“Motörhead Live: Everything Löuder Than Everything Else” ends with the sounds of a horrific car accident, metal crushing metal and sirens blaring, and that couldn’t be more fitting. The hour-long concert film captures the band at the height of its powers during a 1991 concert in Germany, interspersed with backstage and tour-bus interviews offering concise nuggets of its wit and wisdom, and the impact is like being hit by a speeding tractor-trailer.
During its four-decade run, Motörhead was never confined by genre — Was it metal? Hell, yes! Was it punk? Yes, again! — nor the fashions of the times. “We’ve always just thought of ourselves as Motörhead music,” says drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor.
Sometimes it paid the price for its uncompromising iconoclasm. Director Jeb Brien caught the group as it toured in support of “1916,” its first album after a bitter legal fight with a record company derailed its career for three years. In the end, though, the movie, like every one of the band’s 22 studio albums or countless sweaty, high-adrenaline concerts, is a celebration of living loudly in the moment and persevering with a unique vision.
The heart and soul of Motörhead was always that grungy guy in the white boots and black T-shirt, hammering his Rickenbacker bass and shouting up into a mic towering above him.
“The easiest way to survive is you don’t give up,” leader Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister says. “I never considered giving up.” Indeed, he didn’t — not at the time, a mere 16 years after starting the band, and not until the group ended with his death in 2015, 24 years later. In fact, three of the four members of this lineup are gone now: Guitarist Richard “Würzel” Burton died in 2011, and Taylor died a month before Lemmy, having left the group for a second time in 1992. Only second guitarist Phil “Wizzö” Campbell remains, but as he tells director Brien, the heart and soul of Motörhead was always that grungy guy in the white boots and black T-shirt, hammering his Rickenbacker bass and shouting up into a mic towering above him.
“Lemmy is Lemmy,” Wizzo says when asked to describe the boss. “He is an intelligent, scruffy, scuzzbagish artistic genius.” True enough, as evidenced by the incendiary live versions of a dozen classic tracks, ranging from then-new tunes from “1916” (“Going to Brazil,” “Angel City” and Lemmy’s tribute to some fellow travelers, “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.”) to the powerhouse ending trio of “Orgasmatron,” “Killed by Death” and “Ace of Spades.”
Maybe military history buff Lemmy was particularly inspired by the venue, the Deutsches Museum in Munich, or maybe he and the boys felt the new class of upstarts breathing down their necks in ’91, “the year punk broke” with Nirvana. But it’s also true that Motörhead never failed to turn it up to 11. Yeah, that’s a Spinal Tap reference, but the interview segments are as worthwhile as the concert footage for their insights into the musicians’ views on life.
Asked what we can expect for the future of mankind, Lemmy pulls no punches. “Awful terror, unnecessary violence, unmitigated hell. We’re all going to go down in a soup made of ourselves,” he says. “The human race has always been stupid.” Such bleakness may not have been entirely warranted during that ’91 tour, during which, an opening chyron tells us, “the Gulf War began and ended.” But it certainly sounds prescient at a time when too many people are reluctant to even wear a mask to save themselves and others from a deadly pandemic.
The only criticism that can be leveled at a film that feels as fresh, vital and timeless as the day it wrapped production is that for reasons that are entirely unclear, Brien filmed everything in grainy black and white. A music-video vet whose filmography includes kindred spirits Black Sabbath as well as mainstream stars Mariah Carey and Céline Dion, he might have thought the “artistic” approach would make Lemmy & Co. seem more “authentic.” But the movie amply proves they never needed any help with that.