When Motley Crue released The Dirt, we all loved it. Who wouldn’t want to read about the insane excesses of an American arena rock band during the ’80s? Sure enough there were so many tales of insanity involving drink, drugs, women and invariably all three that you almost felt exhausted. By the end of that book you had to question just how the band was still alive, it seemed as if they were indestructible.
Bassist Nikki Sixx did manage to die during his time in the Crue, a feat that apparently caused Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses to comment “I was there when Nikki died and I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, I used to do it all the time.” We can only assume Slash’s biography details his numerous deaths in fantastical detail. For now we have Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries, a book that charts a year in his life when his heroin addiction was spiralling out of control. Accompanying the book is this album which acts as a soundtrack.
Unfortunately things don’t get off to a good start. X-Mas In Hell is the kind of poorly written, self obsessed ramblings that you’d expect from someone on drugs. “Nobody would believe the shit that happens in my head…it’s haunted” Sixx mumbles, as if nobody has ever been on heroin and totally fucked up before or since.
But then drug addiction is a selfish act, so perhaps we should be cutting him a little slack, which would be easier if he didn’t use such clunky language: “Merry Christmas, that’s what people say at Christmas. Right?” is just one such example. It sounds like someone trying to be deep, but struggling to find anything to say.
Still, we’re not here to judge the book, the question is can Sixx still write a decent tune? On first listen you’d have to conclude that the best moment comes when he half inches a couple of licks from Nightmare Before Christmas, but after a little time listening to Sixx’s tale of debauchery and redemption there are a few moments here that prove that he was a reasonable musician and not just a professional junkie.
They say substance abuse can stunt your emotional growth, but bizarrely Sixx seems to have been musically stuck in 1986/7, the year this tale happened. Much of the album harks back to the old days of big hair glam bands. The likes of Accidents Can Happen sound too close to Bon Jovi to find themselves on an album of such heavy subject matter.
The highlights are to be found at the heart of the album, just as Sixx documents his impending brush with death. Dead Man’s Ballet is part ballad, part stadium rock and totally self indulgent. For once the song demands it and is all the better for it. Heart Failure heads in a more direct balls-out rock approach. Any attempts at balls out rock at the time Sixx’s diaries were written would surely have resulted with a needle being jammed into them within seconds.
Permission is similarly overblown, building slowly towards a climax that is not to dissimilar to the kind of thing that The Black Crowes were doing back on their first album. It would seem then that Sixx is at his best when doing things to excess.
As the album closes Sixx states “You know addicts, we think everything is about us”. If you can get over this fact (and it permeates this album to the point of driving the listener to distraction) and you were a fan of Motley’s music you can’t go far wrong with this album, although there are some real stinkers here.
If you’re after vicarious thrills, stick with The Dirt, or check out Sixx’s book, although there’s nothing duller than reading about someone else taking drugs and fucking everything that moves. Maybe you should do that and write your own book. Or maybe not.