Mötley Crüe: ‘New Tattoo’
Released on July 11, 2000 (Mötley Records, Eleven Seven Records)
Review by Sam Burgh:
After the release of The Dirt on Netflix, Mötley Crüe found themselves in a spotlight that they have not experienced in a long time. Although their big Stadium Tour was postponed because of Covid-19, that did not deter younger fans from immersing themselves in the world of the Crüe. Most fans focus on their early albums like Dr. Feelgood, Shout At The Devil, Too Fast For Love, Theatre of Pain and Girls, Girls, Girls. Once the ‘90s hit, the band began to fall off after singer Vince Neil left the band, which sent them into an identity crisis. While the 1994 self-titled album Mötley Crüe, with replacement lead singer John Corabi, was musically pleasing, most fans just wanted Vince back. Once he returned, the band experimented with a grunge sound in Generation Swine, which left much to be desired.
In 2000, Crüe released the album New Tattoo. Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and former Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo, who replaced Tommy Lee, wanted to return to their roots and revive their old ‘80s sound. The band, who broke ties with Elektra Records to gain full ownership to their music, wanted to start the 21st century with an album that would bring them back to the spotlight in a new way.
New Tattoo begins with “Hell On High Heels”, featuring a typical ‘80s era Mick Mars guitar riff with a touch of Zakk Wylde squealing. The song was released as a single and reached #13 on rock charts. Unfortunately, all that really stood out was the catchy chorus. Nothing about this song would blow anyone away, but it was the most notable song on the album nonetheless. Lyrically, it is a song about hooking up with an unclean girl, which is fitting considering the reputation of the members of the band offstage. Lord knows they have had experience in that field. Not a very promising start to an album that was supposed to help Mötley Crüe return to popularity after a horrific decade.
The next track, “Treat Me Like the Dog I Am”, is pretty simple lyrically. The song is basically a cry out begging to be treated… you guessed it… like a dog. The kinky song does feature an exciting drum performance by Castillo and a boosted bass sound that was uncommon compared to a lot of early Mötley Crüe songs. Overall, there are not many noteworthy moments in this song, which make it just dirty nursery rhyme filler. The song “New Tattoo” is written to be a metaphor for a man wanting to stop being unfaithful and start a new life as a committed husband or boyfriend. The musical element of this track is pleasing, giving us a nice guitar tone and easy swing to lead us through the song. “New Tattoo”, also released as a single, is one of the better written songs on the album with a clever premise.
It may be hard to believe, but Mötley Crüe wrote another song about sex. “Dragstrip Superstar” is dedicated to the loose girls who throw themselves at guys, which is a frequent topic explored by this band. Besides the creepy line “underage penetrate”, the only thing that stands out in this song is how the heavy guitar and drums help it chug along. The next track up is “1st Band on the Moon” which is basically a glimpse of what the Crüe would be like in space. They got tired of the girls on earth, so they feel it is only necessary to go get some intergalactic tail. Songs like this make you wonder if there are days when Sixx just says “screw it”, watches Star Wars, and writes a song like this in three minutes.
“She Needs Rock N Roll” is a tale as old as time, with a small town preacher’s daughter who is just begging to release her inner rocker. Musically, this song is foot-tapper with a bridge that delivers us into a Mick Mars guitar solo. The track is just more filler, but at least it does not include inappropriate behavior with aliens. With a Mick Mars guitar riff and Vince Neil howl, “Punched In The Teeth By Love” roars to life. The chorus is similar to “Too Fast For Love”, which is about as close to a classic Crüe nod as New Tattoo goes. Lyrically, there are just a lot of metaphors that translate to sex, which is not a surprise for this band. Up next is “Hollywood Ending”, which gives us a rare look at the Mötley boys being on the losing end of a broken relationship instead of the other way around. This track is short and sweet, painting us the picture of someone who wishes he had his girl back, just to find her with another man. A Hollywood ending indeed, but unfortunately not the end of this album.
