Cast your minds back to a time when metal music was not cool. Nay, indeed, a time when metal was anathema to all that was considered to be “chic” and “in.” A time when your favorite bands were actually encouraged by the music industry to play slower, cut their hair, and write sensitive lyrics about their childhoods. Yes, this unfortunately really happened. 

Our semi-irregular feature “90s Metal Weirdness” focuses on albums released between 1992 and 2001 and which we all probably would rather forget. But in the service of publicly shaming the musicians involved, we have pushed forward. — AMG

Mötley Crüe: Mötley Crüe (1994)

The Back Story: After abruptly firing longtime singer Vince Neil, Mötley Crüe plucked John Corabi (The Scream) from obscurity to be their new frontman. Corabi sounded almost nothing like Neil, with a deeper voice and more bluesy delivery. Unlike his predecessor, Corabi was also capable of playing guitar and writing songs, and his presence seemed to have inspired Motley‘s remaining members to flex their musical muscles a little.

What Does It Sound Like: Heavy, modern (by 1994 standards), and extremely ambitious. The grunge and industrial influences are there in tasteful doses, and several songs stretch past the 6 minute mark. Tommy Lee gives the drum performance of his life, and guitarist Mick Mars reveals more of his blues and Zeppelin influences than ever before. Mötley Crüe has never been as heavy as “Hammered,” as dark as “Til’ Death Do Us Part,” or as complex as “Misunderstood.” The record is gloriously over-produced by Bob Rock, at the peak of his post-Black Album powers, and it sounds massive.

One common criticism of MC94 is that it’s barely recognizable as Mötley Crüe, which I sort of agree with. I vividly recall hearing first single “Hooligan’s Holiday” on the radio at the time, and having no idea who the fuck it was (but still thinking it was pretty good). Many rock/metal bands changed direction in the early 1990s, but few did it as drastically, or thoroughly, as Mötley Crüe.

Awkward Personal or Political Lyrics? Well, there’s the obligatory song about child molestation, “Uncle Jack,” which is loosely based on Corabi’s real-life uncle. “Misunderstood” seems to be an attempt at a profound statement about life and destiny, which is a bit of an overreach for the guys who wrote “Girls Girls Girls.” There are also songs about ecological issues (“Droppin’ Like Flies”) and smoking weed (“Smoke The Sky”), thereby completing the Holy Trinity of ’90s Metal subject matter.

Were Haircuts Involved? Tommy Lee began accumulating piercings and bad tattoos during this era, eventually transforming into Dave Navarro.

How Bad Was It Really? I rank MC94 and Shout At The Devil as Motley‘s best albums. Fight me.

The Aftermath: MC94 was a massive commercial failure, and unsold CD copies still populate discount bins to this very day. According to the band’s legendary book The Dirt, they were quickly persuaded by their record label to reunite with Vince Neil, whose solo career had stalled out by then. The band handled both Corabi’s firing and Neil’s return with all the grace you’d expect from them, resulting in the trend-hopping and generally terrible Generation Swine (1997). In more recent interviews, bassist Nikki Sixx has taken a negative stance towards both John Corabi and this album.

Corabi rebounded quickly, gradually building a solo career while also taking part in various other projects. These days, he is the frontman of The Dead Daisies. In 2015, he performed MC94 in its entirety on tour, resulting in a live album confusingly titled Live ’94. He is rumored to be working with Mick Mars on new material.