Album Review: Motörhead - Ace Of Spades (1980)
By Sergio Ariza
Putting the pedal to the metal
By 1980 Motörhead had not only perfected their sound thanks to their two albums of the previous year, Bomber and Overkill, but they had also finally found success, after walking that long way to the top that AC/DC talked about. Lemmy Kilmister and his band occupied a strange space between heavy metal and punk, and in their many concerts, in the worst dive bars in the world, there were guys wearing Judas Priest t-shirts and others with Sex Pistols hair crests. But this trio of Huns and their particular Attila didn't care, their thing was not to put labels but to play the fastest and wildest rock & roll they could, to drink as if there was no tomorrow and to fuck backstage. Motörhead was the personification, for better or worse, of that slogan that screamed sex, drugs and rock & roll.
By 1980 they had reached their peak, Lemmy had nothing but great songs coming out of him and his voice still sounded like someone who had sandpaper down his throat and drank a bottle of whiskey in one gulp, while Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor never let his foot off the gas, and the Strat (with a Dimarzio SDS-1 on the neck, a DiMarzio X2N humbucker in the bridge and the original Fender in mid position) of 'Fast' Eddie Clarke launched like a kamikaze into those pure rock & roll solos accompanied by Lemmy's Rickenbacker, with treble at maximum and bass at minimum, which sounded like a machine gun in action.
The big change from their previous two albums, with this album forming the band's indispensable studio trilogy, was the change in the producer's chair, swapping Jimmy Miller for Vic Maile, someone who, like Lemmy, had worked with Jimi Hendrix. Maile gave the band a more accessible sound without losing a minimum of energy and rawness. In addition Lemmy had put together the best collection of songs of his career, great songs like Love Me Like A Reptile, which was wild and explosive, (We Are) The Road Crew, in which he recalled his days as Hendrix's roadie, Jailbait, with a great riff, the iconic The Chase Is Better Than The Catch, the volcanic The Hammer and, above all, the band's great anthem, Ace Of Spades, the closest thing to a hit they had and the song they would always be remembered for, with an opening riff played at breakneck speed, which could announce the end of the world.
The result was the biggest hit of the band's career and brought with it the most mythical of their tours, the one that would be reflected in the most remembered album of Motörhead's historic line-up, No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith. This is understandable if we take into account that this album was an adrenaline rush capable of reviving a corpse, something like driving at 250 kilometers per hour on the side of a cliff full of sharp curves, without ever taking your foot off the accelerator. It wasn't the smartest thing in the world, but it was as exciting as somersaulting without a net.