REVIEW: Motörhead – Bad Magic: SERIOUSLY BAD MAGIC (2023)


On the live bonus disc that comes with “Seriously Bad Magic”, Phil Campbell tells the crowd in Japan that “its one of the best records we’ve ever done”. In typical contrary style, they don’t play any of it on the live album, but then would you want them any other way?

Back in 2015, Motorhead – one of the three bands that in my opinion all rock n roll needs to contain a bit of to sound ace, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC the others, one or more of the trio and you’re good – released their 23rd and final album. It’s repackaged here as “Seriously Bad Magic” (and its got a Ouija Board in the boxset). Why? Well, to be honest, who knows? But equally to be truthful, who cares? Just be grateful there’s two hours or so of Motorhead in your life.

We probably should start at the end (of disc one anyway) because that’s where the two new songs are. “Bullet In Your Brain” is glorious too. Filthy, dirty, typical, trademark Phil Campbell (and you can’t ever ignore his genius) over 30 years he played guitar in the band and I am telling you now, he probably never sounded better than this.

 “Greedy Bastards” is part ballad, part attack, with Lemmy speaking: “have you ever seen a politician that wasn’t a liar?” he asks, before spitting the chorus “greedy bastards, do you even care?” That was eight years ago. Christ knows what he’d make of this bunch of scumbagging toerags.

The rest of the studio album – recorded almost live in Hollywood – is as good as Campbell said, too. The late period Motorhead was mostly brilliant, this was one of the best. How good? Well Brian  May of Queen appears on “The Devil” and doesn’t suck. That good.

There’s some real highlights elsewhere. The opener “Victory Or Die”, “Thunder Or Lightning” about the joy of touring, or the joy of being in Motorhead (“Standing on stage, the thrill never fades, the ultimate rage”) makes you nostalgic for the days when every Autumn, we’d make the pilgrimage to watch them, and whatever brilliant support band they’d picked – it was a feature of the band that they never, ever short changed anyone and they were never shy of going on after mighty bands.

The album’s groove, its riffs, its majesty, comes flooding back here. “Fire Storm Hotel” or the nasty “Teach Them How To Bleed” – almost blues, but nothing like any blues you ever heard elsewhere – or “Tell Me Who To Kill” belong in the pantheon of Motorhead songs.

Completists will naturally be interested in the full show from Fuji Rock Festival in 2015. It’s never been released before and it sounds raw. Credit to them for playing a set that doesn’t just go with the hits, right from “We Are Motorhead”  and “Damage Case” at the start to “Overkill” at the end, its impossible not to feel some kind of nostalgia. Some kind of warmth for all those nights over 20 years or so that me and my brother were in these crowds, worshipping this band.

The recording, in all candour, isn’t the best, but “Lost Woman Blues” and the contemptuous “Just Cos You Got The Power” are worth it alone, and if you can’t enjoy “Going To Brazil”, then check your pulse.

Last night I saw Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons open for Black Star Riders. On stage the BSR singer said “like many of you I idolised Motorhead”, then he added, almost as an afterthought. “I still do”. For Ricky, for everyone else who loves rock n roll, there’s this. It’s both not essential, yet absolutely imperative all at once.

They were Motorhead. And they played rock n roll. Better than almost everyone ever has.

Rating 9.5/10

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