Mötley Crüe have always been controversial, and the lyrics in “Fake” are a big middle finger to the music industry and anyone else who disapproves of them for that matter. The track starts with a simple intro that leads into a chorus of “fake, fake, fake”, which still proves to be true today about the music industry in a lot of cases. This song is one of the better written pieces on this album. Right when the album shows a bit of life, we get a corny song with annoying “nah nah nah’s” about pornography… internet pornography to be exact. “Porno” is basically multiple internet terms mixed with perverted keywords that would be typed into a search bar. The goofiest part about this song is that most terms used in the verse are super dated 20 years later. “Got a date with my modem line”? Never heard of it. Finishing off the album is “White Punks on Dope”, which is a cover song from The Tubes. Like most punk songs, the lyrics are mostly lewd and contain a lot of self-loathing. This track is not a terrible way to end an album; it is a fun cover with the signature Mötley touch.
Overall, New Tattoo fell short of what Mötley Crüe wanted to accomplish. The album definitely is not the worst thing they have done, but it is not near what they did in their heyday. The content that Sixx conjures up lyrically is usually pretty constant and never grows much creatively. That being said, a Crüe fan just wanting to party and sit around drinking whiskey can enjoy this album, and it is generally fun to jam to when you want to kick back with some buddies. Mötley have been kicking and screaming their way back into the spotlight even twenty years later, so it looks as if they are the ones laughing now.
Review by Lance Lumley:
I was not a major fan of Motley Crüe when they first came out. I enjoyed some of their work that were on MTV and radio stations, but I never went out and bought their cassettes or CDs. My brother owned Dr. Feelgood on CD, which I would listen to when he got tired of it. I listened to more pop flavored acts at the time, but always had the respect of the band for doing things their way. New Tattoo was the first CD I bought from the band with my own money (settling to listen to my friends’ copies of Girls, Girls, Girls and Theatre of Pain), and I remember being excited to hear the release when I found out that it would not have long-time drummer Tommy Lee on it, wondering how the band would sound without him. When New Tattoo came out, I ran to the local Best Buy to purchase it, hoping that the songs were going to be as good as those on Dr. Feelgood.
The opening track, “Hell On High Heels,” was a song I thought rocked the first time I saw the cartoon video debut and heard the song. The guitar riff has a sense of attitude and rawness that I respected from the group. Mick Mars‘ work at the end of the song gave me a new appreciation to his skills. “Treat Me Like The Dog I Am” has a punk feel to it, which is something Nikki Sixx tended to add to his songwriting. The solid drumming by Randy Castillo (someone I was not too familiar with at the time, but knew he worked with Ozzy Osbourne), along with Mars‘ guitar work is what I like most from the song. The path of the song goes into a slow break, much like “Kickstart My Heart” from 1989. The song is placed nicely after the opening track, keeping a driving rock flow.
One of my favorite off the CD, and from the band as a whole, is the title track “New Tattoo.” This is a ballad with the normal elements of Mötley in it (drinking, tattoos, etc), without compromising being a ballad. There is a blues guitar pattern on the song, and is one of the strongest songs off of the album. I enjoy the ballads from the group (especially 1987’s “You’re All I Need”) as much as their rockers. It may not be award winning poetry, but Nikki Sixx and his co-writers deliver on this song. I thought this song would get plenty of airplay on my local rock station here in Ohio, but it never did, which is a shame.
“DragStrip Superstar” is an average song. I don’t think Vince Neil‘s vocals are that spectacular, and the chorus is weak coming out of the verses. This isn’t as strong as the first several tracks off the album. “1st Band On The Moon” gets props for the creativity side. Basically autobiographical in nature about the band, where they have conquered everything on earth, they are going to take on outer space and beyond in their conquest. In a way, it is also symbolic with the idea that girls have changed from the 1980s era, who the band would hang out with at the Sunset Strip, and party all night. Grunge music and boy bands were the norms in mainstream music by the 2000s, so why not see what is on other planets? The overall feel of the song if different than the previous tracks, although the chorus is not that catchy to me (I like something that makes me want to sing along with when the chorus comes), but the band takes a shot at something different, which needs to be respected, although it is somewhat humorous in tone that they became one of the biggest acts in the world, so why not attack other planets?
