Theater Of Pain is a lot of things. It’s a transitional album between the Metal and Glam directions. It is a breakthrough album that saw the band’s sales skyrocket. It is a talking point album due to the Razzle background information. It is a controversial album that gets a lot of criticism in hindsight, even from band members themselves.
You know what else it is? Underrated. I read a book of best metal albums and its in their with a negative write up. I read the band member’s books and it has a bad write up. I ask the friend who got me into Motley Crue, he gave it a bad talk-up. I read websites and blogs I respect, and they all give it a bad review.
Who the fuck bought all those copies if it sucked so much? Who voted it into the best metal album lists if it sucked so much? Why do I like it so much if it sucks that much.
Now, I have a history of liking unpopular albums. Testament’s Souls Of Black and Exodus’ Impact Is Imminent for example. People say they are rushed and a disappointment, but I like them. So maybe, I just have a less discerning ear than other people. That being said, there are numerous examples of me not liking unpopular albums too. I mean I don’t like Megadeth’s Risk or Metallica’s LuLu. So its not like I am a blind fanboy with no critical faculties either.
There are some circumstances I think explain Theater Of Pain’s raw deal. First of all, the band talking shit about it. The band had a bad time making it, because they were unhappy with the down sides of the Rock N Roll lifestyle, the sleeplessness and the drugs and the tragedy of the car crash. They associate it with a bad time in their life and don’t talk it up, they don’t play a lot of it live and they don’t put a lot of it on compilations. If people don’t hear it, they don’t get a chance to fall in love with it.
Secondly; the change in name, the change in image. There’s a famous line in the book/movie where the band said that it was meant to be called Entertainment Or Death, someone got that tattooed, and then they changed the name last minute. But Theater Of Pain as a name, is the wrong message for this album. These are not a bunch of songs full of pain and suffering. This is not a contrite record about the misery from the Razzle incident. This is just pure entertainment. Also, everyone continuously calls this the band moving away from metal and towards glam. The way they dressed certainly changed. People don’t like that. Just ask Burning Red era Machine Head or Load era Metallica.
Thirdly; the choice of singles and the influx of new fans. A big memorable, bouncy, cartooney almost-novelty cover song, and a big MTV ballad with a piano intro. A lot of people say these are the only two good songs on the album, but I also wonder if they also like the deep cuts on Shout’ or Girls’ ? Before I was a fan of the band, I was sceptical of this album, I thought it might be a disappointment with a ballad and a cheesy cover as the two songs the band chose to showcase this with. I went in expecting a turd. I wonder how many other people did too?
I feel like if the band had have been in a good place emotionally, kept their image and didn’t make a play for the mainstream, and released Entertainment Or Death marketed to a metal audience, combined with if they actually supported it, and more of the tracks were well represented live and on compilations… then I think this album would be held in higher regard. Who’s going to take it seriously when the band don’t ?
To my mind, this is one of the band’s better albums. People give it a lot of shit. But there is not one track on Saints Of Los Angels that I like more than it. Every song on here is better than the new material on the Dirt soundtrack in my opinion. I like more than half this album, more than I like most songs off of any album after Dr. Feelgood. I like several songs of this more than I like the less-good songs on their debut, on Girls or on ‘Feelgood.
Let’s start with the good. ‘Use It Or Loose It.’ Pure blistering speed metal satisfaction in the vein of ‘Red Hot’ and ‘Bastard.’ Stick that in a set list or compilation between ‘Live Wire’ and ‘Red Hot’ and you would have one utterly adrenaline filled run.
Next is ‘Louder Than Hell’ which is one of my favourite Motley Crue songs altogether. Its big fat, stomping, satisfying riff is the closest they got to the Shout’ era quality or direction on any other album. It feels like a mixture between Saxon’s ‘Denim And Leather’ and Kiss’ ‘I Love It Loud’ with its bouncy, reverby drum intro and mid-paced riffage. It has some great stop-start bits and nice mini-fills from Tommy.
Also, it is a crying shame that they don’t play ‘Tonight (We Need A Lover)’ more, which has for my money one of Vince’s best vocal performances from the early day. I utterly love that bit when it goes all ‘’Tonight, tooonight, too-niiiight.’’
Every song has some great little bit to hang onto. ‘Fight For Your Rights’ has one of Mick’s best guitar solos from the early days (why does no-one talk about it more?). ‘Keep Your Eye On The Money’ has a great breakdown with the funky cowbell strikes, and actually contains the line ‘’Comedy and tragedy, entertainment or death’’ which explains the cover art and the previous album title.
‘Raise Your Hands To Rock’ sounds like a Lynyrd Skynyrd song in the background of a montage about sunshine.
I’ll admit not every song is a hit. ‘City Boy Blues’ and ‘Save Our Souls’ wouldn’t be my favourite songs ever, just like ‘Danger’ or the title-track from ‘Too Fast For Love’ aren’t my favourite songs on those.
I used to dislike ‘Home Sweet Home’ and ‘Smoking In The Boys Room’ too, for years. Eventually they ground me down. I still think of ‘Smoking as almost a bonus track, but ‘Home Sweet Home’ is a good song, I think the turning point for me was The End dvd. As bad as Vince’s vocals are live, I think I finally ‘got’ the song.
Shame it didn’t have a beefier guitar tone, and more enthusiasm from the band. Shame it didn’t have to live up to ‘Shout. But still… I know I won’t convince anyone who already hates this to love it. But if you are new to the band I hope you would not overlook it without a fair chance. Its more than a wacky cover and a soppy ballad. Even if it isn’t perfect, there are 7 tracks here I really rather love. That’s quite a good ratio for any 10 track album. Especially one with a reputation for only having two good tracks.