbell and Würzel, but frankly adds nothing new to the already well-trod original… a trait that many if not most of these renditions suffer from.
A couple of punk covers rear their head as well. "God Save the Queen" is a surprisingly effective take on the Sex Pistols classic, but a cover of the Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" misses the mark, sounding like an aging bar band struggling to capture the youthful energy of the original. David Bowie's "Heroes" was the lead single from this album and will probably be its most discussed track. Recorded during 2015's Bad Magic sessions, Lemmy's voice was already shot by this point, but there's definitely a pathos in his singing as he was already sensing the end near. Another cover actually released on that album, the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", sounds just alright, but the same can't be said for the 2001 rendition of that same band's "Jumpin' Jack Flash". That iconic guitar riff is laden down here with an amateurish clunkiness and nearly complete absence of real groove.
Not by any means an essential entry in the Motörhead catalog, Under Cöver nevertheless offers archival value considering many of these recordings aren't widely available or haven't been officially released until now. How often you'll actually take the album out and listen to it, however, is largely going to be dependent on just how die hard a Motörhead fan you are. With nearly half of these songs already appearing on Motörhead studio albums – some of them downright essential in their own right – Under Cöver joins the legion of compilations and live albums released over the years that are largely the domain of completists.