Motley Crue don’t get enough credit for writing good songs.
While they’ve had plenty of hits, and more than their share of attention for other aspects of their career and personal lives, it should be acknowledged that one of the reasons Motley Crue were such a force in the ’80s, and have held the public’s attention long after most of their peers have faded away, is because they wrote better songs.
Even when the desire for reinvention that served them so well during their first decade led them somewhat astray and out of the spotlight in the ’90s, primary songwriter Nikki Sixx‘s knack for melody and hooks could be counted on for at least a few playlist-worthy songs on each album, as you’ll see below as we run down Underrated Motley Crue: The Most Overlooked Song From Each Album.
From: Too Fast for Love (1981)
Although their debut album was primarily filled with aggressive, punk-influenced blasts of hard rock, the melancholic and tastefully restrained “Starry Eyes” proved the band was capable of delivering a surprising range of emotion and depth.
From: Shout at the Devil (1983)
It’s hard to call anything on Motley Crue’s breakthrough sophomore album underrated, since Shout at the Devil is acknowledged as a filler-free masterpiece in the genre. But relatively speaking, “Red Hot” doesn’t get enough love. It’s one of the best examples of just how important drummer Tommy Lee is to their sound, as he quickly sets and maintains a blistering pace and then dares his bandmates to keep up.
“Louder Than Hell”
From: Theatre of Pain (1985)
Motley Crue added big doses of polish and pop smarts to their formula for Theatre of Pain. The hit singles “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and “Home Sweet Home” earned them a new rush of fans, more than enough to overwhelm the complaints of those who missed the rawness of their first two albums. Those fans could still get their kicks from “Louder Than Hell,” which sounds like it was cut from the same cloth as Shout at the Devil because it was a reworked leftover track from that album’s sessions.
“Sumthin’ for Nuthin'”
From: Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
“Wild Side” and the title track from 1987’s Girls, Girls, Girls got so much attention and MTV airplay that there wasn’t much spotlight placed on the album’s other songs. There’s a handful of deserving candidates here, including the retro-boogie of “All in the Name Of … ” and the strutting “Five Years Dead.” But the top prize goes to “Sumthin’ for Nuthin’,” which manages to be heavy, nimble and catchy, all at the same time.
From: Dr. Feelgood (1989)
By this point, Motley Crue had spent nearly a decade exceeding expectations and surviving all manner of scandals – including a near-death experience. Recorded after the group collectively got sober, Dr. Feelgood turned out to be its commercial pinnacle, selling 6 million copies. After you rule out the five hit singles, it’s just a matter of which remaining raunchy sex song best pushes your button. “Slice of Your Pie,” “Rattlesnake Shake” and “She Goes Down” are all worthy contenders, but “Sticky Sweet” has a more muscular riff and the most memorable chorus.
From: Motley Crue (1994)
The grueling 10-month tour in support of Dr. Feelgood cost Motley Crue their sanity and sobriety and ultimately led to the departure of singer Vince Neil. The band returned five years later with John Corabi, a more conventionally gifted singer. Similar to what Van Halen did when Sammy Hagar joined the group, Motley Crue put their new bandmate’s skills to the test by expanding into more complex musical territory. In this case, it meant crafting their very own “Stairway to Heaven”- or “Free Bird”-style epic … and then pulling it off.
From: Generation Swine (1997)
Vince Neil returned to Motley Crue in 1996 to find his bandmates already pretty far into work on a new album, originally intended for Corabi, that didn’t suit his tastes or strengths. “I hate that record,” he told the SF Gate in 2011. “I probably quit five more times while we were recording.” He’s got a point, but “Beauty” best captures the band’s attempt to mix new sounds and classic attitude. Still, it’s a disjointed mess, with Nikki Sixx handling more lead vocals than Neil.
“1st Band on the Moon”
From: New Tattoo (2000)
Almost as soon as Vince Neil returned, Tommy Lee decided he was sick of being in Motley Crue and quit. That’s a shame, because on New Tattoo the band finally decided to stop trying on new styles and get back to what it did best. With help from drummer Randy Castillo, Motley Crue reconnected with their earlier stripped-down sound, particularly on “1st Band on the Moon,” in which they lament the political correctness and seriousness that have taken over much of rock ‘n’ roll. There’s nothing on New Tattoo that really deserves the attention granted to their ’80s work, but it is their most underrated album.
“Mutherfucker of the Year”
From: Saints of Los Angeles (2008)
Saints of Los Angeles marked the first time the four original members of Motley Crue began recording an album together since 1989’s Dr. Feelgood. The songwriting process underwent a noticeable change, as Nikki Sixx collaborated with his Sixx:A.M. bandmates DJ Ashba and James Michael on nearly every track, adding a modern slant that doesn’t always play to the band’s strengths. But there are genuine thrills to be found on the LP, including the title track and the gleefully profane “Mutherfucker of the Year.”