It’s hard to tell what happened to Motörhead between the release of Aftershock and the recording of Bad Magic, but there’s no missing the change in the band’s demeanour as this album plays. It’s possible that the new energy so apparent in Motörhead’s 22nd album comes from the new company that Motörhead majordomo Lemmy Kilmister has been keeping lately (like Dave Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age), or maybe guitarist Phil Campbell was re-energized when he sat in with Mickey Melchiondo on his new album, but there’s no question that everything about Bad Magic finds Motörhead in good creative health and in a better mood overall. The songs are more spry and limber (instead of heavy and labored) than they have been in decades and the result is an album which is instantly more fun.
Now, to be clear, that Bad Magic is unmistakably of a lighter and more jovial mood than Motörhead has been for the last while doesn’t mean they’re in any danger of spontaneously becoming a pop band. Rather, it simply means that, when Bad Magic drops the rope, Motörhead is already warmed up and running with the album’s opener, “Victory Or Die,” and does not slow down, look back or pause to let listeners catch up as the album continues.
Some might say that’s nothing new, but it really does feel fresh here; each of the album’s thirteen songs flies out unadorned (with little in the way of solos and/or flash and dazzle gimmickry) and concentrates on getting in, running each song through and then getting the fuck out of the way so the next song can get started above all.
The results are perfect – the energy always stays up and the going never gets dull, and those who run front-to-back with the album will find themselves energized by the obvious exertions the band makes. Standout songs like “Thunder and Lightning,” “Shoot Out The Lights, “Electricity” and “Tell Me Who To Kill” all ravage the senses of listeners and leave them begging for more but, just to prove that the band has a sense of humor too, they include a cover of “Sympathy For The Devil” (which is basically just read by Lemmy over an overdriven version of the song) at the end of the album – just for grins.
So, taking the fact that the album is a lighter overall and features a Stones cover into account, there’s no doubt that at least a few Motörhead fans are going to scream bloody murder that Bad Magic is a waste of time. It is true that the album is definitely not the standard fare for Motörhead, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; after twenty-one albums, there’s no question that the band was in danger of becoming formulaic. Bad Magic seeks to buck tradition and proves that the band is capable of doing more than just one thing and doing it well. It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely not a waste of time.