“She Needs Rock N Roll” is a song that I enjoyed while listening to this for the review. Even though I liked some of the songs off here, and bought it when it came out, I don’t listen to the whole CD frequently, just a song here and there. This track has a nice groove to it, and has the typical Mötley themes of partying and needing to blare some hard rock music to make you feel better. This is a fun song to listen to, and the ending, where it’s just Vince and a guitar, gives a nice touch to the track. The chugging guitar was something several bands at this time (and a few years before) were using frequently, especially bands like Everclear in their hit “Santa Monica.” Even though Mötley wrote basically about the same topics as in their ’80s work, they still made it modern enough where they would not be left behind, like other acts from that decade.
Castillo gets a songwriting credit on “Punched In The Teeth By Love,” along with the rest of the band. To me, this sounded like an attempt to re-create the song “Looks That Kill” (especially the chorus) but isn’t as good as the original. I understand the logic of trying to get the core audience back that may have left the band, by using the formula that got the fan base there, but if I want to listen to a rehash, I’d listen to the original.
Another favorite on the CD for me is “Hollywood Ending.” Again, I think some of the band’s slower songs don’t get the credit they deserve, and this should have been a single. The theme of a relationship being over, while using the California roots of the band (Hollywood) works well here. Mötley are as California as The Beach Boys (although a more darker version, granted), and saluting their stomping grounds of L.A. in their lyrics is a common theme on the album, and songs in their catalog. Sixx co-writes the song, and although his topics may be basic (honestly let’s face it, he won’t be compared to songwriters like Bob Dylan), it’s songs like this that shows his talent not just as a bass player. “Fake” is another nice listen, and is rather short with no filler, which I enjoy. The lyrics seem to be autobiographical, since the band was just coming off a split with their record label Elektra, and starting their own label, along with Tommy Lee not being in the band, this seems to be a jab at the music labels without being subtle.
“Porno Star” takes the sleaze style of the band and puts it in the modern era. When “Girls, Girls, Girls” came out, the band celebrated the strip clubs and the dancers. This song details the rise of the internet and cyber porn. To me, this song should have been the last track on the album, because it would have gave a strong, powerful track at the end. However, the band decided to use the cover of The Tubes‘ “White Punks On Dope” as the last track on the CD, which I was not a fan of the song overall, but when I listened to the original, I liked The Tubes‘ version better than this remake. To me, albums need a strong opener to get the tone of the release going, and a solid ender that makes the listener want more, where the listener has to hit repeat, or feel good about spending their time listening to the album for an hour. This isn’t the case here, at least for me.
Mötley fans point to the John Corabi led album as the one that is vastly underrated in the band’s work. I think there are some underrated songs on New Tattoo as well, but the overall album has some hit and misses on it. At the time this came out, I was really excited about the band, and even got the live VHS concert of the tour that the band released, with drummer Samantha Maloney playing (which gave me my first exposure to her work). Castillo does a respectable job overall on the album in his drumming, along with Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx. Vince‘s vocals at times are enjoyable at times, and others not so much. However, longtime fans will find some tracks to enjoy, and after listening to the full release several times recently, it may not be as bad as many state it is.
The intrigue surrounding how the band would handle Tommy Lee‘s absence, leaving their longtime record label, and bringing the style of the band into a new decade made me more excited and curious than what the final result produced, lacking a full solid album of memorable lasting classics. New Tattoo is not Too Fast For Love, Shout At The Devil, or even Dr. Feelgood, but it doesn’t need to be, to find some undervalued songs on here.
01. Hell On High Heels
02. Treat Me Like The Dog I Am
03. New Tattoo
04. DragStrip Superstar
05. 1st Band On The Moon
06. She Needs Rock N Roll
07. Punched In The Teeth By Love
08. Hollywood Ending
10. Porno Star
11. White Punks On Dope
Vince Neil – vocals
Nikki Sixx – bass
Mick Mars – guitar
Randy Castillo – drums
Produced by Mike Clink at Sol Seven Recording and A&M Studios
Engineered and mixed by Mike Clink and Ed Thacker
Assistant engineers: Billy Kinsley, Ethan Mates, Jon Krupp, Jaime Sickora and Frank Montoya
Digital editing by Tal Herzberg, Rail Rogut and Karl Derfler
Mastered by Dave Collins
Reviewed by Sam Burgh and Lance Lumley for Sleaze Roxx, July 2020
Mötley Crüe performing “Hell On High Heels” live in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA on July 5, 2000 with Samantha Maloney on drums: